Parting shot: proposed shark ban needs fulsome consultation
The season winds down; temperatures drop, the gales take over and anglers put their boats to bed for the winter. That pretty much summarises the angling picture at the moment.
The commercial operators are still at work at this time of the year, and most will continue to do so up until the new year or thereabouts. At that point, the best sales for premium fish and lobsters have become a thing of the past and it is a good time to take the boat out of water and to carry out the routine maintenance that every craft requires.
With bad weather dominating the proceedings, it is the most productive use of time and there is always the hope that there will be an early spring and the weather will turn favourable and the fish will arrive early.
With the lobster fishery rapidly approaching its peak, the amount of effort being expended for what might be termed game fish is pretty low. A day’s bouncing baits off the bottom is much more likely to produce readily saleable fish in the form of hinds, coneys, barbers with a few floating fish such as ambers, bonita and gwelly than any amount of chumming.
Those more dedicated to chasing after pelagic fish are still catching wahoo, but not with the fervour that they had a couple of weeks back. The fish are more likely to be solo or in pairs, and sizes are running very mixed with any number of year classes represented in a catch.
Yellowfin tuna have also eased off, although trolling will still produce surprises. There are still a very few errant dolphinfish trying to find their way back to more equatorial climes and resident blackfin tuna can put in an appearance at any time. Live baiting will still work but it can prove counterproductive if catching the baits takes longer than optimal. The short days turn daylight hours into a valuable commodity not to be squandered.
It was something of a revelation to the angling community this week when it was reported that the Government was considering banning the taking of sharks. Usually when something of this nature comes up, there is a period of consultation with the stakeholders, and one would like to think that things will not be different in this case.
The International Game Fish Association holds all-tackle records for 60 species of shark. That might sound like a lot but various other authorities reckon there are anything from 350 to almost 600 species of sharks. Of that 60, the IGFA maintains line-class records for 13 so-called game species, of which maybe six may be reasonably expected to be caught by local anglers.
These would be the white, aka the great white, probably uncommon here at best; the blue shark — not seen as often now as it used to be and even then considered a nuisance; the hammerhead, also no longer as common as it was; the tiger shark, which is still commonly seen especially during the late summer on the Banks, and the mako. That last species actually may be more than one species; the IGFA says there are two but provides little information on what separates them.
Club-sanctioned tournaments almost always specifically exclude all shark species. The Bermuda Game Fish Association maintains only local records for the mako — it claims to recognise only the shortfin mako, but that brings everything back to the so-called species that IGFA recognises. Only very few local competitions even have a category for shark, and where it does exist it is usually intended to allow the catching of what locals call “puppy” sharks that are intended as table fare. Hashing such a shark produces what some might term a delicacy, although not everyone is a fan.
So, going back to the local sporting point of view, a total ban on landing shark seems a little extreme especially because there is a possibility, however remote, of a record mako being landed. By no means commonly encountered, some large makos have been caught by boats fishing for billfish. A possible solution may be to have a minimum size for landing a mako, along the lines of the minimum sizes for blue and white marlin. Such a minimum weight could be easily at something like 400 or 500 pounds, inasmuch as most of the existing world records set on the sort of tackle used locally run from about 400 to more than 1,000 pounds.
Tiger sharks have been the subject of some extensive studies in local waters and have their champions. About the only sporting interest that these engender is during the hot summer months when a charter skipper can provide a client with a good hard pull from a large shark that is often broken off long before it gets released alongside the boat. Even the Jaws phenomenon of decades ago never really got shark fishing into the headlines here.
So, the sportfishing comes to an end for yet another year and with it, the final instalment of this column for 2021. All things being equal, it will be back in the spring when again it will be time for Tight Lines!!!