Happy days as chumming can get back to normal
Anglers and commercial fishermen have breathed a sigh of relief as the offshore grounds have almost totally returned to normal. The odd longtail is never a problem, but that invasion of shearwaters is a horror at best.
Happily, it is now possible to chum and that is definitely the form of fishing that put Bermuda on the sportfishing map all those years ago. While it is a very effective technique, it is particularly welcome for many local anglers at this particular juncture when the cost of fuel is foremost in everyone’s mind. The ability to fish for renowned blue-water game species without actively consuming fuel is a real boon for anglers and fishermen alike; all the more so since there are not all that many places in the world where it can be done.
The fish that really made the chumming exciting were the yellowfin tuna and, right now, there are plenty to be had on the Banks. Pretty much everything an angler could want, especially one dabbling in the use of light tackle — the yellowfin is strong, unrelenting and reaches a respectable size. Most of the fish that occur here and lend themselves to chum slick are less than 100 pounds but even a 35-pounder on suitable tackle is a match for most anglers.
Most of the fish pleasing at present are middleweights, with a few bettering the 60lb mark and the odd specimen reaching into the 90lb bracket. As a light-meat tuna, yellowfin are an important food commodity, but given the state of the local fishery at the moment the market is pretty well glutted, making the retention of more than a couple of fish for the angler’s table a bit wasteful. Happily, these tuna can usually be released without any difficulties, and they are known to survive such ordeals, sometimes showing up in another chum slick just days later.
Also coming into their own in the chum line, especially now as the water warms even more, are the blackfin tuna. Never as large as yellowfins, the blackfin is probably an even better battler. While its darker meat is less popular, it too can be released to fight again another day. As a general rule, the blackfin tend to hang shallower than the yellowfin, but it is not uncommon to have both species wending their way through the slick.
Often a bit lethargic in the warmer summer water, wahoo often cruise through chum lines and although they will, on occasion, take a dead bait or slab of fish, it is a live robin or mackerel that really gets their attention. Unfortunately, the same modus operandi also applies to barracuda, which also become more numerous as the season heats up.
Small game that can provide plenty of action are also found in and around chum lines. Mackerel are quick to please and make for good bait. Robins often show up in hordes; they are the ultimate live bait while jacks, rainbow runners and even amberjack and bonita are pretty reliable visitors to a well-constructed bait line.
If trolling is the name of the game, there will be a few wahoo, tuna and even dolphin along the drop-offs, but the real game this year is to be found in deeper water where the blue and white marlin are the targets.
Both species have provided good action in the past couple of weeks. Although not too many boats have put in any serious effort, there have been enough releases of both species to establish the billfish season.
To get an idea of what is happening elsewhere in the big-money tournament world, this past week saw the fishing of the Big Rock Billfish Tournament off North Carolina. Compared to big local tournaments, this is a colossal event with something like 266 boats entered this year. Each boat fishes four out of six available days — captain’s choice as to the days. This tremendous amount of effort, although, to be fair, it is spread over a great deal of ocean bottom, has been producing something like 30 blue marlin catches a day. The biggest fish are boated and, amazingly enough, the top three fish so far are really similar. The heaviest weighed 576lb and the fourth-place fish weighed about 526lb with the two in between weighing 536lb and 556lb respectively. Talk about peas in a pod!
In many respects, the blue water worked over by Carolina boats running to the Gulf Stream is not all that different to the waters around this Island. Eddies peel off from the Stream in both eastward and westward direction, and it is a bit of the luck of the draw which bit of water goes where; along with whatever it may contain. Figuring that Bermuda gets it share, along with fish making their way up northward through the Central Atlantic and encountering the lunch counter that is the Banks and bottom that holds schools of tuna and smaller bait species such as mackerel, the bottom line is there should be a ready supply of billfish for the tournaments that start off early in July.
Perhaps an advantage is that thus far not too many foreign boats have arrived on island and even fewer are actually fishing. This happy circumstance is owed to the Newport Bermuda Race, which means dock space is severely restricted until that event is over. Then the influx will begin. The net effect of all this is that the current offshore effort is not particularly intense and that means the supply of billfish when the tournaments kick off will not have been heavily worked over for several weeks in advance.
This augurs well for the forthcoming local events and, in the meantime, conditions are top-class for any sort of fishing that one may want to try. Whatever the target, just remember the right tackle is often key to Tight Lines!!!