Behemoths in Bermuda’s waters
Let there be no mistake; this week’s column is about big fish. Big as in more than you would ever want to have to carry. Big that puts the “big” in big game fishing. That is what this is all about.
But like so many stories, it is going to start small. On a fine day, late in June, captain Andrew Marshall had started a drift on his Bay Roots on Challenger Bank, intent on having his Blue Waters Anglers Club crew indulging in some traditional summer chumming.
Expected were the usual flurry of mackerel, robins and rainbow runners with, hopefully, a few yellowfin tuna and maybe the odd blackfin putting in an appearance.
If things went really well, then a wahoo or two might start hanging around offering a challenge to get them to bite something other than a monofilament leader.
Things started that way and when the robins offered a source of live bait one was duly put over on a 30 pound test rig and given to the attention of the crew. It was not long before that reel started to sing and sing and sing.
It ran off like it never had before and the angler was hard pressed to deal with the express train that had attached itself to the line.
The battle was waged for a time and then the angler was forced to call upon assistance and then it took some considerable effort to finally turn the fish.
When it was finally brought to gaff, anglers Ray and Sue Bean were very surprised to learn that they fish that they had eventually subdued was a 150 pound yellowfin tuna.
A monstrous catch on a line test officially classified as “light”. Not to mention being very considerably larger than the usual yellowfin tuna encountered in a Bermuda chum slick where 40 or 50 pounds was the norm.
And exceptional it was not. A day or so later captain Alan Card’s Challenger also had a very lucky chummer who used a rig carrying 40 pound test line and a mere 50 pound test leader to subdue a 140 pound yellowfin. Without trying to stretch anyone’s imagination, tuna are known to be school fish – what a school!
This weekend sees the start of the Bermuda Triple Crown with the Bermuda Blast getting things rolling on Monday which also happens to be the July 4 Blue Marlin World Cup.
This Island is known for big fish during the month of July, having supplied the winner of the World Cup on nine separate occasions with two of those winners being over 1,000 pounds.
The thought of competing in these two tournaments at the same time with the chance of crashing on the big bucks involved has to be mouth-watering.
To put things into perspective is to quickly look at the feeding habits of blue marlin. Most authorities include various fish and invertebrates in their diet but given that they are predators of a highly sophisticated, highly effective design, it would make sense that they prefer larger fare.
Just how large? It is estimated that they can swallow about ten per cent of their weight. Given that tuna and other fish weighing 60 or more pounds have been found in gut contents, they are obviously quite capable of chewing off a very big bit indeed.
Return to the ten per cent model, and that means that something like a 150 pound tuna lives at risk of encountering something that could wrap its maw around it in entirety.
Do the math; a fish 1,500 pounds or more! Even if it is like, seven per cent of its weight that a marlin could swallow, that is definitely a big fish.
And how large do blue marlin get? The sport fishery has claims that run to about 1,800 pounds with there being many tales of sea monsters and that ilk emanating from places like Hawaii and Portugal.
Usually, large marlin hotspots will boast a skipper or two who will tell of a fish so large that they defy an estimate of weight.
Maybe the most reliable sources of information may be found in the records of the Japanese longline fleet fishing in the 1950s and 1960s.
Those were fairly categorical in stating that the blue marlin was the largest billfish and put its top measure at 2,500 pounds.
So, large marlin hotspot; well, here is one. With the Blue Marlin International event having been put off for this year, the World Cup competitors and those embarking on the Triple Crown will have every opportunity of catching that headline-grabbing behemoth here next week.
Then there is the second leg of the Triple Crown, the original tournament that started all this over 20 years ago, the Bermuda Big Game Classic.
Run on similar lines to the Blast, this is a modified release tournament with only fish over 500 pounds brought to the scales. It starts on July 14.
Anglers unable to spare the three days necessary or the cash for these big-name tournaments may wish to consider the Bermuda Marlin Release Challenge, now in its tenth year.
The sign-up party for this all release, one-day event is on Friday, July 8, at Docksiders with the event being fished two days later.
With the angling every bit as exciting as anything else involving the blue marlin, this event is the ideal opportunity to dip one’s toe into the fascination that surrounds the pursuit of the ultimate Tight Lines!!!