Welcome to August when the seas are calm and the weather is hot, hot, hot
If anyone has any mal-de-mare-based qualms as to taking a sortie on the briny, well, it doesn’t get much calmer than this. Sometimes referred to as the doldrums and often associated with sailing ships being becalmed for weeks. The poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner tells of such a disaster. Many anglers don’t think too highly of such conditions, either; in part because this usually occurs when the summer sun is at its hottest and even the fish think better of moving into the bath-temperature surface waters.
But, if it is calm you want, then now is the time. Out on the Banks, there will be a few flying fish and the odd bit of bait, but most of what there is to see will consist of huge tiger sharks basking in the warmth and taking a vague interest in baits heaved in their direction.
More serious action can be had from yellowfin tuna, but this species will be active at first light and then again as the sun starts to set — assiduously avoiding the heat of the day. Most anglers have the same sort of thing in mind. This only leaves dragging the deep water for billfish.
It must seem to many casual readers that marlin are a mysterious species that suddenly shows up in late June just in time for a series of big-money tournaments and then, miraculously, disappear along with the departure of the foreign sportfishermen.
This is a long way from the truth. Blue marlin and, to a lesser extent, white marlin are predominantly tropical species which migrate north and south with the seasons. Realistically, there are probably always a few in local waters, as marlin have been caught every month in the year. During the summer months, the fish are present in much greater numbers and, predictably, fishing effort for billfish generally coincides with these times. There are often cases when other anglers and commercial fishermen are surprised when a marlin puts in an appearance at an unexpected time and place. Place because they usually prefer deeper water off the drop-off but, every so often, they will invade the shallower waters particularly if they are in pursuit of bait that has tried to avoid these apex predators by moving into shallower areas.
As far as the main migration goes, the fish usually move into local waters in late April or May, and during these times they tend to be larger fish. Numbers increase as the summer progresses with plenty present during July, which is why they get so much attention from the boats and the media at that time. Although effort drops off, there are still plenty during August and on into September.
As the season progresses, the fish seem to become smaller and this suggests that males are more numerous later in the year. Most large marlin are female and there are a lot of fish in the 125lb to 250lb range during the late summer. Nothing exclusive, mind; large fish have been caught into October. The real change comes from the anglers who gear up to catch wahoo as the autumnal run of this desirable and marketable species starts in late August or September and pretty much monopolises the fishermen’s attention.
So, just in case, the holiday weekend had put paid to any billfish ideas, this weekend will see the 10th Marlin Release Challenge fished. Although this event involves cash prizes, the amounts are not in the same class as the recently concluded events and are much more geared to the local fishing aficionados. All the billfish are to be released, so there will be no fish on the dock. The only probable exception would be if someone was lucky enough to catch a world record — and that, while not impossible, is unlikely.
Another way of beating the heat is to fish at night. Two species lend themselves to this type of fishing: yellowtail snappers will bite through the night once a favourable chum slick is established, and white-water snappers offer some light-tackle action and plenty of good eating for those limiting themselves to the channel waters. While none of this compares to the excitement that comes with springtime fishing or the burst of autumnal activity that lies ahead, both offer the casual angler an alternative to taking on the heat and humidity that typify the month of August.
As another group that will benefit from the general malaise, the junior anglers should be reminded that August 14 will their chance to shine. Entry is online to www.bermudaanglersclub.com. All participants will come away winners and entrants can fish from either the shore or a boat and all age groups up until 16 are represented. Bermuda Anglers is to be commended for putting on a major event for the island’s youth during the high summer when they are out of school and at a bit of a loose end. After all, this is a fine time to introduce the next generation to the fun and foibles associated with Tight Lines!!!