Autumnal equinox signals end of fishing season
That point in time has been reached.
For many the fishing season is over; as in the rods are put away, the boat tied up and well and truly secured onto the moorings.
The fish may continue to bite for a while and there will probably be some remarkable hauls but those are going to be reserved for other people because that time of the year has arrived.
Our planet is moving inexorably to the autumnal equinox that sees the focus of the sun centre on the equator as that cone of heat and light moves ever southward towards the Tropic of Capricorn, bringing spring and then summer to the southern hemisphere.
The counter of this is that the northern hemisphere is into its cooling stages ahead of the winter months that so few really look forward to.
A partial result of these celestial movements is a shortening of the days in our part of the world with darkness descending at both the dawn and dusk.
Less heat energy and light mean a cooling not only to the air but to the surface waters. Herein lies one of the advantages of Bermuda’s position in terms of latitude.
As has been pointed out elsewhere, the passage of a hurricane or other heat-driven system removes the ocean’s heat as it absorbs the energy which in turn drives the system.
With that being true of the recent passage of Earl, the cooler temperatures can be seen clearly in satellite images. But as the season is so late, it is highly unlikely that the waters which have already had the heat energy depleted will be able to replace that energy until the next summer season.
In more tropical locales, where the sun’s energy is almost constant, a removal of heat energy as a result of hurricane passage is short-lived as the water can continue to absorb heat and thus warm up again.
With cooler water surrounding the Island, the general area becomes less attractive to tropical systems. No guarantees but definitely a step in the right direction.
The onset of autumnal conditions here probably is partly responsible for the adage of “October, all over”. Unfortunately, the warmer conditions of more recent years and a prolonged period when the waters are conducive to tropical systems make this a bit of a misnomer for the modern day.
Leaving the weather aside for a bit, this is a good time to focus on bait. Bait! Why bait?
Especially now that offshore trolling seems to be the modus operandi and the bait in question is usually restricted to chumming use.
Rigged garfish and flying fish are the usual troll baits although small mullet can be used among other species.
Right now, the fleet is waiting for the arrival of schools of juvenile little tunny (mackerel) or tiny blackfin tuna. Both make excellent troll baits, fished dead or alive. In the meantime, the time-tried rigged baits continue to produce wahoo and yellowfin tuna pretty consistently.
Well, it may not be because anyone is going to use bait anytime soon. With so many anglers having given up on the summer and reverting to placing the boat into mothballs and concentrating on landlubberly activities, there won’t be many looking to use bait in the short term. But bait can be frozen, and it will last a long time; even as long as until next season which will, eventually, come around again.
And now is a good time to look for bait as schools often invade the inshore areas, holing up in tiny little bays along shorelines where only the cognoscenti would ever bother to look.
And what might one see? Ah, well, here is where life can get complicated.
A blue, almost electric in appearance, should reveal a school or maybe even just a knot of anchovies. Probably the most preferred bait fish for hook bait and a delicacy for human consumption in its own right.
Everyone has something good to say about anchovies – best bait, great chum, beautiful fried, delicious. Except they aren’t anchovies at all.
A dark, shadowy mass is probably a school of fry. Sometimes these can be huge, attracting the attention of schools of jacks or mackerel even in the shallowest water or the tiniest coves.
Most likely hogmouth fry, so called because of the extent to which the tiny fish can pen their mouths. They really give new meaning to a mouthful. Commonly referred to locally as “fry” these are actually the anchovy species found here in Bermuda. What has passed for an anchovy, to the delight of many, is actually a sardine.
Then there is blue fry, another baitfish often seen along the South Shore in late summer. Masses of it give the water a bluish green colouration.
These tend to be smaller individuals than the hogmouth or “white” fry and are prized for being extremely oily; a quality that makes them excellent for chumming.
There are other bait fish as well: a couple of herring species, pilchards and another species that passes as “fry”.
Making head or tail of them can be a bit of a challenge but they will work to varying degrees, whether as chum or on a hook to bring about those much-desired Tight Lines!!!