Time to switch focus as winter approaches
Autumn progresses and despite the recent heat and high humidity, all the signs of winter approaching are there.
With it comes a reduction in sport fishing effort as interest fades and the necessity of winterising craft becomes a priority.
For the commercial fishery, the emphasis shifts to making the most of the lobster season. Fin fishing does indeed continue but without the urgency of the summer months, sound in the knowledge that the lobster traps are working sight unseen.
Like squirrels stashing acorns, diehard anglers may now be looking to combine their sport with a realistic approach to storing away enough fish for the long winter ahead.
Fortunately, there is one species that lends itself to this and one which is usually quite co-operative at this juncture of the year and that is the oft-ignored yellowtail snapper.
Given the right conditions, a leeward tide running slowly off the stern of the boat and slowly taking the bait deeper over the outer reef areas, often means that there can be some top class action from yellowtail snapper.
Much of the effort for this species is put in over the reef areas where the depth is 20 plus fathoms. The fish likely to be encountered are generally a nice average size; considerably larger than many of the specimens commonly found in Florida and the Caribbean where they are also a sought-after species.
Local yellowtails are also some of the largest to be found anywhere within its range. Evidence comes from the IGFA which recognises this snapper as a game fish and maintains line class records for it.
At the current time, eight of the twelve line class records are held by fish caught here in Bermuda with Challenger Bank featuring prominently as the venue for trophy yellowtails.
While many anglers have had a field day with yellowtails, catching large numbers of these high-quality sporting and food fish, no one seems to see schools of the fish like they used to.
While this might sound strange, it should be remembered that, back in the day, yellowtail snappers were one of the few species for which netting was allowed. Older fishermen will tell tales of netting large, as in really large, numbers of yellowtails.
By all accounts, schools could be seen causing a ruckus from some distance away, not unlike today’s schools of jacks or mackerel.
In recent years, although some large schools of sub-legal juveniles have been seen, there have been no reports of big schools of adults. Having said that, there is no reason to think that the species is overfished locally.
Leaving the reef region and venturing onto the blue water, the offshore scene continues to be one of mixed bags with varying quality in terms of the fish taken.
Trolling is the preferred modus operandi at the moment, and this is producing a mixed bag that ranges from little tunny, through blackfin and yellowfin tuna, up to wahoo. An occasional, of which there was a rather nice specimen caught this week, will be dolphin although they are unlikely to be numerous less some flotsam is encountered.
The tuna are what one might expect; the blackfin are close to 20 pounders and the yellowfin about double that size with the odd one somewhat larger. It is the wahoo that show the greatest variation in size.
Although the fish are spread throughout the usual fishing grounds, they range from fish in the 20 to 30-pound range up to about 60 pounds and beyond with little differentiation relative to location of capture.
Anyone contemplating live baiting will have to spend time catching robins as it does not look like the frigate mackerel will be putting in an appearance this year.
This weekend sees the Wahoo Tournament being fished, weather permitting. The addition of a Calcutta to the regular prizes has encouraged participation as had the recognition that this is the final open tournament of the year.
This relatively recent addition to the tournament calendar has gone from success to success, largely because of bumper hauls of wahoo during the last couple of years. A combination of the availability of live baits and a crop of larger than average wahoo has made for some great catches and exceedingly tight competition.
The participants this year will be looking to emulate the previous editions and since the offshore circumstances look to be different, there will be any number of different tactics applied. With the prizes and the cash at stake, there is no doubt that some quality fish will be brought to the weigh station.
Any landlubber or lapsed angler who wishes to be an onlooker should make their way to Robinson’s Marina for the weigh-in which takes place tomorrow at 3pm.
It is time for the last of the inshore fishermen to try their luck. The snapper have moved away and it looks like most of the jacks have gone as well.
There should be a few palometa remaining off the South Shore and a sunny day may see a bonefish or two invade the shallows. But very soon, it will be time to put away that gear and merely to dream of Tight Lines!!!