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Summer doldrums are here but the forecast isn’t all bleak

It is time for the summer doldrums, both figuratively and literally. Blame it on the heat or the number of people travelling for the summer, but the amount of offshore effort is severely reduced. Similarly, the fish often slow down as well, as the warm surface waters make staying at some depth more comfortable for them. And the predominant meteorological conditions produce calm, sometimes flat, seas that are reminiscent of the real doldrums that are to be found in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, an area somewhere near the equator.

Leaving the modern and guaranteed to be confusing scientific definition alone, this is roughly the equatorial zone where early sailors found themselves windless — think The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. During August, unless there is a tropical system around, the breezes are usually extremely light, and the sea develops that long, smooth roller appearance — hence the reference to “doldrums”.

These factors do not combine to make fishing an impossible task. In fact, some species come into their own: notably large tiger sharks. Although these cannot be taken and killed, they can make a formidable quarry on most tackle and, although local anglers have long shunned shark fishing, many visitors get a real kick out of pulling on a large fish that will eventually chew through most leaders, making good its escape while leaving the fisherman with a good muscle workout. Large yellowfin tuna also often put in an appearance, but they can be a bit more selective when it comes to taking a bait.

Small game is abundant and can make for some light-tackle action with jacks, mackerel and rainbow runners. Blackfin tuna is another species that likes warm water and they will please, giving a really good account of themselves on suitable classes of tackle.

Live baiting becomes a bit less attractive simply because the numbers of barracuda rise sharply and are the most likely species to take a live robin rig. Running such a bait down deep may entice an amberjack or bonita, but the trick can be getting it down there before the ’cudas have a go at it.

Dropping a line down to the bottom will still produce hinds, conies and barbers, all of which make fine fillets and satisfy those who are fishing for a fresh meal rather than sport. There are still fish to be had — if standing out in the hot sun is not a problem.

It may seem a long time ago now, but it really is only two weeks since bill fishing was the headliner. After the dust had settled from a very successful Bermuda Triple Crown Series of tournaments, the Bermuda Marlin Release Challenge took place. This, too, was a success, involving 14 boats fishing a release-only format. Although this number may not seem a lot after those posted by the major events, that quite a few of the foreign boats beat a hasty retreat back to the US goes a long way to explaining the dichotomy.

The winner of this was Captain Kevin Fox’s Gladys Fox with two releases that came quickly enough to ensure that team first place. Also showing a profit from the event was Captain Kyle Liane’s Bree, which also caught and released two blue marlin — enough to snag the other two optional jackpots available in the tournament.

Interest wanes with the departure of the specialist boats, although there will be marlin around for at least another six weeks or so. As the season progresses, there seem to be more smaller fish around, giving rise to the idea that males — usually 100-250lb — become dominant. Do not take this to mean that the big fish are gone. Just a few days ago, a highly experienced skipper reported spotting what he said was the largest blue marlin he had eve seen. So be warned.

The island’s angling community is in shock and sadness at the recent sudden passing of Niel Jones, a true stalwart in the Bermuda angling scene. A member of Bermuda Anglers Club, he was a regular tournament participant and frequent winner, particularly in light-tackle events. He also gave back to all, offering workshops and promoting new techniques to all the other clubs; freely offering advice and tips. He will be sadly missed.

In keeping with what he would have wanted, the Bermuda Anglers Club Annual Junior Fishing Tournament slated for this weekend will take place tomorrow, with fishing from 8.30am and the weigh-in at the Flagpole from 3pm. Entrants must be less than 17 years old and can use both rod and reel, and handlines. All species are eligible apart from those excluded by the Fisheries Regulations.

This tournament has proved to be a great success in recent years and the BAC is to be congratulated on organising one of the very few events that encourage the younger set to get involved in the sport of fishing, and to learn something about conservation. It is amazing how many grow up on this island, surrounded by the ocean, and yet have the most minimal knowledge of the marine environment. The combination of youth and sport make for an interesting spectacle, and it is always worth stopping down to have a look at the fruits of these rather special Tight Lines!!!

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Published August 12, 2023 at 7:53 am (Updated August 12, 2023 at 12:43 am)

Summer doldrums are here but the forecast isn’t all bleak

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