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Tammy puts the kibosh on Wahoo Tournament

October, all over. At least that is what they used to say. But what on earth did Bermuda do to attract the attention of a late-season tropical storm? Especially one that looked to be clearly headed for the cold waters of the central North Atlantic.

No matter what the storm actually brings, one thing for sure is that it has put the kibosh on the Wahoo Tournament, the future of which must surely be in doubt as November is ushered in.

Working on the assumption that the island will not be subjected to more than the equivalent of a winter gale, the passage of the storm will merely be an inconvenience for most, although the fishing community stands to lose a lot more. Commercial fishermen have reached the stage where the days with weather good enough to venture out to make a living become severely numbered and the weekend warriors have long since started to take gear off boats and to schedule winter works.

Tammy was definitely not invited to the party and in the mistaken belief that she would head away to the northeast and not pose any problems was, in itself, a bit of a misnomer.

Even if the storm had stuck to its original track, that didn’t mean that she wouldn’t have an effect on proceedings. A storm system, even a winter one, may be hundreds or even thousands of miles away and still send heavy seas into areas that may be enjoying light winds and sunny skies. The picture of a pebble landing in a pond, sending ripples in every direction that propagate themselves over the entire surface of the pond is a good representation of what a storm can do to the ocean.

And when you consider that most anglers who fish tournaments are, in effect, small craft operators, it does not take a lot to disrupt proceedings. It will be interesting to see what the organisers do, now that this weekend has, like those previous, been blown out.

Shifting emphasis away from the traditional and focusing on new developments, Bermuda’s sole commercial longline operator has been enjoying some success with a species largely unknown to the rest of the local fishing fleet.

His alternative fishing methods have been paying off with bigeye tuna. These are large tunas, maybe not as large as the bluefins, but they put most yellowfins to shame, easily running over the 100lb mark. Not totally unknown here, this species tends to live at deeper depths than most other tunas and, obviously, have largely been ignored by the local fishery for many years.

The species enjoys a wide range through the Atlantic and there are important commercial fisheries around Madeira and the Azores. This extensive range does not extend to the Mediterranean, which seems a bit strange but there the bluefin seems to be king. There is also a Pacific species, which is also of commercial importance in places like the Hawaiian Islands.

So the mere fact that they occur in local waters at such a level of quality suggests that there is a hitherto unexploited stock of fish that is not only commercially important but which also enjoys a choice niche in the sport fisheries in areas like the northeastern United States, where often they are sought after.

It is a most interesting sequence of events that leads to the development of new sports fisheries. One such example might be the Florida swordfish fishery. Once the prerogative of a commercial longline fleet, the development of new equipment such as electric reel; yes, they have been around a while, but these new ones were more like winches, opened new doors to the angler.

It did not take long for the sport fishermen to start equipping their boats with such gear and to fish baits at mush deeper depths than they had ever previously attempted. Almost immediately, this started to pay off with swordfish, often in areas where previous effort had been towards the well-established populations of sailfish and occasional blue or white marlin. There is now a sport fishery involving numerous charter operators who specialise in the pursuit of swordfish, which, aside from the sporting value, is also a highly desired food fish.

Might such a change come to Bermuda? A valuable resource that new technology can exploit for the commercial fishery. A potential new market for a fish that would also offer chefs opportunities to diversify away from the wahoo and yellowfin tuna that have been the focus for so long. As with most things, such new developments will take time, but it will be interesting to see how quickly this may or may not take shape.

It is the end of October and the party people will be digging out their pumpkins and skeletons to celebrate Hallowe’en. While any excuse for frivolity is acceptable, thought should be paid to the ghost fishing that continues to damage world fish populations. Populations of many, many species are susceptible to lost fishing gear that serves no one any purpose but which continues to kill fish thus impacting everyone’s potential opportunities for Tight Lines!!!

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Published October 28, 2023 at 7:53 am (Updated October 28, 2023 at 7:37 am)

Tammy puts the kibosh on Wahoo Tournament

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