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Good value to be found from odd catches

Let’s eat: the opah fish is an odd catch but still a worthwhile addition at the dinner table

Some of the weather this past week has been less than conducive to getting people off their couches, but the sea conditions have been actually fairly favourable and, slowly but surely, boats are coming out of mothballs, bait is being purchased and plans are made for sorties offshore. Expected improvements are forecast and there is no doubt that the summer season is at hand.

As has been happening during the first months of this year Captain Mark Terceira’s longline operation has produced yet another oddity from the deep blue seas that surround this island. This was clearly identifiable as an opah; a fish for many is as elusive as the proverbial unicorn. But, like coincidences everywhere, this was not a total one-off.

His catch was a large fish, over 100 pounds, but like everything else even usually big fish start off small, as evidenced by a smaller-version opah that was caught a few weeks ago by a local angler. Rest assured, it came as a surprise to him, too.

The opah is a poorly understood species, even though it is found pretty much in every ocean in the world and occurs wherever and whenever it does. This makes a directed commercial fishery a bit of a non-starter and it seems that most of the world’s catch comes from longliners as a by-catch. They can get big, though. Most of the scientific literature puts the top size at anything up to about 600lb.

For those who have not had the pleasure of seeing an opah, they are generally large, round fish; not unlike a sunfish or Mola, but with long fins that are a bright red in colour. With such features, the opah is hard to miss. While not a game fish, the International Game Fish Association does keep an all-tackle record for this species, which hails from Mexico and weighed 180lb 12oz.

Weird though it may appear, opah is a species with considerable commercial value and is highly regarded as an eating fish. So anyone lucky enough to come across one need not worry about dining on something that looks a bit otherworldly.

With trolling continuing to be the preferred method of fishing at the moment, the wahoo is still the most sought-after species. So far, no real spring run of the fish has been identified, but there are enough out there to make the effort worthwhile. Things may even improve further before the warming water will see the fish slow down — and that will be when the chumming season takes over and the tuna become the target species.

Aside from the fairly predictable arrival and departure of the summertime fish, there are also some other things to take into consideration. While never numerous, the so-called spring run has been associated with the presence of mako sharks offshore. This wildly powerful and athletic predator knows few peers and is quick to turn a trophy wahoo into a shredded mess.

Experience recalls that there are times when just getting a fish to the boat is a challenge, and that is often the case when the culprit is a relatively small shark. A big mako is a sight to behold, although most of them seen here are not giants. A notable exception to this is the island record, an 827-pounder caught in 1996. Something that size is best left alone and, probably very fortunately for most, the existing fisheries regulations prohibit the taking of sharks by sportfishermen.

A brief interlude between last Sunday’s festivities and the full onslaught of the summer season this Friday should allow the fishing season to get properly under way. This takes the form of the Bermuda Fishing Clubs Annual Tournament. This event is open only to the members of the three recognised local fishing clubs who fish in teams. Each club can field a maximum of three teams consisting of no more than four anglers each.

This is the only competitive team event that is fished locally. The only tackle eligible for use is light tackle; that is line classes from 8lb test up to and including 30lb test. Although recognised for world line class and Bermuda records, the lower line tests — 2lb, 4lb and 6lb — are not eligible for this particular tournament.

The format is for the total number of points scored on each of the recognised line classes by each club’s teams. The winners are then decided by the club who has amassed the greatest number of aggregate points in each of the five line classes. The overall winner is decided by the total number of points scored by each club.

As it may be recalled, Bermuda was once devoted to the use of light tackle and gained a reputation as one of the light-tackle capitals of the world. Sadly, nowadays, this has faded as the emphasis has shifted to heavier tackle, with the lighter gear largely ignored. Thus, this tournament is one of the very few competitive occasions that revisits the roots of Bermuda sportfishing and brings back to life the more sporting aspects of Tight Lines!!!

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Published May 18, 2024 at 7:56 am (Updated May 18, 2024 at 7:47 am)

Good value to be found from odd catches

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