Time for fishing to take a back seat
It is the time of year when sport fishing takes a back seat to just about everything else. The holiday cocktail parties, dinners, lunches, shopping, house sprucing up will all take precedence over something as mundane and unimportant as fishing. Even some of the commercial operators change their way of doing business with the concentration being on the highly saleable lobsters that are so in demand at this time of the year.
Actually, that is not so surprising because most people eat more turkey and ham during the month of December than they do throughout the rest of the year. One thing that is certain, the prospect of fresh local fish after the festive season is a delightful one but unfortunately one that is likely to prove hard to indulge in because the weather usually sees to it that the weekender stays home. The fish are also less likely to please, bringing an additional negative factor into the equation.
At the moment, the boats actually fishing offshore are enjoying some limited success with wahoo, tuna and dolphin. There are yellowfin on the Banks and while they are a bit on the small side, they are of legal size and there are some people who actually prefer the flavour and tenderness of the smaller tuna to meat taken form larger specimens.
Chumming is an “iffy” prospect because of the tidal patterns around the offshore banks. Some days are alright but it seems that a majority of the time the tide is windward, making it difficult to fish from an anchored boat and drifting may not be the desired option.
Trolling is the best way of eliciting a strike from a wahoo and some of the tuna can be caught in the same manner. Use some small lures, fished a long way back and you can get surprising results. Despite getting strange looks and comments, the old-fashioned cedar plug (the one with the lead head that takes the shank of a hook up through the hole drilled right down the centre) often outfishes anything else for tuna. The natural wood ones work but the commercially available white-painted plug, usually with a red head also works. Spray painting the natural-coloured ones with purples or blue hues has also been known to enhance their performance.
Going back in time, it was actually a fairly regular practice to chum for yellowfin on the Banks right up until Christmas. Capt. Boyd Gibbons and his mate Teddy Gibbons did this routinely and enjoyed a great deal of success. Granted, their exploits on the Coral Sea were almost legendary when it came to chumming and their tackle and techniques were pure mastery of the art. A few other operators emulated this but, for the most part, charter boat skippers packed in their offshore effort once it came to the end of October or early November.
That was due in part to the downturn in fishing and the less than reliable weather and, in part, to the lack of tourists to book trips and the fact that whatever local trade they had totally dried up once the wahoo ceased running. And to be fair to the charter crews, most had other jobs to occupy thme through the winter and a guaranteed wage was a far better proposition than the very fragile opportunity to make a go of a wintertime charter.
There are also still some dolphin around but there is no telling how much longer this happy situation will continue. Dolphin really are a tropical species and while they will venture through our waters during the summer and shoulder season months, they are pretty much absent during the winter.
The only exception to this might be a very warm water eddy moving into our vicinity, bringing dolphin and other tropical species with it. When you think about it, or take a quick look at the IGFA record book, the big dolphin come from truly tropical locations like Panama,
There is a bit of an interesting development in the IGFA world record scene. Perhaps coming as a bit of a surprise, there are a number of line test records that are being set for Almaco jack (bonita to us) in Costa Rica, off their Pacific coast. Bermuda has always been known as a location that produced trophy-sized Almacos and, indeed, some world records have been set here over the years.
The Bahamas also produced some record fish and Florida, as always for Atlantic species, also generated records. During the last couple of years, though the majority of records have fallen and been replaced with new records set off Costa Rica. It would not be so unusual if they were caught off the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica but, in fact, they have virtually all been taken from the Pacific.
It has long been known that the Almaco is found in all the world's oceans but it was in the Atlantic, primarily the north-western Atlantic that they achieved their fame as game fish. They are thought to be less common in the eastern Atlantic although the author has personal first-hand experience of catching just such a fish off Madeira.
Speaking of records, the United States continues to be the site of new records for grouper species. Many of these records are being set by fish that would not even make the local legal minimum size or weight, making the pursuit of these records a rather fruitless task. On the other hand, just recently a 4-lb test yellowtail record was set with a 6 lb 12 oz snapper. That mark is one that could easily be bettered here, if anyone cared enough to turn their hand to its pursuit.
In the many, many years that the Bermuda IGFA reps (both past and present) lobbied the IGFA to include this species in the list of recognised line test class records, there was continuing disbelief when the local Bermuda records were cited as proof that the species attained such sizes as 10 or 12 pounds.
Once it was recognised, Bermuda made significant inroads into the record book with a current 11 of the 14 line test class records held here. It probably would not take too much to have all the records held here, given the quality of the yellowtails that we enjoy.
The forecast for the weekend is anything but inviting and the majority of the local population will be digging out winter woollies and waterproofs. This quickly makes it fairly obvious that the boat will be ignored for another weekend and the fish will be assured of a free ride. Not exactly the stuff that makes for Tight lines!!!