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Weather’s fine for Santa but not for fishing

Ho, ho, ho. Actually, it would be more like ha, ha, ha if you have even the faintest thought of going fishing this holiday weekend. Quite apart from getting relegated to Santa's naughty list, the weather, carefully arranged by Rudolph to guarantee him a red-nosed worldwide excursion, will indeed keep you home.

The weather recently has been most un-Christmas-like with most of us recalling past such holidays as calm, almost warm weather. Weather certainly good enough to encourage the hearty folk who celebrate Christmas morning on the beach with a dip and a glass of champagne. One hopes that things will have moderated enough to allow them to indulge themselves this year.

The truth of the matter is that the winter gales have been more frequent than usual in December and the periods between their onsets have been considerably shorter than the norm. There usually was a break of at least 24 hours when the seas would calm down and, depending on the timing, allow anglers or fisherman to make a run before conditions started to deteriorate again. This has not been the case as each winter storm has followed close on the heels of its predecessor. This really did not matter much for amateurs who were likely to be caught up in shopping, decorating and other holiday preparations. Many a man would risk something akin to death by merely suggesting that he was going fishing on a weekend. At least the commercial operator has a justification for wetting a line.

In any event, what fishing there has been has been exceedingly limited. The commercial fishermen have concentrated on lobsters with the reason being that most of their gear is accessible even during adverse conditions which preclude trolling, chumming or drift-fishing. They are also quite readily saleable at this time of the year when money seems to be no object for many and the pleasures of food and wine took paramount position. As the holiday weekend approached even the old salts took time off to enjoy a drink or two, a bit of camaraderie and to hang up their stockings along with everyone else.

Because of the strong family link, Bermudians remain on land on Christmas Day, usually at home or at a relatives'. For most of us here, Christmas is a quiet day, celebrated in a manner that is traditional to each individual family. Boxing Day is the visiting day when the staple food seems to be the holiday leftovers in various shapes and forms: sandwiches, soups and whole dinners that resemble those of the day before. It is actually amusing how some individuals have to partake of two or three such dinners in the course of making their rounds.

Funnily enough, despite the fact that it is an island, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Bermuda doesn't really have any fishy link to Christmas. There was an Easter/Good Friday tradition of having red snapper; fishcakes remain an important aspect of those celebrations but Christmas is our time for turkey, ham and cassava pie.

While the festivities in Britain, Canada and the United States are pretty similar to ours, excepting the cassava pie and maybe swapping the turkey for a goose, other countries incorporate fish into their Christmas dinners. In what was Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia), the centrepiece of the Christmas meal consisted of a baked carp.

Southern hemisphere nations often find the Yuletide sweltering heat enough to encourage movement to the coast where seafood is prevalent and this unofficially makes lobster, other shellfish and fish part of the proceedings.

Perhaps one of the reasons why northern nations have no fish connection with Christmas stems from the fact that December is a winter month often beset with gales and storms that deter fishing effort. Another telling effect has to come from the amount of European colonialism that inculcated British, French, Spanish, Dutch and Portuguese Christmas traditions into much of the Caribbean, the American continent and in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. The spread of the turkey as a main course is really a bit of a surprise, given that the bird was only native to North America. Until its introduction, probably first to England and then to the Continent, Europeans feasted on geese when they could afford it as attested to by the many renditions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Whatever the reason, give it another week or so and the emphasis will be on more usual meals with fish again becoming an important component of many diets. Lobsters get harder to sell, partly because the restaurant trade slackens off and partly because the arrival of the Christmas bills will have a lot of people easing up on their expenses.

Wahoo are found in local waters all year round and although their numbers might be down considerably, winter fish are often of decent size and there are many who hold that coming out of the cooler water means that the fish put up a more sporting performance. Not that that really matters now that just about everyone has resorted to using higher strength lines. There are not too many wahoo that are caught on anything approaching sporting tackle any more.

The prospect of an excursion offshore and the capture of a wahoo or two goes a long way to offsetting the purchase of several meals. Any bigger haul might see a deep freeze stash of several weeks or even months' worth of prime steaks.

There will be some blackfin tuna around because they are another resident species, it's just that they don't attract much effort during the winter months. Yellowfin tuna are often found here during the winter but they are likely to move around, probably following whatever bait there might be. Thanks to the weather, successful chumming is usually out of the question, but one never knows for sure.

Bottom-bouncing on the Banks should pay off with coneys and the odd hind and maybe some of the “floating” fish (amberjack, bonita, gwelly or other jack species) will please. All nice additions to the fish box.

More fuel-intimidated anglers will find the porgy holes a viable option. Quite apart from the large blue-boned porgies that live there, there are coneys, hinds and barbers as well as occasional ambers and bonitas. Not too far offshore, allowing for a quick return to home if the weather acts up but nonetheless productive of first-rate eating fish.

Fishing is definitely taking a back seat to other pursuits for the next little while but, like everything else, it too will stage a comeback. As is so often the case, even a little bit of time changes things.

Laying all the fun and games, libations, gifts, feasts and festivities aside, please accept the sincerest wishes for a peaceful, meaningful yet enjoyable Christmas along with the inevitable Tight lines!!!

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Published December 24, 2010 at 1:00 am (Updated December 24, 2010 at 6:50 am)

Weather’s fine for Santa but not for fishing

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