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Action increases as the yellowfin arrive

All the tell-tale signs that the fishing season is not too far off are there. The spring wahoo run appears to be done and dusted; there are yellowfin on the offshore grounds and it is only a matter of time and probably temperature before a billfish shows up.

As effort increases so will the action. Now could well be the time to stop procrastinating and start being proactive. March came in like a lamb and is likely to go out like a lion but then April will follow and, before you know it, it will be the 24th of May!

The recent change onto daylight saving or summer time makes early morning departures take place in the dark but this does have its advantages. For one, the early morning bit usually commences at first light and this will be just before eight o'clock, a relatively easy time for even slow morning movers to make. There is also the added advantage of long evenings, allowing one to travel back from the fishing grounds in daylight and to get the boat washing down and fish put away before darkness falls.

As commercial fishermen will tell you the best periods for fishing activity are often just at first or last light. The argument being that most predatory fish feed by sight and have to have sufficient light to be able to see their prey.

Of course, there are a few caveats: often there is enough moonlight to allow fish to feed by night. In some places like Cabo San Lucas, the bite is substantially better during the day when there is little in the way of moonlight. The phase of the moon actually dictates fishing tactics unlike the belief that a full moon is hot for blue marlin, something that is prevalent in the US Virgin Islands and elsewhere.

Another thing is that some bait species, including certain squids, are either luminous (glow in the dark) or actually produce light (something like a firefly). Such an ability might well get them attention that they would rather not have.

A number of predator species have adapted to increase the time or depth in which they can feed. Most of these are distinguished by having larger than usual eyes. The additional light gathering ability allows them to see when there is very little natural light such as just before sunrise or just after sunset. Prominent examples are the big-eye tuna and the swordfish. Both have eyes that appear a bit disproportionate to the size of the fish.

Lure makers have not let this slide either. There are lures which have batteries in them so that the lure head either flashes intermittently or lights up when trolled. Just how well they work is open to question but they certainly do catch anglers.

Of course, in the case of the swordfish, disproportionate seems to be the name of the game, with a bill that seems to be almost as long as the fish's body. The large eye allows the fish to see in low light situations which are the usual condition when it encounters its prey. Squid are a preferred food for swordfish and these often remain deep where light is pretty much absent. As a bit of a two-edged sword (pardon the pun), some of the deep dwelling species are incandescent or otherwise produce small amounts of light. While this works in favour of some species, it is also a giveaway for their predators.

Swordfish are found just about everywhere and while most of the swords caught today are in the 100-200 pound range with lots of smaller ones, they are a prized eating fish. While commercial longliners catch them in Bermuda waters and a few have been caught by sportsmen, there is little directed fishing for them locally. The use of a light stick or Cyalume® attached to the bait or near the bait is believed to serve as an attractant to any swordfish that might be hunting in the dark depths. Although most such fishing is conducted at night, one has to suspect that they could well work in daylight too, simply because at 500 feet it is permanently dark no matter what the sun is doing. If you have nothing better to do and want a fuel-saving exercise, perhaps a drift out in the deep with some lines set way down could prove interesting.

Although seldom identified as such, the Atlantic big-eye tuna has occurred here in Bermuda. Juveniles might be confused with blackfin tuna and school-sized fish (everything has to start off small before becoming full-sized) might pass as yellowfins. Things to look for include a shorter than usual pectoral fin and a basically heavier body set. They may also be confused with a bluefin tuna because the big-eyes attain sizes in excess of 300 pounds and, just so everyone knows, the bluefin does not have blue fins. The Spanish name for them, atun rojo (literally red tuna), is more accurate than bluefin because the second dorsal and anal fins are more orangery-red than anything else.

So while the yellowfin and blackfin tunas are the species that get the most attention around here, there are also albacore (several caught recently by trollers), big-eye, bluefin, skipjack and the Atlantic black skipjack (a real fancy name for what we call mackerel), just to mix things up. It just makes you wonder how many misidentifications have been made here over the years.

In terms of billfish, the local scene is dominated by the blue and white marlins but we also get spearfish, sailfish and swordfish; so we really cannot complain about a lack of variety.

Just to quickly revert to tuna, the International Game Fish Association has officially ratified the huge yellowfin tuna that now stands as the all-tackle world record. The fish, caught in Mexican waters, off a long-range boat from San Diego, California, weighed in at 405.2 pounds, eclipsing a longstanding record of 388 pounds. The feat is also notable because fishing off a long-range vessel often contravenes IGFA rules, making catches ineligible for record status.

Just to put things into perspective, Bermuda has yet to catch a 200-pound yellowfin under rules on any class of tackle. While we might be able to compete with the rest of the world on certain light tackle classes, the really large fish seem to successfully avoid us.

Once a place that held an eclectic collection of world records, Bermuda now holds just a few and event that list is dwindling. Perhaps the season ahead will see a return to light and even medium classes of tackle that will take advantage of some of the species that attain extra large sizes here. Even though it might only be a twelve-pound yellowtail, on the right gear, it is plenty capable of making for some Tight lines!!!

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Published March 12, 2011 at 8:00 am (Updated March 12, 2011 at 8:09 am)

Action increases as the yellowfin arrive

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