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Watch out for seaweed when trolling offshore

They say that April showers bring May flowers but here in Bermuda April can be anything from a spell of winter to not much short of high summer.

Judging by the way the offshore water temperature is moving steadily on upwards, summer is probably planning on coming early. After all, spring is officially already here as the sun has now crossed the equator and is moving northward, warming up the northern hemisphere.

Treat that vision with a grain of salt because the sun doesn't move anywhere, the earth does, causing the sun to focus on different locations at different times of the year. Given the way people think, it is no wonder that Galileo got himself into trouble with the Church authorities in the 1600s. Just accept the fact that summer is not all that far away.

Offshore conditions continue to be typical for this time of year. Loads of whales providing entertainment and a visual distraction but if they are of interest, do not tarry too long. They are really a fleeting phenomenon and are bent on leaving this part of the ocean behind in favour of the rich feeding grounds of the north.

Looking at the fishing offshore, apart from the “moss” growth on the lobster traps, there is also a fair bit of seaweed out there and that can be a nuisance when trolling is the intended modus operandi. Certain baits and lures tend to be able to avoid much of the snagging characteristics of the brown weed. Using such can go a long way to preventing the onset of frustration, especially if the fish seem willing to please but keeping the spread free of weed becomes a priority. Funny how Florida, the Carolinas and elsewhere welcome the influx of Sargassum weed but we think totally the opposite of it here.

Moldcraft Chuggers® will catch seaweed but will eventually throw it off. While much of the focus has been on the larger version as a marlin lure, the smaller ones behave in exactly the same way and are pretty useful when it comes to snagging a wahoo or tuna. A bait can be rigged behind the lure but that usually means that a hook is sticking out and that has weed problems of its own.

Another surprisingly useful outrigger lure is simply a plastic skirt (unweighted) with a hook tucked inside. Extremely light, this will skip along the surface, enticing fish and yet seldom snagging any seaweed. Amazingly, it is this sort of lure that makes the adage “elephants eat peanuts” come true. Just about everything from a mackerel to a marlin will attack such a diminutive trolled offering.

It probably comes as a surprise to some that it is not the hook that usually does the weed catching but the line. The weed gets picked up on the line and then travels to the end where it builds up on the lure. The same holds true for the deep trolls. Although the bait behind the ball may be weed free, it is the wire or line down to the ball that catches most of the weed.

Retrieving the weight usually involves clearing off a large quantity of collected seaweed. For the most part this is more of a nuisance than a hazard, but if light line is being used then the weed can chafe the monofilament thereby weakening the line. Given that most trollers are using 50-lb test or heavier, this isn't a problem.

The offshore scene isn't the red hot spot that it was a few weeks ago. One must suspect that the spring wahoo run is well and truly over and that the next month or so is going to be much of the same old, same old. While the trolling action is expected to pick up as April comes along and moves into May, a lot of that is as a result of the effort being directed that way.

Traditionally, May is a trolling month although, in recent years, a number of tournaments that favour the use of light tackle has encouraged some anglers to try putting the hook down and chumming for whatever might please. The old idea of waiting for certain summertime species to show up is pretty much in the past simply because the year-round fishing that is the norm today has turned up enough exceptions that the rules no longer hold.

Take skipjack, for instance. Also known as oceanic bonito, the skipjack tuna is known as a tropical tuna and has always been associated with the summer here in Bermuda. It would not occur to any of us that they might be here in the so-called off season. But is there really an off season for the fish or is it a concept that was dreamt up back in the day when the sport fishing season was strictly May to November and the commercial fleet shied away from chumming or trolling, instead concentrating on their stationary gear? The truth to tell, a few skipjack have been caught here since the first of January, and if that isn't mid-winter, what is?

There are still some yellowfin tuna out there and, as the days progress, they are likely to be joined by more of their kin. Right now the size is most of the school variety but things can change quickly and one must think that if the sea conditions cooperated, it should be possible to get in some chumming activity. Still a mite early for good blackfin action although undoubtedly there will be a few of those about as well.

Those who like to keep in touch with what is happening elsewhere in the billfish world, or at least, in the Atlantic, might want to log on to the 'Boy Scout' Tournament website. The real name for this event is the Atlantic Blue Marlin Tournament and that is where the website gets its name from. It is located at www.abmt.vi . Rather than a dot com, it uses the Virgin Islands locator initials. Although it includes details off the Bermuda Triangle Tournament series, it also has a lot of regularly updated Virgin Islands big game fishing information, has lots of pictures and is kept pretty current with places and people who are familiar to the local angling fraternity.

A word of wisdom to the procrastinators: now is the time to start working on the boat. April is all but upon us and May 24 follows hard on its heels. Tucked in the midst of all this is Good Friday and Easter, which are hardly fishing days and unlikely to be “work on the boat” days, either. By the way, with those holidays in mind, if you want some fresh fish, you may have to look into finding some Tight lines!!

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Published March 26, 2011 at 9:00 am (Updated March 26, 2011 at 9:06 am)

Watch out for seaweed when trolling offshore

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