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Calm conditions perfect for yellowtail hunters

The weather of the last few days has not looked kindly on those wishing to venture offshore in search of whatever may be on offer. But this is August, the month that is usually known for hot days and slick calm seas. Doubtless within a few days thoughts of doldrums will return to mind and the heat and humidity will be causing many of us to confine ourselves to air-conditioned venues.

Some of the species associated with this sort of conditions are the blue marlin which have dominated the scene as of late and the large yellowfin tuna that have recently put in an appearance. Not too surprisingly, one year is not usually a mirror image of the previous one and this year is no different.

How so? Well, while there are still some real trophy blue marlin on the offshore grounds, the effort is dropping off slowly but steadily. The foreign boats are heading back to the East Coast or Caribbean and local charters seem to be a mite thin on the ground. Naturally commercial operators have little interest in blue marlin, regardless of size mostly because they have little value in the marketplace and the needless slaughter of such fish would do little more than earn unwelcome attention from the general public.

Having said that, the boats that want billfish activity are finding good numbers of blue marlin and more white marlin than would normally be expected. Some of the blues that have been encountered have been exceptionally large fish and there is every chance that a grander will yet be landed this season.

Marlin trolling has produced a few very large yellowfin tuna and there are more of those cruising around the offshore banks. So far, chummers have made do with the usual school-sized Allisons but there is nothing to stop some of these larger fish taking up the lazy way of feeding by scooping up chum. Whether or not the gear being used for chum fishing will be able to hold a large yellowfin will remain to be seen but there is the challenge for those who might wish to take it up.

What is different and much more interesting, from the commercial boats’ point of view, are the ever-increasing numbers of wahoo to be found down on the Banks. Many boats are making double figure hauls of ‘hoos that are nice middle size and better specimens. This is a good indication that the autumnal run will be nothing short of spectacular and, if the frigate mackerel show up, it might just seem like every angler’s birthdays will all have come at once.

With the heat becoming an issue and the game species of choice like marlin, wahoo and tuna getting most of the attention, it might just be about time to consider some alternative activity that will result in some prime eating.

With fair conditions, some good and rewarding light tackle action can be had with one of the species that has not been the focus of commercial attention for some years now. Best of all, night time, which is the cooler time of day, is often the best time to concentrate on this species.

Calm seas often mean clement tides and this means ideal conditions for yellowtail snappers. A species that has been of prime commercial importance, it has been largely ignored in recent years and there should be good numbers around.

Prior to 1990, they were frequently caught in fish pots and; once upon a time, they were so numerous that they were the target of haul net fishermen who used to catch hundreds, if not thousands, at a time. Throughout that period, they were an important component of the commercial fishery and a popular food fish.

This is by no means a suggestion that things have reverted back to the good old days but there is little doubt that it should be possible to round up a hundred pounds or so without too much difficulty. Given that the average fish is better than three pounds, this is no tall order. In fact, because the yellowtail reaches massive sizes here as compared with other locations within their western Atlantic range, it might just not take too many to make the fish box look quite impressive.

There are a few things to bear in mind. A good chum line is called for. There are old practices of balling down with sand/bait mixtures and while this does work, so does simple old-fashioned chumming. With the right tide, the bait will find its way down to the reefs on the bottom and the snappers will come up. The key is the right tide. Windward is no good and too strong is not really what you want either. Often the best technique is to get the chum line established late in the day.

Once set, the chum line will continue for large distances and because yellowtails are a schooling species, numbers of them will eventually find it and therein lies the secret to successful yellowtail fishing.

The yellowtails will continue to feed into the hours of darkness and they will stay in the vicinity of the chum line until either the tide changes or the chum runs out. During this time, it is usually possible to catch numbers of them. Preferred tackle includes spinning gear but the real trick is to figure out just how far back they are feeding and to get the bait back to them as quickly as possible. Hence the value of spinning gear that allows the bait to be cast pretty much wherever you might want it.

Perhaps the most important aspect of fishing for yellowtails is to remember to have copious quantities of ice on hand. The water that the fish are coming out of is warm, therefore the fish are warm. The species is notorious for spoiling quickly and if the ambient air temperature, even at night, is taken into consideration then the circumstances actually favour the decay of the fish. Lots of ice and, if you have the discipline to do it, cleaning the fish as soon as they are boated and then stuffing the belly cavity with ice before committing it to the cooler, can ensure some really high quality fish.

One major tournament left on the horizon along with a selection of club events that will take place over the few remaining weeks left to this season. Funny how time flies by and the season’s swan song always comes as a surprise. The message here is that it is high time to take advantage of what good weather there is and to indulge in a spot of angling. September, the hurricane month, lurks ahead followed by the onset of winter as October approaches; together, these mean that there won’t be too many opportunities for the weekend warrior to stash some fish in the freezer. So put procrastination aside and, day or night, go out for some rewarding Tight lines!!!

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Published August 13, 2011 at 8:00 am (Updated August 13, 2011 at 8:47 am)

Calm conditions perfect for yellowtail hunters

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