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Magnificent catch was not a record

No shortage of news this week with a magnificent catch made by a most deserving fisherman! Andrew Card, no stranger to the Bermuda fishing scene, got the attention of the public by catching a hefty bluefin tuna.

Although this species has long been known to pass through local waters and there have been relatively numerous sightings in recent years, they have been elusive. Just last year, Andrew spent eight hours hooked up to such a fish only to wind up with only a fish tale to show for the ordeal.

Wednesday was a bit different though. Fishing on Argus Bank, a mere 1500 feet or so from the site of the former tower, a rod keeled over and 80-lb test line started to peel off a 50-lb test reel as if it had snagged an express train.

It was at this point that the tuna made a fatal mistake. In most locations where they are the target of choice, the local terrain plays to the advantage of the anglers. Waters are relatively shallow and the fish is unable to sound. In normal conditions here, that advantage is lost because the waters off the Edge and drop-offs are very deep and the fish can put its nose down and plummet into the depths.

In this instance the fish ran across the top of the bank, rounding the remaining structure and then heading down to the shallow bottom. It was there that a resident shark or two took on a Customs and Excise role and extracted something like 35 percent duty from the import posed by this particular visitor. With that the fish quickly died and was cranked back up the surface – no mean feat, by any matter of means!

The word spread like wildfire and there was quite a reception committee waiting at Spanish Pint Boat Club where Fisheries officials as well as Bermuda Game Fishing Association authorities.

It was with bated breath that the crowd awaited the announcing of the weight and a round of applause greeted the “920 pounds” verdict from the weighmaster. Allowing for the shark “tax”, the fish clearly had weighed in excess of one thousand pounds and was undoubtedly the largest tuna ever caught here.

The previous record was a bluefin that weighed in at 782 pounds caught back in 1979 aboard the Card brothers' boat Challenger.

Unfortunately, despite erroneous reports in the media, this particular catch will not qualify as a Bermuda record. While it is unfortunate that this will not be the case, it is important to bear in mind that like most other sports, angling has rules and the rules have to be abided by.

Most serious anglers are aware of this and while commercial fishermen are not bound by those rules, they are knowledgeable enough to know what makes a fish eligible and what disqualifies it. Occasional anglers often misinterpret rules or fail to understand them. Naturally, there are a few anglers who are pretty much sea-lawyers and can recite the rule book cover to cover and find all sorts of loopholes. The IGFA spends a fair amount of time closing those loopholes, hence the revisions that are made to the angling rules from time to time.

Bermuda records are controlled by the Bermuda Game Fishing Association (BGFA).

This organisation is affiliated with the IGFA and the rules are essentially the same with a very few allowances made for lines that are not subjected to testing in advance of the granting of a record.

In this particular instance, a number of rules disqualified the otherwise momentous capture. First off, and probably most simply, an attack by a shark or other creature that damages the fish and/or impairs its ability to fight disqualifies a catch. In this case, the obvious substantial loss of muscle that drives the tail had a severe impact on the fish's ability to propel itself and the blood loss that would have occurred pretty much ensured the tuna's almost immediate demise.

Many of the other angling rules limit how much assistance the angler can receive. A fish must be hooked and fought by a single individual angler who cannot rest the rod on the gunwale, nor place it in a rod holder once it has been removed from a rod holder.

While it is permitted for another crew member to take the leader and any number of persons to assist in the gaffing of the fish, it would be a pretty big stretch of the imagination to work out how a lone angler could hook, fight and boat the fish while simultaneously running the boat and communicating with the boat that came to provide assistance. Still, a memorable result and proof that big fish patrol our waters all year around.

What was rather curious was the bait that the fish took. It was not a well-rigged garfish or flying fish or even a high speed trolling lure. It was, in fact, a Rapala® type lure, originally designed for large lake fish. Modified for the type of fishing that we do here, it was still probably the biggest fish ever caught on such a lure and might well rate a mention in the manufacturer's advertising. Who said that “elephants don't eat peanuts”?

For the rest of us, tuna still are the focus of what seems to be happening. The calm conditions were favourable for chumming on the drift and this was found to be pretty good early in the day although after midday the tide shifted and started to pick up, making it more difficult to reach where the fish were hanging.

Although it is not the time of the year normally associated with prime chumming conditions, the tuna are out there and they are cooperating. These are primarily yellowfins although there will be some blackfin tuna in the shallower waters such as the crown of the Bank. Obviously, there are probably some more bluefins around but most anglers will be of two minds as to having one or more of these appear in their chum slick – sort of something the size of a cow. And things could be a lot worse - nine hundred pounds is big but nowhere near as big as they can get.

One commercial boat managed a haul of ten Allisons weighting from between 25 and 60 pounds. There are a few larger specimens out there but they are usually a bit more finicky when it comes to taking a bait. Lighter leaders get results but, then again, they break more easily. Large fish on light line take more time and that means more chaffing and more wear and tear. Fine for the sportsman trying to amass points for competitions but not so hot when a fish caught is money earned.

Wahoo continue to be caught sporadically and this must always be investigated. At any time numbers might radially improve and there have been some respectably sized 'hoos caught over the last week or so.

Bottom bouncing still gets enough in the way of fillet fish to justify a bit of effort and now that it is February, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Easter is relatively early this year and after the Good Friday hiatus, there will be an upswing in angling activity. In the meantime, there are lots of reasons to see if you can survive some mighty Tight lines!

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Published February 04, 2012 at 6:00 am (Updated February 03, 2012 at 3:54 pm)

Magnificent catch was not a record

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