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‘Be prepared' for new fishing season

With the way the weather has been it is hard to think that spring is a bare fortnight away and the fishing might well start to improve at any time. The clock change for tonight will cause its share of havoc as everyone starts waking up in the dark again but then getting the benefit of light until quite late in the evening.

Inasmuch as fish are guided by light rather than by the clock, expect the bite to happen just as dawn breaks even though the full moon earlier this week means that the fish can probably feed during the night simply because there is enough light to hunt by.

The commercial operators are making their final push for lobsters as the season comes to an end and so the effort will revert back to fish after the next couple of weeks. More effort usually gives a better picture of what is happening offshore, even if little is said the landings tell the tale.

The pickings are still a bit slim but there are some wahoo and tuna around. Perhaps more directed effort would turn up greater numbers but for now, that is about all the word on the street is.

Bottom fishing is slow and the porgies, etc. are continuing to enjoy a relatively free ride even though some directed angling effort would get results. It is possible to go out onto the reefs and catch a cooler full of fish; maybe not the most exciting action in the world but fresh, good, reliable, white meat fillets are usually pretty welcome.

And there is the matter of getting the boat ready for the season ahead. Don't wait until May to start doing what needs to be done anyway. Fishing season is a lot nearer than you think. As the scouts say: “Be prepared”!

A recent item in the local media stated that some Canadian researchers were using electronic tags to track basking sharks. Basking sharks are second only to the whale shark in size and are fairly uncommon. Plankton-feeders, they are usually associated with regions that are rich in micro-organisms such as the northern grounds where whales summer off eastern Canada. To the surprise of the researchers the tagged sharks have made their way south to the Bermuda region and as far as Cuba.

The species has never been identified here and would probably be an item of major interest if one was ever spotted. Actually, that should say if spotted and identified; not to mention it would help to have witnesses because such a strange sight of this leviathan would have the makings of a sea monster story and plenty of doubt would be cast on any account. Fishermen and anglers are not noted for accuracy but they are well known for embellishment. In any case, the ocean is a big place and there are probably all sorts of fish that travel through our region and we never know about them.

Over the years, a few unlikely species have turned up in local waters. Some of these have been recognised by scientists and local fishermen. Most of these oddities have found their way into museum collections or samples held by other scientists. The most significant have been written up in the scientific literature which really is the realm of the experts who read such heavy stuff.

Needless to say, every so often some of that sort of information is included later in accounts of a species range or as personal knowledge passed form an expert to an interested lay person. Sometimes, some species have been confused with others due to nomenclature or misidentification.

A good example of such was, back in the day, when there were several organisations keeping world records; a number of records for Atlantic bonito were set in Bermuda by a rather distinguished angler and writer. While this looked rather grand and helped enhance the Island's reputation, it was more than a bit misleading. First off, the species in question does not occur here. There is no scientific record establishing its presence in local waters. There is no old wives' tale of the species occurring here; there are no photographs of them.

This came about because although the angler did indeed catch some nice fish here, they were not what they were thought to be. The fish in question were, in fact, horse-eye bonita or Almaco jack. Because the local name was “bonita” somehow the pronunciation or identification was interpreted as “bonito” and, since the size of the fish exceeded all the previous records for the Atlantic bonito, so it is not too hard to see how the records came to be set here.

Other such encounters have been the subject of hearsay between anglers or others who have had occasion to be on the water. Although bluefish really don't figure in the species caught here, there is apparently a photo of a 15 pounder caught here in the 1949 and there were two small specimens caught off White's Island in Hamilton Harbour in the late 1970's. The latter were positively identified even though no formal records were made.

Sometimes the fish turn up where they are not expected. When there was some very deep water crabbing going on, a few fish got caught in the crab traps. Unlike anything encountered locally, these turned out to be codfish. There are no records of cod being caught here but then again, no one really thought about what might find its way here down in the cold, dark depths. Certainly, no one was going to go looking for the very, very odd bottom dwelling cod that may have got lost and come some twenty degrees south of where it should be. But it can and does happen.

Other oddities include a ladyfish that was caught in Mills Creek along with a selection of bait. Common enough in Florida and elsewhere, there is only the single record of it occurring here. The specimen in question did find its way into the local natural history museum where it probably still languishes in preservative solution.

Permit are another species which has had its moments here. There was a single large one caught off Shelly Bay once and another that graced the palometa tank in the Aquarium for years. But for those two, there haven't been any others reported.

Cobia, kingfish and African pompano have also been found here although they have been identified as a number of other species. People have sworn that we get Jack Crevalle here, but we don't; we do get a lookalike species. So far, no look-downs or real red snappers here although we have had schoolmaster snappers. It can be worth paying attention to what there is to be seen both inshore and offshore. Don't assume that things never change; Mother Nature is quick to play havoc with that notion!

Research into the old days and some scientific as well as pseudo-scientific literature also shows that efforts were made to introduce certain species locally. Now considered a huge environmental no-no, as evidenced by the influx of lionfish, it was thought that things like Maine lobsters would enhance the Bermuda reefs. For whatever reason this never took hold nor did any of the other species that were attempted. Perhaps a good thing because we do tend to like to know what is going to give us the Tight lines!!!

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Published March 10, 2012 at 7:00 am (Updated March 10, 2012 at 7:41 am)

‘Be prepared' for new fishing season

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