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Wahoo the best bet at this time of year

Looking ahead to the weekend, the weather will probably be quite moderate and should encourage a foray or two offshore. What is actually out there may come as a bit of a surprise, largely because there is a lack of hard intelligence on the availability of the various species. Most of the commercial fleet that is actually operative has been concentrating on a “last hurrah” for spiny lobsters as the end of the season is just two weeks' away. As a result, there has not been much in the way of fishing for fish.

Because of the limited information, it is best to have to look at what history has taught us. One thing that is for sure, Mother Nature is pretty consistent over time and the past is a pretty good indicator of the future. Just know that while this is the rule, there are some exceptions but remember that those are exactly what they say they are: exceptions to the rule.

So, what does the past tell us? First off, it is reasonable to expect there to be a few wahoo on the offshore grounds. This is partly because Bermuda is well within the normal range of the wahoo as a species and, indeed, is a location where there are runs of the fish at certain times of the year. These notably take place in the spring and autumn.

The reasons for such migratory movements are unclear but they are probably triggered by changes to the water temperature, food availability or the need to breed.

Insofar as the spring run is concerned this can occur any time after early March and as late as May. It tends to be short-lived with the fish moving rapidly around the Bermuda platform, often covering all of Bermuda's Edge in a mere week.

The belief is that after the run, the fish tend to scatter and occur in small groups or singles at different areas around the Island.

From the time of the run on into June, the wahoo tend to please pretty consistently but then the water warms up and they seem to ease off a bit. The use of deep trolls incredibly increased catches probably in the belief that by getting the bait down into the cooler waters where the fish supposedly were. Nothing to do with the manner in which the bait was presented or anything else; at least, not that anyone would admit to.

It is very easy to be simplistic and have all sorts of reasonable-sounding explanations for phenomenon that we really know nothing about. It is even easier to buy into such fallacies.

In any case, there are probably enough wahoo around at present to warrant a bit of trolling effort. It is probable that they are not so numerous yet and the offshore has not settled down enough to make chumming a viable method of catching wahoo.

On the other hand, it might just work for yellowfin tuna. This species, although classified as a tropical tuna, ranges through a wide variety of temperatures and so it is likely that some of them have remained on the offshore grounds all winter. To put things in perspective, the Carolinas enjoy a spring run of yellowfin tuna around this time of the year and the water temperature on either side of the Gulf Stream is not likely to be all that different to what we have here.

There, the fishing format is trolling and it does get results from what we would call “school-sized” fish. Doubtless, the same technique probably works here just as well; and with the wahoo adding to the possibilities, trolling a mixture of natural and artificial baits will probably pay off.

If the fuel bill is still daunting, then take advantage of the fact that the seasonally protected areas are still open to fishing for the next six weeks and these are historically productive pieces of bottom. Expecting to find masses of groupers is a pipe dream unlikely to be fulfilled but it should be possible to manage a reasonable haul off the bottom and maybe liven up proceedings with some “floating” fish.

Not to belabour a point that has seen plenty of media attention but anglers and commercial fishermen alike should be wary of signing the petition that would restrict offshore fishing. While at first glance, it may seem as a good thing and a protective measure, there are some questions that need to be asked. If the enactment of protective legislation comes to pass, will it also restrict the use of the zone by Bermuda-based boats and Bermudians? It often helps to be a little forward thinking.

Twenty-five years ago, probably no one thought that local boats and invited foreign sport fishing boats would be working near bottomless areas north and south of the Island for blue marlin on a regular basis during the summer months. Once upon a time, sport fishing was restricted to the Edge and the two recognised banks to the southwest of the Island. That is no longer the case.

Similarly, there were no Bermuda boats doing any longlining for swordfish; in fact, the species was thought to not be found in local waters. More recent developments have seen the locating of swordfish and some subsequent exploitation of the resource available in the local area. Based on that sort of information, to totally disallow any potential for the Bermuda EEZ might be a bit short-sighted.

That is probably the long and short of it from the sportsman's point of view even though there are numerous legal ramifications and no shortage of logistical realities. It is alright to have an EEZ and rules pertaining to it but just what are you going to do about enforcing it?

The US Navy and Coast Guard don't have a 200-mile exclusive Economic Zone to enforce and it would be a tall order for even that mighty nation given the length of its coastline. Apropos of nothing, that coastline is not far short of 20,000 kilometres long (12,500 miles). Try drawing a 200-mile zone based on that!

Sometimes, locals have trouble visualising just how large the Bermuda zone is. In our case, it would consist of about 125,600 square miles of ocean – something larger than the size of the state of Nevada or New Mexico. Even now there are reports of foreign vessels illegal fishing in the EEZ with some of the more unlikely ones saying that this has taken place within sight of land!

Raise another question, foreign boats come to fish our waters all the time; every summer. They are encouraged to do so but what is the legality of them dragging lines on the way to and from the Island? What if they boat and keep what they catch? Does that constitute “fishing”? Is that illegal? Those kind of questions are best left to the people who deal with them on a regular basis, not the general proletariat who are not privy to international agreements and accepted practices. Rashly agreeing to some things might, one day, severely inhibit our enjoyment of Tight lines!!!

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Published March 17, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 17, 2012 at 8:24 am)

Wahoo the best bet at this time of year

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