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Yellowfin tuna providing action on the Banks

Winter is upon us. There is no doubt; the halls are decked, trees are lit and the solstice is a mere three weeks away. While that astronomical event may mark the start of winter, it also assures us that the sun’s warming beams will have again started their northward movement and that means there will be a spring and then another summer.

All that, provided the doom and gloom naysayers don’t get the 2012 “end of the world” right. The Mayan calendar may have run out but it rather seems that the end of their world came somewhat sooner for them.

Putting Armageddon on the back burner for a few more years, if not generations, the December weather is often quite compatible with a sortie or two afloat. There are frequent periods of calm between the gales and the offshore waters usually retain enough of the summer heat to provide acceptable conditions to some of the tropical species which tolerate a wider range of temperatures.

Not that a whole lot of attention is paid to the so-called game species. The commercial operator, all of whom greatly outnumber the weekenders at this juncture, have lobsters as their focus with the bottom species coming in as very secondary in terms of financial importance.

Having said that, a limited number of boats tend to fish the same way the whole year around and every so often they come across something.

Just when it was least expected, with the wahoo and other species that take trolls conspicuous by their almost complete absence, the Banks have popped up a bit of a surprise in the form of some school-sized yellowfin that have proven to be more than willing to please. The mere fact that they are schoolies means that there are quite a few of them out there and they seem willing to feed in a chum slick.

This is not the sort of tuna fishing you expect in high summer so, don’t go out there expecting to fill the boat with them; but a moderate tide and some fresh bait should see you managing three or four of these 15 to 30-pound little battlers.

Actually, this should not come as all that much of a surprise to those who have followed the offshore scene over the years. Yellowfin tuna often remained on the Banks through the winter months and many of the old pros used to make a point of fishing for the tuna at least up until Christmas, at which point the market used to die down and the weather became a major factor.

Back in the day, as they say, this was a rather amazing feat. The sport fishing season came to its official end on the 30th of November. Mention of any sporting species was pretty much unheard of until late April when things might start to come to life and then with the 1st of May when the officially recognised season commenced.

More practical fisherman noted that schools of tuna were often sighted on or around the Banks during the off-season and, in many years, the fish have remained around, in some numbers, off the East End. Down there, drifting seemed to be the modus operandi but putting the anchor down and chumming should manage results too.

Those desperate for some action can continue to troll. Bermuda’s Edge is often the best option as there always seem to be a few wahoo around. Normally these are found as singles, or rarely in pairs, but some well-presented baits should elicit the occasional strike.

The real trick is making the strike count. If there aren’t going to be many than you have to make the few you get stick or you will finish up with a fish-free boat. Sharp hooks and well set drags are important and then there is the ever required but elusive element of luck.

On the positive side of things, winter ‘hoos are often of a respectable size and, by many a sportsman’s account, they put up a more spirited fight in the cooler water. The truth of this statement is a bit hard to discern especially when the line test in question is in the neighbourhood of 80-lb test. Not many wahoo can put up a performance of that sort of rope!

Best times for trolling seem to be at first light and late in the day, although the latter is unpopular with most anglers because it means going home in the fading light and having, hopefully, to clean fish and wash down the boat in the dark. Still, if the journey has been successful, that can be a small price to pay.

As always, feedback is welcomed and a recent comment on the availability of porgys and bream sparks a whole load of ideas and plenty of thought for future editions. In brief, though, it is a little early for the blue-boned porgy fishing to really kick in. A specialised fishery in its own right, it is generally pursued in February and March when the offshore seas are too rough to be properly worked and fishermen are looking for some sort of viable option to staying ashore. Often at such times, the waters over the inner bottom or reef area that holds the “porgy holes” are just about calm enough to allow some fishing and then they come into its own by allowing the exploitation of the species that gives those light blue holes their name.

The bream, which goes by the more ostentatious name of “silver porgy” is a species that actually becomes more active in the winter months as it moves into the inshore waters to spawn. A bit of an anomaly when it comes to thinking about the mostly tropical species that inhabit local waters, this species is an inshore winter breeder; rather the opposite of all the other species that we normally think of. While never up there on any sportsman’s list, it is a tough little fighter and the source of many a white fillet, despite the various nasty names people have given it.

So, into the year’s finale, just 30 days until Auld Lang Syne becomes the song of the hour. With not so many days ahead and myriad distractions during that period, there will be little in the way of holiday angling even though there will be long weekends and periods of suitable weather for wetting a line. The surfeit of festive foods will likely leave many a local hankering for something else to tickle his taste buds, so before the holidays take precedence to everything else, be proactive and slip offshore where there just might be some Tight lines!!!

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Published December 01, 2012 at 8:00 am (Updated November 30, 2012 at 7:54 pm)

Yellowfin tuna providing action on the Banks

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