The first tournament just a week away
Despite a bit of bluster here and there, the predominant summer weather pattern is going to great lengths to establish itself and it won't be too much longer before the Bermuda-Azores high becomes a source of humidity and heat to the American East Coast. Here it will mean an almost endless, or so it seems, supply of Bermudaful days.
What is less apparent is the readiness of the weekender fleet. In fact, one might well suspect that it is non-existent. Boats have sat on moorings for months; some have not been started up this calendar year and yet the demand for boat usage will suddenly swing upwards and out of sight. With the month of May just days away and the first of the in-house tournaments just about a week away, it is time to get the vessel and gear into tip-top order and to get on with the summertime programme. If you wait for it to catch up to you, the month will be mostly a thing of the past and regrets never wear well.
While mulling over what steps need to be taken to ensure some degree of preparedness, it is certainly reassuring to know that none of us were afraid of great white sharks until technology allowed for satellite tracking of these great beasts. Oh sure, there were fisherman's tales of huge sharks that devoured two-thirds of large fish including sharks that were in the process of being caught; various other sea monsters figured in these accounts but, great white sharks — never!
Did we even know what they were until Peter Benchley made them famous. The frequent visitor to Bermuda combined the attributes of a Long Island charter skipper who specialised in shark fishing and is largely credited with popularising the entire concept of “monster fishing”. Of all the denizens that he pursued the great white was the biggest, nastiest and almost supernatural creature that lived in the ocean. Best of all, it was found pretty much throughout the world; but, as far as we were concerned, never in Bermuda. After all, why would a great shark that fed on seals, whale carcases and schools of mackerel and menhaden, ever want to come to this lonely Atlantic outpost mostly famed as a honeymoon resort? The mere fact that a noted shark researcher, Dr Sylvia Earle, identified such a shark from a photograph (what would she know?) and other seemingly apocryphal stories from visiting skippers did nothing to convince us that such denizens ever graced us with their presence. It took the magic of computerised tracking of great white sharks to put their presence on the front page of the newspaper and, more importantly, into our minds. Is it still safe to go to the beach like we used to? Perhaps skinny dipping on a moonlit night will lead to a rhythmic drumbeat that increases in volume to a crescendo that brings us out in Goosebumps.
Or has nothing really changed?
Strictly speaking the latter is the likely case. One has trouble believing that an age-old species has suddenly modified its migratory pattern to include this island. The fact that they are somewhere between rare and uncommon at most locations suggests that there probably aren't all that many of them in the world's oceans. Most of the scary stories involve single specimens and as such tales are based on historical experience, there is little to suggest large numbers of these predators. That they tend to occur at certain times and certain places may be a result of a specific concentration rather than an increase in abundance. Certainly, there is no reason to do anything different here; it is probably not their favourite place to be: lack of marine mammals and huge concentrations of oily fishes along the shore make for a lack of food. Wide sandy bottoms and clear water make sharks feel at risk because they themselves must feel that they stick out like sore thumbs. One of the main things about being a successful predator is being able to make sure that you don't become a victim of some other predator.
Here, that predator are that anglers and the fisherman and, happily for sharks, they are not preferred target species; certainly not of sportsmen who look down on the entire concept of monster fishing. For them summer means wahoo, tuna and billfish with the small game species rounding out the light tackle angling. And all that should be just about to happen.
The current offshore situation is best described as “unsettled”. The majority of reports have the fishing as “slow', “very poor”, and a waste of time. That is not to say that there has been a ton of effort put in but it is starting to shape up. Trollers working Bermuda's Edge report little activity although boats working farther abroad have had some success. One charter boat managed a brace of nice-sized wahoo and while it wasn't exactly fabulous it sure beat out a number of boats that did not even enjoy the luxury of a strike during several hours of dragging baits and lures. A commercial boat that went all the way to Argus had significantly better results with nine wahoo although other boats covering the same distance did not manage to have much to show for their efforts.
A couple of weeks ago a few yellowfin tuna were caught and it is hard to imagine that the main body of this schooling fish is too far away. Some of the awkward tidal flows on and around the Banks have probably added to the confusion but the tendency will be for things to settle down and for migrating fish to start collecting here. Given that full moon was just a few days ago and there will be more dark hours, hungry fish will need to feed during the day and that is when the action will pick up. The trick is to be able to take full advantage of “the bite” as soon as it starts. The spring wahoo run usually gets mixed up with other fish and in the hectic action is it possible to catch a real mixed bag: even white marlin have gotten involved in the proceedings when wahoo have been the dominant species. As the scouts say: “Be prepared'.
Those less interested in fishing but more into whale watching should be finding themselves in a wonderful position to view the northward movement of these great marine mammals. With no real predators now that commercial whaling has diminished to almost nothing and the value set by most nations on the touristic value of these resources, these great animals frolic their way past Bermuda and are easy to observe. Most fishermen try to avoid them and many are willing to point boaters in the right direction. If you get anywhere in the vicinity of them, they are pretty hard to miss. Dragging a line while scouting out the whales can't be called serious fishing but every once in a while, it will pay off with some Tight lines!!!
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