Be ready to take advantage of what nature offers
Nature says that it is summer. The flowers are in bloom, the farmers have crops in the field and, contrary to some opinions, there are some fish to be caught offshore. The weather has finally decided to moderate and the sun is certainly hot enough to make the use of sunscreen mandatory for most skins. The winds are much more predictable and, everything taken together, an picture of an idyllic oceanic paradise is painted.
All the game fish species that are expected to show themselves on the offshore grounds have done so, to a greater or lesser extent; but then again, there are always subtle differences in abundance. The overall picture is yet to develop but, so far, so good. And that is a lot better than finding out in August or September that this is turning into one of those real off years. Being ready and able to take advantage of whatever nature offers is the name of this game.
While this holds true for the commercial operators and the charter boat skippers, it often takes a little while for the information and the effort to make its way to the amateurs. In all likelihood, a few too many are suddenly faced with the realisation that next weekend is the traditional start of summer and the family will be requiring the boat in sound ship-shape order. Thus a mad panic will commence with the picnic taking priority over any possible piscatorial pursuits.
To give some idea of what the better sports catches have been consider a recent trip by Capt. Peter Rans' Overproof. The day looked to have all bases covered with a plan to drag the deep over to the Banks, then to do a bit of trolling followed by some bottom bouncing/chumming. That would give the day's party a shot at just about everything and, for one thing, it certainly seemed to work for them.
The day kicked off with a big strike just off Challenger bank that local angler Marcel La Douceur took and quickly found that he had his hands full. As the battle progressed to its conclusion he successfully released a blue marlin estimated at 600 pounds. This gave Overproof bragging rights at catching the first blue of the season, something which the coming months will see a whole fleet trying to emulate as the mystique of this great game fish has spread far and wide with Bermuda acknowledged as a source of what the faithful call big ones”!
The trolling proved productive as well with the team tallying seven wahoo, to 65 pounds; apparently a nice dolphin fish (mahi mahi) was missed. The bottom fishing effort also paid off with a selection of coney, hind, monkey rockfish and bonitas. All in all, a good day in fine conditions.
Especially encouraging, although not exactly rewarding, was the report of a mahi mahi. A few have been caught and these have been in the twenty pound bracket which is more than respectable for fish in this part of the ocean. Because there are obviously others out there and as they are really a tropical species, it suggests that the water temperature and general blue water conditions are ideal for fishing for pelagic species. In other words, this should be the start of something good!
The capture and release of the first blue this season is welcome although there have been several reports of billfish being encountered over the last few weeks. In the good old days it used to be about the beginning of June before a blue marlin was caught but, having said that, this is not inconsistent with what should be expected offshore at this time of the year. What will have caused a ripple of interest is the fact that the fish was released.
For various reasons, usually the first decent-sized blue caught ends up being kept. Sometimes it gets tail wrapped and drowns; other times, it domes up dead or too damaged to release, there are other reasons for taking the fish. The “up” side of this is that marlin flesh is top quality chum and hook bait for tuna. For whatever reason it seems to act like “catnip” in that the yellowfin, in particular, will go wild for it. So, if someone brings home four or five hundred pounds of marlin, then there is a supply of bait for the chumming season which cannot be too far away. With plenty of encouraging signs form the fish and a rather promising weather forecast the local IGFA-affiliated clubs will this weekend enter into inter-club competition with the long-standing Bermuda Fishing Clubs Annual Tournament (BFCAT). This event differs from most other tournaments in that it is less about individual prowess and more about team effort. Directed team effort, that is.
Apart from fish that fail to make the minimum weights (15 pounds for blackfin for yellowfin tuna) all other eligible game fish are to be weighed in and points will be assessed each fish based on a factor system. Billfish may be released with each garnering points based on the factor system for nominal weights set for each of the billfish species.
The factor system takes into consideration the weight of the fish relative to the line test (breaking strength) of the line used to catch it. Thus a big fish on
light line scores more points than a fish of similar size on a heavier line test.
In any event, because this is a club competition, each club can field up to three teams of four anglers each. The difference comes from the fact that the total number of points amassed by each club on each of the recognised line classes (8, 12, 16, 20 and 30-lb test) determines the club that wins the line class. The highest overall total points scored by a club will be declared the overall winner of the tournament.
In addition to the aggregate line class awards there is an individual award for the angler scoring the most points from a single fish and there is a High Point Boat award for the boat scoring the most points. As may be guessed, participation in this tournament is limited to club members. For those who wish that they could be involved in this sort of competition, there is little to keep you from joining one of the clubs. They are always anxious to encourage new membership and some have loyalty programmes that earn individuals places on subsidised teams. For many there is no easier way to become involved in tournament fishing, enjoy some socialising and learn what it takes to earn some Tight lines!!!