Summer’s here ... let the action begin
So, here it is, summer. Long awaited and now having taken a life unto itself. The holiday’s festivities now behind us were apparently enjoyed by all; plenty of barbecues, watermelons and snowballs now magically appearing on a scene that saw winter parkas and boots a scant few weeks ago. It is clearly time for the beach, dinghy racing and all the other water sports, most expressly fishing; or more properly, angling.
Some foreign fishing battlewagons have arrived and more are to come. What else makes for summer that isn’t already here? Quite apart from the fish themselves and it can’t be argued that they are not starting to do their part. If anything, it is the anglers who are slow to start making their way out onto the briny and one would like to think that having used the boat yesterday, the aficionados will be up for it now and in the ensuing weeks.
The offshore this past last week or so has seen a considerable increase in the incidence of billfish activity with a number of hookups and catches being made. Most of these were of respectable blue marlin in the 500-pound range. That is alright if you hook such a beast on suitable tackle but if it is 50-lb test or less than the odds definitely shift in favour of the fish getting away. Maybe not the most positive outcome because a broken line usually means that the fish will eventually succumb to the drag and either sink to the bottom or become fair game for sharks or other predators. At least on heavier tackle, the outcome is either a released fish or a pulled hook that leaves the fish free to swim away and recover.
Some might argue that the full moon of yesterday was what prompted the marlin action but many local skippers fail to see the correlation between marlin and the moon phase. While it is acknowledged as “the” time to fish down in the Virgin Islands, one has only to look at the major local marlin tournaments to see that they are all successful pretty much regardless of how bright or dark the moon is. In fact, what probably as more to do with the numbers than anything else is just how successful the fishing is; not just in the tournaments but on the daily basis that boats, both local and foreign, hook marlin. After a couple of weeks, being worked over pretty much everyday, there must be a lot of fish out there that are nursing sore mouths!
Due to various circumstances things have gotten off to a slow start but there have been some decent catches reported. Most of this early season action is coming from wahoo with some boats managing to get into double figures. The fish are of all sorts of sizes, ranging from in the ‘teens all the way up to a hundred pounds. Obviously, the latter are thin on the ground but there have been quite a few respectable ‘hoos in the 50 to 60 pound range and even a small collection of “average” fish can make the fish box like the recipient of a major award. As always needs to be borne in mind, the amateur does not need anywhere as near as many fish as a commercial operator and the requirement to do so must raise the question of the ultimate destination of the catch.
There have been a few tuna, both of the yellowfin and blackfin varieties mixed in the hauls made by trollers. With the former this certainly proves that they are out there; but the question remains, are they there in the numbers that are required for a successful chumming campaign? One must suspect that as the schools on arrive on the offshore grounds they must interact with each other to concentrate bait so that they can remain in the general area without having to move on in search of food. The real clincher for the local situation is the presence of flying squid, something not usually noted in other fishing locales. Any sign of this, should be evidence enough or tuna in the vicinity and a bit of chumming might well pay off. One of the things that has probably set back the entire chum scene has been the strong currents and unlikely “tide” situations around the Banks. When there isn’t a reliable current pattern, even the fish have to scramble to find food and this is what can make chumming a less productive option.
There continue to be some dolphin caught and this is always a great bonus. Not the sort of species that is worth gearing up for and concentrating on; numbers just aren’t that great here. The recent size has seen some nice specimens up to about 30 pounds with most in the 10 to 20-pound bracket.
Dolphinfish are one of the great light tackle quarries and always a splendid sight in the bright sun over the deep blue briny. They will take the usual trolling rigs made for wahoo although they do have a slight tendency to go for brighter colours like yellows and greens. The sort of baits that most of us would not select for wahoo fishing, but which warrant an inclusion based on the presence of dolphin. White marlin often go for bright colours, too, so you never know.
As it turned out the BFCAT tournament did not come to pass last weekend. The forecast for the Sunday was anything but encouraging and the organisers did the sensible thing and postponed the event. Although, as always, there are those who looked at the fine conditions that actually prevailed on the day, such hindsight is a bit of a luxury. For one thing, the wind was easterly and there was enough of it to put a light chop on the Great Sound. This would mean that the offshore conditions would be a mite grouchy and the prevalence of an easterly breeze usually brings with it less activity on the part of the fish. There is an adage that says that “when the wind is in the east, the fish bite the least” and there is some truth in it. When organising a tournament, especially one of this nature, it is important to have the fish play their part. So, with an entire summer ahead, it made sense to put the event off until the first of its alternates, which skips this weekend and tries for next.
What is slated for this Sunday is the Sandys Boat Annual Tournament. This is usually a light tackle event and, while open to the public, draws support from those anglers who value their prowess with the likes of 8-lb and 12-lb test lines. Entry forms have been in tackle shops and it is likely that late entries will be accepted especially considering the hectic activity that occurs over the holiday weekend which distracts even the keenest of anglers. So, hopefully, clearer heads will prevail and the focus will return to the hunt because staying home or on the picnicking grounds will not lead to Tight lines!!!