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Taking a break in the hazy days of summer

Much like the anglers themselves, the fish seem to take a break when the heat is on. And mid-August is that time of the year.

Even though the weather has been good enough to allow boats to venture offshore, the pickings have been mighty slim and this has served to discourage some anglers from making even the most basic fishing trip.

There are fish out there; it is high summer, after all. It is just that this season seems to be a bit different and not necessarily in a good sense, either. Fishing is a bit like the weather: we all talk about it but no one can really do anything about it.

Bottom bouncing will produce the usual coneys, barbers and hinds with ambers and bonitas making for a bit of excitement. When conditions are ideal, the yellowtail snappers should please even though there are a lot of undersized specimens out there. While a great indication for the future of the species, it really doesn't help the angler of today.

Marlin are still readily available for anyone who wants to go looking for them and next week's Bermuda Marlin Release Challenge will see some boats doing exactly that. Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are more male blues around the Island as September approaches. Males, for whatever reason, don't get much bigger than about 300 pounds with fish in the 150 to 200-pound bracket being the norm.

As a result, the average blue will be smaller than the fish raised in June and July, but don't totally discount the possibility of a grander putting in an appearance.

Trolling will produce a few wahoo and while this has paid off for one or two individuals, the action is certainly not enough to have you drop everything and race offshore.

Even the small game on the Banks simply isn't as pleasing as it usually is.

There is a lack of yellowfin tuna at the present which is contrary to what is expected normally.

This is the time of year when there should be some nice larger than usual tuna just waiting for a live bait or chum line to get their attention. So far, this has not happened.

Now, more about wahoo. This is a species that doesn't get a whole lot of publicity in angling brochures or magazines as other species seem to be the glory-getters. It pretty much occurs in all the tropical and sub-tropical regions that are associated with sport fishing but doesn't usually grab the limelight the way that it does here.

They are important in certain locations and almost insignificant in others. Known as ono (lierally, sweet) in Hawaii, it is an important sport and food fish there. Very common in the Gulf of Siam, which means Thailand and neighbouring nations, the numbers are exploited.

Wahoo are abundant off Trinidad and Venezuela where it is also important. They are caught off Madeira, the Cape Verde Islands and the Canary Islands but are of less importance than the big blue marlin and tuna species there.

Sports fishermen catch wahoo off Florida but it doesn't really make for their headline fishing. That is reserved for sailfish and tarpon. Across the Gulf Stream, the wahoo is pretty big in the Bahamas, both figuratively and literally as many of the records were set there.

In Barbados there are lots of wahoo but you would not know it unless you went to a fish market and had a look for yourself. Certainly menus in restaurants and listings in supermarkets aren't going to help you. Down there the wahoo are called “kingfish” which only adds to the confusion because there is another species, similar to the wahoo, and which occurs there that really goes by the name “kingfish” or king mackerel.

The kingfish has a range along the American coast of the Atlantic Ocean from around Massachusetts down to Brazil inclusive of the Caribbean region. They have even occurred here on rare occasions although there is reason to suspect that they may be caught more often but are mistaken for damaged or “freak” wahoo.

Here in Bermuda, the wahoo is probably the most recognisable offshore fish species. It is mainstay of the commercial fishery and it can be found on virtually every menu, even though it may not all be local fish. Considerable amounts of wahoo are imported, mostly as frozen fish from places like Costa Rica.

Not surprisingly, the fishermen have long wanted a ban or embargo on imported wahoo but this is really not practical. The key difference between fish and vegetables is that the former can be frozen and stored for long periods. An importer can have a large inventory of frozen fish brought in prior to the embargo becoming effective. The inability to distinguish local from imported fish is also part of the problem. Price is also an issue simply because the imported frozen fish is often offered for sale more cheaply that fresh caught local fish.

And before you start arguing that is the same situation for spiny lobsters, remember that during the out of season period there is no legal market for spiny lobsters. During an agricultural embargo there is plenty of trade of the product with the embargo only being lifted when the local supply is insufficient for the demand.

The abundance of fish is also not as predictable as a crop that is in a field where the yield can be accurately estimated. Other factors making this an almost insoluble conundrum include the weather; as in there may be plenty of wahoo out there but it is blowing too hard for anyone to go fishing. That also impacts supply and demand. The bottom line here is that the commercial fishermen and many amateurs rely on catching large numbers of wahoo and storing them away to get them through the winter months, when the fish are less abundant and the weather not very conducive to fishing.

So, now it is watch and wait for the mainstream arrival of wahoo. Also keeping fingers crossed that this autumnal run materialises because some years it simply doesn't.

Last year was one of those, late August, early September gave a few signs that things were going to break loose but then it all came to nothing. This was evidenced by the number of fish weighed in at the annual wahoo tournament.

This event is a good indicator of how the fishing is, partly because there is a lot of participation by all sorts of anglers, ranging from the highly skilled to the novice and because the sample size gives a good indication of the overall quality of the fish.

Last year only saw 29 fish weighed in, despite good weather. The latter can also be a factor because there is no way of accurately telling how many of the registered boats actually fished. The message here was that the fishing was slow. The previous year had seen a bumper 73 fish weighed in while 2010 was probably nearer the norm with 54 fish brought to the weigh station.

What this year's haul will be like remains to be seen, but there are quite a few hoping that there will be lots of ‘hoo's making for plenty of Tight lines!!!

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Published August 17, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated August 16, 2013 at 9:05 pm)

Taking a break in the hazy days of summer

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