Time to pack up the reels and rods . . .
Done and dusted! There you have it, and that has been the season's competitive fishing for another year. All the weights and results have been consigned to the record books and to other forms of history while the telling of tall tales will continue on indefinitely.
Officially, there still remain a very few intra-club tournaments, some of which may never take place as interest wanes and the weather takes on more of that wintry image.
The first of the gales cannot be far away and, combining that with the tail-end, happily, of the tropical season; maybe the best place for the boat is somewhere ashore. With lobsters becoming the commercial operator's mainstay, expect fishing effort to drop off markedly over the next few weeks with just a few paltry reports providing a view of what the offshore might be like.
The fact of the matter is that little game-style fishing gets done in the off season. Weekenders find that it is neigh on impossible to plan an excursion afloat and interests wane with other, more reliable, avocations taking centre stage.
The lack of a suitable return deters commercial men from spending a probably grouchy day offshore consuming costly fuel in search of elusive prospects. Some years have been encouraging enough to tempt them to extend the season by a few weeks but this is certainly not one of those.
Many experienced fishermen and anglers alike will remark on the strangeness of this particular season. It is probably not one of a kind although individuals are hard pressed to recall one like it.
The wahoo have, thus far, failed to do what they are expected to do. The tuna have been totally unreliable and even the baitfish such as robins have been skittish at best and never numerous.
Marlin have been the nearest thing to reliable, despite being less abundant than usual; but they certainly do not contribute much, if anything, to the industrial fishery.
Dolphinfish, an occasional catch at best, have kept an extremely low profile and the present offshore scene seems to be dominated by barracuda. The latter are marketable but it would take a whole load to justify the cost of a day's trolling for them.
Chumming on the Banks and along the northern Edge will produce blackfin tuna but these are less saleable and lack the weight that must be amassed to cover a day's costs. Anglers must remember that the point of view of the commercial operator differs substantially from that of the sportsman. At the very least the latter accepts that he provides some level of subsidy from his ‘day” job while in the commercial case, it is the operation that must provide the income.
Oh, despite the doom and gloom, right now it is possible to catch fish. Some commercial boats have even managed double figures for wahoo but these have been exceptional occasions, frequently followed by a fruitless day spent cruising the same ocean that produced fish the day before. This is, of itself, uncanny. There are no apparent trends or patterns to fish locations, movements or behaviour.
Chumming might produce a few robins that might be traded in for something better. Trolling a daisy chain might turn up some juvenile blackfin tuna and these make a fine live bait. So far, the ‘frigate' mackerel have yet to show offshore but there are a few boats with large livewells that will allow them to catch such baits on the inner bottom and then take them to the drop-off where, hopefully, hungry predators lurk.
There should be some good opportunities for amberjack and bonit, species which have been exceptionally high in terms of both numbers and quality this last year or so. Some concentrated yellowtail fishing might locate fish of legal and marketable size.
Therein lives a difference because a legal fish is a bit on the small side for paying consumers. Certainly, there is already plenty of evidence that there will be good numbers of fish around next season, but that doesn't help the here and now.
Finally, there is the tried and true technique of simply heading offshore and seeing what happens. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't to some extent it often depends on whether it is the fishing or the catching that defines the outcome of the day. Be warned the water along the South shore is till green in places and there have been no encouraging reports form that region. That leaves down north, the East End and the Banks.
The astute observer will have noticed that the water colour on a sunny day in a largely enclosed body of water like Jew's Bay will look just that little bit different. Sort of a fluorescence to the blue-green; ever so subtle but there none the less.
Largely unnoticed, this strongly suggests that the plankton are cooking away with a spike in population. A sudden heavy rainfall such as that late last week often contributes something in the run-off that stimulates such activity. Not likely to change the offshore situation but still part of the system that is the world ocean.
Then there is that smell. Again, on a warm sunny day there is that odour reminiscent of rotting seaweed but never that strong. Definitely earthy but hard to place. It could be any number of things but at this time of the year it is probably the scent of decaying plankton (yes, they do die) or roe — eggs or larvae from fish, sea urchins, corals or any of the myriad other creatures that comprise the coral reefs that surround us.
As one might surmise, only a very small percentage of these released are successful and the remainder return to the food chain by decomposing, ultimately reverting to the various elements that made them up in the first place. Hence the circle of life continues. In the meantime, the process generates that smell.
Even offshore, there are days, generally the calmer ones, which allow the nostrils of the human to notice that musty smell that seems so out of place on a clear blue ocean. Spawn and larval material produce these odours and while they probably do not directly interfere with a fish's business are hard to reconcile with fish that are actively feeding.
So, on the cusp of October with a rather foul-sounding forecast for the weekend, what to do? It rather seems that other diversions, be they football of one sort or another on television or the golf course, will get the nod.
There is always a chance, albeit one that looks more and more remote that things might suddenly pick up and provide some real late season opportunities for Tight lines!!!