Already signs summer’s long over
The rain and easterly winds that have been the hallmark of the last week or so should be telling you something. Winter is upon us. Forget autumn — the trees don't change colour here and there aren't delightful crisp sunny days — go to Maine or Nova Scotia for those. That it is late in the year should be apparent to most people as they rise to go to work in the morning. With the sun not rising until after 7am, the darkness usually means that the fish will not have started feeding yet, so it is quite possible for a late-moving angler to have a crack at “first bite” on the Edge or the Bank. In the normal scheme of things, this is a preferred tactic on the basis that, after a long night, fish must be hungry and since most oceanic predators feed by sight, they need daylight. Based on this premise, dragging baits along what is believed to be the fish's preferred feeding zone at that time should result in strikes. But is it that simple?
There are a number of theories applied to this thought. One, the obvious one, is that bright moonlight allows some species to feed at night thereby negating any advantage first light might have. There are also some movements of prey species that are associated with things other than light and those too might affect feeding patterns. Most oceanic fishing is less predictable and certainly more subtle than some fresh water fishing where something readily observable like a fly hatching can turn the trout and other species on. While many recognise that there is some sort of timing mechanism to the fish's feeding, no one really has any idea what the trigger may be. In fact, there may be a number of things that make a fish feed. There are plenty or instances of fish coming through a chum line but watching rather than eating. It can't be the lack of food keeping them from eating. Then again, tuna have been seen to gorge themselves on chum, regurgitate it and then carry on eating. No one really knows the why behind such behaviour.
There is also the matter of whether or not there are any fish there. Oceanic wanderers do just that, wander. Their abundance tends to be seasonal and although there are variations these tend to be around a basic pattern. A simple one would be the obvious greater availability of blue marlin in local waters during the warm summer months as compared with a scarcity of them during the cooler months.
Taking these thoughts offshore at the moment and there are a few wahoo around. Boats have been managing three or four, mostly on traditional trolls. Live baits remain at a premium; robins are thin on the ground and the frigates which have put in sporadic appearances on the Edge and Banks seem to have disappeared again.
The yellowfin that were willing to please a fortnight ago have done a runner to points unknown. One thing is for sure, they are not around here in any numbers.
There may still be some blackfin tuna that will cooperate with chummers. Although they are resident here all year long, they are really a warm water species and most active during the late summer. That doesn't mean that they can't be caught at this time of the year but actually putting in effort looking for them might be a miss-direction of effort.
The bottom species remain a good bet. Coneys and barbers may not be exciting but they do provide nice firm, white fillets. The occasional hind is a bonus but the likes of amberjack, bonita and other jacks can provide good pull and have proven their worth in the kitchen. The truly fortunate might luck into a rockfish or some legal-sized yellowtails, both of which are fine additions to any fish box. It is a bit on the early side for the best action but there may be a few porgies around that have chowder marked as their final destination.
Although the clocks won't change for another few weeks bringing that inevitable onset of cooler, wetter weather and the perception that it is indeed winter, there are already signs that the summer is long over. Subtle changes in the dress code around town and the decided shift away from beach and water-based recreational activities make it clear that the fishing season is over. This runs contrary to the established angling season that was marketed by the Department of Tourism's Fishing Information Bureau for many years.
As an aside, how does the concept of having a section, albeit small, of the tourism ministry being devoted to the sport of fishing and given the task of luring tourists here for that very purpose. While large scale events like the Big Game Classic now undertake that role, there must be a portion of the travelling population who would be quite happy to wet a line in the clear, blue Bermuda water.
In any event, the fishing season was billed as May through November with mid-April getting the nod as acceptable. The months of December through March were deemed as too rough and uncomfortable to go fishing. In practice, only a few hardy souls ever attempted to venture offshore on sport fishing missions. This is pretty much recorded in the listing of Bermuda records. This list goes back to the original heyday of Bermuda angling and the time when it was thought of by many as a winter resort.
Of all the line class records listed for the 22 species that the Bermuda Game Fishing Association recognises (at the present time — back in the day there were only 19), only 25 entries were fish caught between the end of September and March. November seemed to be the month with eleven records set; five were in December, four in October and, amazingly, February and there is just a solo entry for January. Perhaps curiously, the January record was for a grey snapper, a species more usually associated with the warmer summer months.
The species that seemed to get the attention in the winter was the bonefish. Records were set in the months of October, November, December and February, allowing one to think that the popularity of the pursuit of this inshore species was associated with winter visitors.
There are a couple of oddities in the November records: African pompano and sailfish. Not normally encountered here and even less sought-after, it was probably the unusualness of their capture that got them into the record book.
Other November records are for yellowtail snapper, barracuda, dolphin, chub, palometa, blackfin tuna and little tunny (mackerel). Maybe it was the arrival of the acknowledged end of the official season that saw anglers putting in an extra effort in November.
Many of these winter line class records are very old indeed; two of the bonefish records were one set in 1950 and 1952! Most other Bermuda records reflect the modern season of June, July and August with September getting a good look-in. Although it won't be possible to add to those at this point, don't discount the possibility of finding something that will ad to the “off-season” records; all it takes is a single session with the right Tight lines!!!