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Bream are not to be frowned upon in these desperate times

It is no understatement to say that the present weather is not conducive to any fishing. The commercial operators may make an effort to get to their lobster traps and the very odd one may take advantage of a singularly good day to see if there are any wahoo or tuna willing to bite, but, for the most part, this, and the next few weeks, is the lowest point of the fishing year in Bermuda.

So just what does happen at this time of the year? Well, those who know take advantage of the downtime to work on their boats and gear. There is a lot of preventative maintenance that can be done on a boat without taking it out of water and even more that can be done on a boat that happens to be sitting on blocks in your backyard. Best of all, a lot of things can be physically removed from a boat and brought indoors where they can be worked on in the comfort of your home — if the wife will allow such!

While there is no question that it is winter, there will be some nice days and, while these will be precious, there will not be many ready, able and willing to take advantage of them. The weekend warriors are exactly that: if the good day does not fall on the weekend, then it can be as nice as you like while you labour away in an office or elsewhere.

And even if the timing is right, there will not be too much in the way of intelligence available as to where the fish may be. Even the professionals have to take advantage of the good days and, because they happen when they do, even the best of them may have been shorebound for a week or more, making an expedition offshore something of a voyage of exploration.

For most the tactic will be to gear up to troll and to run out and give Bermuda’s Edge a drag, with nothing happening being the best reason to go to the Bank. Not that that holds any guarantees. Wahoo do persist throughout the winter months and there have been some big ones caught. In fact, the IGFA 12lb test world record is still held by an 81lb 7oz wahoo caught off North Rock in late December, albeit 30 years ago.

While such giants are exceptional, the usual winter average is considerably better than that found in the summer and, while numbers are also considerably less, the improvement in quality can make the capture of even a single fish a worthwhile exercise. The real trick is to know when to give up: one fish early in the morning might be followed by hours of fruitless trolling; not exactly a good way to balance the books.

Of course, it can pay to spend a little bit of time working an area that has produced a strike or two, as there may be more fish there or they may be willing to bite again. An oft-used technique is to mark the area, either on a GPS or mentally, and to give it a bit of a rest before returning almost in the expectation of getting a strike.

As is always the case when the fish tend to be thin on the ground, it is really important to make the strikes count. Long-winded and sad tales of dull hooks or dodgy line are not what you want to be discussing when you have waited two hours for a humdinger of a strike just to have everything go slack — so be warned!

Those unable to get offshore but still desperate to wet a line may want to try casting off a bridge or dock. There should be plenty of bream around that are willing to please. Not exactly game fish, this species is related to the porgy family and, according to some experts, is a species unique to the Island, even though there are plenty of lookalikes to be found elsewhere.

What makes this something of an unique species in a clime that otherwise derives its marine fauna from tropical regions is that the bream or silver porgy is an inshore winter spawner. Hence why they are so numerous in the harbours and bays during the cooler part of the year.

Another species that is vaguely related and plenty numerous in the winter is the pinfish — and there is not a lot that is good to say about this fish. It is just about the boniest creature that you could want to find, accounting for its name. It is just about impossible to fillet without getting a load of sharp, pointy bones that no one wants. A fish best left in the sea, even if it is the only bite you get all day.

Now, back to bream, most of them weigh between one and two pounds and give a good little account of themselves on light tackle. Using the one-third theory, a 1½lb bream should make for a ½lb of fillet. Although frowned upon by many, they do provide a firm white fillet and most people have probably eaten more bream than they know because, over the year, lots have found their way into bags of mixed fillet. In any case, because the fish are usually available in reasonable numbers and are willing to take almost any bait that is offered, it should not take too long to collect enough fillet to have justified the time spent out on a dock or jetty.

They are often disparaged because of their pretty omnivorous feeding habits, which include the waste and decay products of other plants and animals. Not exactly appetising, but, then again, how about the lobster, a real carrion eater who is surely one of the great vacuum cleaners of the sea, clearing up all sorts of waste. An epicurean delight for most but one that also eats all kinds of dubious things, mostly dead or decaying. Shrimp and prawns are not too far behind, either.

Inasmuch as it is winter with little happening here, it is worth looking ahead, and there is the Miami Boat Show next month. There is usually a large contingent of locals who make their way to that mecca to renew old friendships and to marvel at the new boats, equipment, electronics and sheer gadgetry that innovators have come up with during the past 12 months.

The Big Game room there concentrates on angling and there is plenty of opportunity to swap fishy stories and to compare tactics and techniques. So, while there is not likely to be too much angling in Bermuda for the next six weeks or so, there is an ideal forum for swapping accounts of, sometimes, highly creative Tight Lines!!!