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World-record catches in Bermuda may be a thing of the past

Time marches on and, with the clocks changing this weekend, the warm weather that seems to have stayed with us will really give us a taste of summer and the fishing surely cannot be too far off the season's commencement.

Despite limited effort, the catches offshore have consisted of welcome mixed bags of tuna, wahoo and dolphin. Bluefin tuna continue to make their presence felt, although most of the part-timers out looking for a bit of wahoo for the table do not really want to run into one. Their gear is probably really not suited — and even a small bluefin is an awful lot of relatively dark-meat fish.

Much of the action has taken place on Bermuda's Edge and, with wahoo involved, this may be worth a second look. The spring wahoo run can come and go hardly noticed, as the fish move quickly, generally in a clockwise pattern around the Edge and then spread out over the Banks before scattering all along the Edge. The fish that are being caught there now could be the beginning of such a run or, hopefully not, the remnants of something that has escaped notice yet again. This is a clarion call to having the boat ready to take advantage of some of the encouraging weather that seems to be the norm and which can only improve as the year progresses.

As most keen local anglers already know, the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) is recognised as the keeper of all angling records. The term “angling” is used because it specifically implies that the fish are caught in a sporting, or angling, manner. There is a subtle difference between angling, which is fishing for sport, and fishing, where the intent is to catch fish regardless of means. Of course, there is a great deal of overlap; much of Bermuda's commercial fishing is carried out in a manner similar to that of anglers.

The saltwater species record-keeper since about 1939, the organisation became a far more public association in the 1970s, inviting membership from the public at large. In 1977, by agreement with the American outdoors magazine, Field and Stream, the keeping of freshwater records was transferred to the IGFA in 1978. The present situation has all competitive anglers adhering to the rules of angling as published and amended, from time to time, by the IGFA; making application for recognition by that organisation and abiding by the IGFA's findings and decisions. The records are published on a fairly regular basis by the IGFA and the latest edition has very recently been released.

In this list of newly ratified records issued by the IGFA, there are a few worthy of note is Cindy Mitchell's record on 12lb test tippet for a 25lb yellowfin tuna caught from Joey Dawson's Gringo. And, not least among these, is a new Small Fry (children's) record 5lb 6oz yellowtail snapper caught by Leanna Estis aboard her father's boat.

Another interesting mark that was not set here, but which dethroned a very longstanding mark, was an all-tackle record for great barracuda. Caught at Christmas Island in the mid-Pacific, by Canadian Christian Loranger, the 87lb 3oz fish has set a standard that will probably require someone travelling to some unheard of atoll to catch a fish that has been resident there, unbothered, for nigh on a century.

And that is what brings us to consider the chances of local anglers looking to join the elite 13,000 or so anglers, who, at one time or another, have held the distinction of holding a world record.

Although many records have been set and held here in the past, the world is far more competitive and the geography of the angling world has changed markedly. In this respect, the first thing the would–be record-holder may want to do is to analyse the situation with a degree of realism. There are some species that will never set records here. The freshwater species aside, many of the saltwater fish are either not found here or simply do not attain the size that is needed to set a world record.

Back in the days when light-tackle fishing was in its infancy, Bermuda and the style of fishing here by chumming, made for many of the tuna records. Blackfin and yellowfin were available in good numbers and the size of the fish corresponded well with the capability of the tackle used back then. Nowadays, this has changed somewhat, certainly for the yellowfin tuna, with the heavier line classes capable of subduing fish larger than Bermuda normally sees.

The ultra-light lines, 2lb–8lb test, offer considerable potential locally, especially where some species, such as amberjack, Almaco jack and blackfin tuna reach sizes that must surely approach their overall limit. Yellowtail snapper and, possibly, grey snapper, are also good candidates, but these will require the use of very light tackle. Basically, in cases where the fish are not going to be the real monsters of the species, the only way off picking up an edge is to downsize the tackle.

So, something else worth being honest about is your ability with the lighter classes of tackle. There is a lot of difference between using run-of-the-mill trolling gear that tests over 30lb and some of the gossamer lines that are so thin as to make even tying a good knot difficult.

Apart from having to exercise all sorts of gentleness, there will be an inordinate amount of patience required if the fish is to be caught. Anything less and all that will be heard is a resounding crack as the angler and the record candidate come to a parting of Tight Lines!!!

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Published March 08, 2014 at 8:00 am (Updated March 07, 2014 at 3:08 pm)

World-record catches in Bermuda may be a thing of the past

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