Bermuda Anglers Club show they are not to be taken lightly
As befits what is the start to the inter-club competitive season, the 2014 Bermuda Fishing Clubs Annual Tournament got off to a great start under blue skies and calm conditions last Sunday. Although the bite was not as furious as it had been, it was certainly good enough to guarantee action at the weighstation, with the three clubs weighing in 28 eligible fish. Eligibility was based on the fish weighing at least one-half of the line test used.
The competition was stiff but, in the end, the honours were divided up like this. The overall winner of the BFCAT Shield was Bermuda Anglers Club (BAC), owing to the number of points their team amassed on 8lb test and 12lb test. Because this was a light-tackle tournament, points were calculated using a factor system that gives greater weight to fish caught on the lighter test of line strength. BAC also won those two categories, with Sea Horse Anglers Club (SHAC) taking the trophies in the 20lb and 30lb line classes. A solo entry on 16lb test by George Powell won that class for SHAC. The High Point Boat was Bay Roots, fishing for Bermuda Anglers and the High Point Fish category was won by Steven Antonition with a fine 41½lb yellowfin tuna subdued on 8lb test line. A great catch!
An analysis of the offshore situation by some of the more experienced skippers and anglers was that it was a mite on the early side for the chumming for tuna to be at its most effective, although there certainly were results to be had. On the northern side of Challenger Bank, there were plenty of tuna, both yellowfin and the smaller blackfin, breaking water and it is only a matter of time before these settle down and feed readily in any chum slick.
The wahoo remained another matter. Tournament boats' luck varied, ranging from single fish through to seven or more. There was no great lack of strikes, although the use of light tackle makes trolling difficult because it is harder to hook a fish. The chances of a hook-up coming good and staying in can be increased by the use of smaller hooks, but that is not to say that regular trolling rigs will work. Sometimes it is simply a matter of how the fish takes the bait.
Although a few boats tried the use of live baits, there did not seem to be any real advantage in that. Robins could be chummed up on Bermuda's Edge without too much difficulty and then held in live wells for the trip over to the Banks, where the main body of predators was thought to be. Boats trying this had some success, but there were lots of boats using standard trolling rigs that got equal or better results. Although there seemed to be plenty of fish on Challenger Bank, more notable successes with wahoo were had by commercial trollers on Argus Bank. This needs to be taken with a grain of salt because the commercial boats certainly were not handicapped by being restricted to light tackle. In any case, catches of ten or more were posted and, as was the case with the fish from Challenger Banks, the average size was better than 30lbs.
The week before had resulted in numbers of dolphin, aka dorado or mahi mahi, caught by various boats but they seemed to have moved on, out of the local fishing area. Although they are never anywhere as numerous here as they are in more tropical waters or along the Gulf Stream, they are always a welcome sight from both the sporting and culinary standpoints.
Marlin are now a very realistic threat. Several boats have had run-ins with blue marlin in anything up to and including the 400lb range. Larger ones are probably lurking out there already and others must surely be on their way to aggregate here. With few boats carrying tackle intended for these larger game fish, the odds are temporarily in the fish's favour, but that will change very shortly now.
What is a fair challenge and an exciting one is the white marlin. Often running with schools of wahoo, these fish show a definite tendency to attack bright lures, particularly of the hot, pink variety. Dragging such through the deep water of the Churn is likely to get a white's attention, but don't think that they may not be mixed in along the edge of the drop-off, where all those tuna are busting bait and the wahoo are lying.
For those who follow such things, the Cape Verde Islands remain a super-hot spot for billfish. The latest reports recall one crazy day fishing when a single boat caught 15 out of 21 blue marlin hook-ups, with the largest in the 750lb bracket. Although not all took a bait, something in excess of 25 fish were raised. This begs the question: would more boats mean more total shots or would the shots already accounted for merely be divided up among the number of boats working the area? Always a fundamental question and one that has been asked here on several occasions particularly, with the blue marlin bite having eased over the past couple of seasons.
Back on the local scene, today is probably the sort of day that is reserved for picnicking and other idle pursuits, but with the expectation of a long weekend and summery conditions, the chances of a successful piscatorial expedition either tomorrow or Monday are realistic and then there will almost certainly be some Tight Lines!!!.