Tight Lines: Earning international recognition
Why is it that anything even approaching a decent day for fishing; bright sunshine, light winds and a virtual calm, almost always occur midweek when the workers among us have no choice but to keep our noses to the grindstone. Add to the fact that it is little more than a week or so from the onset of the Yuletide and the chances of the amateurs making it out there are somewhere between slim and none.
About the only positive spin that can be put on this unhappy state of affairs for the keen angler is that the fishing really isn't anything to write home about. It is incredibly slow with even the most experienced skippers managing catches consisting of two or three small (as in 15-25lbs) wahoo, the odd dolphin (presumably still hanging around with the seaweed) or the very occasional yellowfin (probably lost). Sometimes things have even been worse, so there really aren't too many boats putting in any serious fishing time. The prospects raised by working their lobster gear are far more attractive.
Working the bottom is about the only feasible option out there and even that is hoping that the bonitas decide to play along. They are the only species that is likely to provide much in the way of weight for the fish box. Amberjack will please, but all too often there are cases of mistaken identity and both species are easily confused, despite what some so-called “experts” may claim.
Staying on Bermuda's Edge might lead to a chance to fill up a bucket or two with barbers and coneys; at least they make for a decent fillet.
A decision to stay close to home, whether for reasons of economy in fuel or time, might result in a catch of triggerfish or turbots, as they are misnamed. They, too, make for a nice white fillet but will take some time to clean. White water and silk snappers keep a pretty low profile in the channels at this time of the year, but there might be the odd one.
Something lately ignored by all but a few local anglers is the pursuit of world records. With all due respect to the lady anglers who persist on setting and breaking existing records, there seem to be quite a few slots that have gone begging. Here, read men's records.
Bermuda presently holds 49 world records, inclusive of the all-tackle, line classes, fly tippet, junior and small fry categories. This may sound like a lot for a little place but do not be fooled. It is the quality and abundance of certain species that allows for numbers to be racked up.
Of the 49 records held here, 16 are for yellowtail snapper. Next is five apiece for yellowfin tuna and horse-eye jack. After that things get pretty woeful with the blackfin tuna being the most disappointing with a paltry pair of records, one men's and one ladies, where the entire entry for all line classes used to be Bermuda-caught.
What's more, is that many of the records are old. As in the 1970s and 1980s and as far back as 1961! In fact, most of the more recent (as in this century) are for species that have only been recognised by the IGFA as line-class species relatively recently.
Realistically, with a bit of effort, a fair few records can be reclaimed. Amberjack and Almaco jack both grow to innate sizes here and can offer plenty of potential records, particularly if anglers bother to get their light tackle out of mothballs or from the bottom of the closet where it has languished since the 50lb and 80lb gear became the norm.
Blackfin tuna also grow large here and, for whatever reason, have not been sought after in recent years. Even when the yellowfins have been at something less than their best and it made sense to chum a little shallower, the usual domain of the blackfin. Of the 35 records held for this species, 31 are from Florida. The fish are not any larger than the maximum sizes encountered here, so why are all the records there? Apart from a very few dated records, these have all been set there during the very late 1990s and onward. And some are really going begging: the ladies' 2lb test line class is held by something slightly more than 3lbs and the men's by an 11lb fish from Puerto Rico.
Patience and picking the right candidate can make a big difference as well. The blackfin have plenty of potential records here. Wahoo and yellowfin tuna offer other opportunities although it will take some well-managed effort.
Now some of the records set elsewhere offer real challenges to even the most skilled of the Island's light tackle anglers. A recent approval for a 4lb test line class record by the IGFA was for a wahoo caught in October off the kingdom of Tonga. The catch, made by Guy Jacobsen, weighed an even 60lbs. Having said that, wahoo that big do occur here with regularity and they do offer shots at them in the chum and on live-bait, both of which offer better chances than trolling such gear.
On a related note, winter fishing here often turns up species that are not common here, certainly not during the summer and shoulder months when most anglers expend their effort. Some of these will be large enough to compete and a little time and caution might earn some internationally recognised Tight Lines!!!