Tuna and wahoo back on the menu
High summer and the beat goes on. The marlin fleet continues to work the deep blue briny for that prized game fish that adorns so many walls, magazine covers and which figures so prominently in the literature and lore of big game fishing.
With something like 25 marlin caught during the one-day World Cup event and the Bermuda Blast tournament the previous week seeing 51 billfish caught and released, hopes were high for the 39 boats taking part in the Bermuda Big Game Classic, the Triple Crown’s signature event.
Granted, the number of teams entered was down from the 48 in 2014 but when the fishing is hot, it doesn’t take too many boats to post great results. For whatever reason, the fish seemed to put the brakes on proceedings.
When all was said and done, a total of 34 billfish had been caught with all but two being released. In terms of species, 24 were blue marlin and ten were white marlin. This was down from the 51 billfish caught during the previous year’s event.
There were no sailfish or spearfish this year although the Gamefish category was won by a magnificent yellowfin tuna specimen caught by Adrian Holler on Sea Striker that weighed in at a whopping 161lbs 3oz.
In spite of the slower than expected activity, captain Chris Zaskey’s Divine Intervention managed to catch and release three blue marlin to accumulate a total of 1,500 points and to take first place in the Team Division. In second place with 1,200 points was captain Brian Rabbitt’s Big Deal, with captain Corey Gillespie’s Hit N Run moving into third on time also with 1,200 points.
It was left to the smallest boat in the fleet of 40 to come up with the largest fish of the tournament. Captain Eugene Barnes’ Shakedown, a mere-35ft basic workboat set loose among the floating gin palaces, hooked into a fish on the first day that, when boated, forced them to come to the weigh-in station just after midday.
The fish which took the daily honours as well as standing up to three days of fierce competition was a 741-pounder caught by local angler Edward Barnes.
On day two, despite grouchy conditions, captain Jimmy Werling’s Plane Simple also managed to catch a keeper that weighed in at 540lbs and claimed the second days’ honours. Although sea conditions improved and there were a number of releases on the third day, no further fish were boated.
The high point angler was Hit N Run’s Laura Russell who was also top female angler with 1,200 points and the high point junior angler was Sales de La Bane on Mama Who with 200 points.
With the actual Triple Crown competition wide open, the third and final leg is presently under way. The 42nd Annual Sea Horse Anglers Club Bermuda Billfish Tournament has attracted 29 teams, consistent with previous years and they are fishing from the 16th through the 18th July.
So, through today at least, the towers and outriggers that grace the marinas during their off-hours will be offshore, hoping for the fish that will bring them glory and a bit of gold.
As this hectic activity comes to an end, the emphasis will return, for many, to the traditional pursuit of tuna and wahoo. There actually isn’t an organised billfish event until the 26th when the “locals v United States ” marlin release event will reawaken the marlin hunters.
However, it would be a mistake to think that just because the tournaments are over the fish will have also called it off. The billfish may become even more active over the next lunar cycle and while not too many local boats devote significant effort to marlin, a few of the visiting fleet will continue to try their luck before the East Coast and Caribbean summon them back onto the tournament circuit.
The capture of at least two large, 100lb-plus tuna, suggest that there may be others out there and while trolling is the preferred method for such fish, there are consistent reports of yellowfin in the 50lb to 70lb bracket that can be lured into chum slicks on the Banks.
The still-warming water is now ideal for hefty blackfin tuna and these offer opportunities for those willing to take their chance with light tackle or even fly-tackle. There is also no shortage of small game in the form of mackerel, jacks and rainbow runners. Surprisingly, so far, skipjack tuna have not been in evidence although they can put in an appearance at any time now.
Going deeper, amberjack and bonita should be willing to please. Live robins or mackerel get results, and even fresh cut bait or squid can attract their attention.
Nearer shore, the reefs will host various snappers, jacks and the bottom fish that many anglers prefer to game fish. Calm summer’s evenings are great for white water snappers and other tasty species while the beaches offer shots at palometa and bonefish.
The latter are not much in a culinary sense but have few competitors when it comes to inshore Tight Lines!