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Still time for someone to catch a sea monster

The Bermuda-Azores high pressure system is doing its thing and conditions are akin to those that cause the doldrums in the mid-Pacific.

Sometimes it can get so calm and almost eerie that it is easy to see why Samuel Taylor Coleridge in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner referred to “a painted ship upon a painted ocean”.

This is typical of August when the fishing can be unpredictable and many look for signs of great things to come.

That was the feeling overall by the boats taking place in the second annual Bermuda v United States Billfish Release Tournament.

This got off to a spectacular start with the boats all racing away in concert; the high speed gin palaces rapidly leaving the rest of the local fleet in their wake.

This year’s event drew 15 competitors who were looking to build on the tournaments that had set the tone for the month of July.

After a rather disconcerting early morning squall, conditions settled down and a good day’s fishing was had by all the boats taking part. A good day’s fishing, that is, certainly not a good day catching. The bite was exceedingly slow despite most of the deep water receiving pretty comprehensive coverage, as all the usual areas were well worked over, in addition to places like down north that had recently drawn attention to themselves, having provided some action earlier in the week.

The anglers’ skills and knowledge seemed to be of little avail as hour after hour went by and there was precious little activity.

To summarise the day’s event is indeed short and sweet: three hook-ups resulting in one caught and released and two pulled hooks. The successful boat was captain Allen DeSilva’s Mako, whose team collected the winnings which although worthy were not in a class with those offered in the big money events with entry fees that preclude the participation of many keen anglers.

As is so often the case with such events, there was another twist to the tail which took place after the “lines out” for the tournament. No longer competing, captain. James Robinson’s Wound Up, hooked into a large blue that was boated after a considerable battle.

Thought to be a grander, the fish ended up disappointing by tipping the scales at 916lbs, but still a momentous catch that will definitely end up one of the season’s largest. That question being open-ended as there is still time for someone to catch a sea monster.

Not that there will be a whole lot of effort in that direction. The vast majority of the visiting fleet have departed for the North American/Caribbean tournament circuit, and local interest is returning to the bread-and-butter business of wahoo and tuna. And that is where the problem seems to lie.

There just aren’t any fish. Maybe a bit of hyperbole there, but fish sure are thin in the ground and many seasoned anglers are starting to recall last season which was probably the worst in living memory. Surely things have to better than that.

Looking a few weeks ahead and it will be time for the season’s swansong. Already? You might ask. But, rest assured another season has come and is rapidly departing. The Royal Gazette Wahoo Tournament will shortly be open for entrants and this has become one of the season’s’ largest and most beloved annual events.

One of the reasons for its success has been the abundance of fish. The autumnal wahoo run has long been one of the most reliable things in the fishing year, and it is only just recently that some doubts have been raised.

How can fish that have been doing something for decades, that we know of, suddenly change their migratory pattern? Well, one answer might be the cause of that pattern, probably bait, changes how it moves. To be sure, the appearance of juvenile or ‘frigate” mackerel has almost always coincided with the onset of the run, but what happens if they don’t show up? And that is the fear.

First off, don’t give up just yet. The wahoo run was often late, sometimes continuing into October and that is a ways away yet. To try and manage some sort of advantage, make sure that you troll a daisy chain intended for frigate mackerel or other small pelagic species. Any of these will work as live baits: tiny blackfin are even better than frigates because they last longer and, although much less common, juvenile oceanic bonito also make good baits.

A trolling tip: don’t wait until the bottom drops away. Juvenile mackerel and the like often invade inshore waters and can often be caught in the channels or over the reefs. They can be kept alive in live wells or simply brought close to the boat, left in the water and taken to the Edge where they should be fairly readily converted into Tight Lines!