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Locals seem uninterested in chasing world records

Surprise, surprise! A mid-November tropical system was the last thing that was expected, especially in conjunction with a public holiday, but that is exactly what happened this past week, making the offshore scene grouchy, to say the least.

Certainly, no amateurs even thought about fishing and more than a few professionals limited their efforts to tending their traps.

The observation that Bermuda had fallen from grace in terms of being a major location for world angling records seems to have stirred up a bit of a hornet’s nest. Perhaps too many of us have been resting on laurels that have withered as new locales have become more accessible, and a new breed of angler has made it their mission to actively seek out records.

To put things into perspective, Bermuda presently holds 51 IGFA records, most of which are line-class records and two which are all-tackle records. Both of the latter are a bit unlikely as they are not for species that readily jump to mind as game fish; they are yellowtail snapper and cottonmouth jack.

Strangely, there is also a line-class record on 2lb test for tripletail, a species not at all common locally.

Back in the glory days the records that mattered were the line-class records for the recognised game species, one of which was usually the all-tackle record.

With eleven line tests further split into men’s and women’s categories there were plenty of opportunities to seek angling glory. As time progressed, the IGFA accepted all-tackle records for virtually all species of fish, some rather curious, such as one for goldfish.

The amalgamation of the records for freshwater fish formerly held by Field & Stream magazine, and the inclusion of fly tackle further broadened the record base. Then, more recently, new categories for male and female Juniors, 11-16 years of age, and Smallfry, 0-10 years of age, also separated into male and female, have further expanded the base.

Historically, Bermuda recognised 19 species as game fish, most of which were also viewed as such by the IGFA and pretty generally thought of as such. Some of these species, such as sharks, were frowned on by Bermudians while others simply did not occur here. Similarly, some of the Bermuda species were excluded, for various reasons by the IGFA.

The original IGFA criteria were that a fish was of a game nature, reached a size that appealed to anglers and was sufficiently available over a wide enough geographic range.

These are, of course, subjective and variations of interpretation have led to the inclusion of additional species over the years.

When it comes to Bermuda, the species that really stands out is yellowtail snapper. This was a long time coming; finally being put on the IGFA after continued lobbying by the Bermuda representatives.

One of the things which was almost an impediment to the process was the size that local yellowtails attained. Many of the authorities simply did not believe that they could grow so big.

It should come as no surprise that Bermuda holds ten line-class records; one of which is the all-tackle record, a small fry and a junior record as well as three fly rod records.

These are all after the year 2000 and range from little more than 5lbs to 11lbs. Some of the existing Bermuda records actually surpass the IGFA records, but they are not recognised because the IGFA did not accept the yellowtail as a line-test species until relatively recently.

The Bermuda Game Fishing Association, previously the Bermuda Fishing Information Bureau, records all predate the present standings.

Blackfin tuna, Allison or yellowfin tuna and wahoo used to provide the records that put Bermuda on the map but, sadly, most of these have been lost to other locations, with only two line-class records held for each species. Three fly records are held for yellowfin and wahoo also has a solo fly entry.

So, where does the problem, if there is one, lie? The fish are probably not to answer.

Although fish can vary widely, there are several resident species that grow to large sizes in local waters while others, the true pelagic wanderers, have giants show up from time to time.

For example, the Bermuda blue marlin record is only about 50lbs shy of the all-tackle record.

What does seem to lack at the present time is the effort. Angling seems to have undergone a metamorphosis with the concentration more on results than the process. It’s not just that fishermen are shying away from the lighter classes of tackle, but some species have been ignored by anglers.

Bonefish, which produced several records, are hardly ever fished these days; grey snappers also offer record potential as do several jack species. There is also a seeming lack of interest in pursuing both local and world records.

Although not readily quantifiable, many locals who fish are unsure of the requirements for setting a record, and some are even unwilling to go to the bother it takes to secure a record.

Fundamental to the whole process is a knowledge of what the record marks are, compliance with the angling rules, and a commitment to doing the paperwork engendered by a really successful outcome from some Tight Lines!