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You don’t need fish for a successful trip

Late as the calendar might say that it is, the forecast for this weekend is almost summer-like. Warm enough to make it pleasantly cool offshore with gentle breezes, and seas that invite the angler to get in one last excursion before the holiday madness and northerly gales put an end to most things piscatorial.

However, while the conditions might be conducive, things remain dreadfully slow offshore, and the amount of effort recently expended had been almost negligible, at least in terms of game fish.

Part of this is due to the absence of the fish, with the logic being, why go in pursuit of something that probably isn’t there.

Still, it might make a rather peaceful change from the hubbub that is likely to be cast into most of our lives over the next month or so. As many will tell you, going fishing does not necessarily involve fish. Fish might help, but are not totally required to make the mission a success.

While it is true that most of the tropical pelagic species that make the headlines as game fish tend to absent themselves from local waters during the cooler water months, others remain to provide a bit of action most days.

Those most likely to be absent include the blue marlin, dolphinfish, skipjack tuna, rainbow runner and some of the sharks that are considered migratory. Generally, the water temperature gets the blame for their not being here in any numbers.

Yellowfin tuna are classified as a tropical species, but the temperature range in which they may be found is wide enough to include a lot of ocean that might really be considered subtropical. Certainly they can be caught here at most any time of the year, and the boats making offshore runs from the ports on the East Coast routinely encounter yellowfin in the winter and early spring.

Although blackfin tuna are a warm-water species, it rather seems that they are present all year around locally, so there may be some sort of a subpopulation calling Bermuda home.

Amberjack and bonitas, or Almaco jack, are probably also resident, although their larvae might be much more pelagic in nature. Some other jack species might also fall into this category and therefore show some seasonality.

Collecting floating Sargassum spp. seaweed, the brown stuff, and the creatures associated with it from the deep water around the Island, often reveal large numbers of juvenile jacks of indeterminate species which could include ambers and their relatives.

Juvenile dolphin just a couple of inches long, and nowhere near as colourful as the adults, are also commonly found in the watery world that exists in the midst of those clumps of obnoxious brown seaweed. Although the living organisms associated with such things have little say in where they go, they do wind up migrating from place to place as the winds and tides move them along.

Presumably, at some point, the juveniles reach a stage where they set off on their own, perhaps remaining wanderers like the dolphin or searching for some sort of structure such as a wreck or reefs.

Other migratory species also happen through this area at various times of the year. Bluefin tuna as well as bigeye tuna obviously traverse the local area from time to time, with some indications that this is more likely to be during the winter than the summer.

Many of these migrants remain largely unseen even though, as in the case of albacore, they can be very numerous and of high quality.

There are a number of factors that may dictate the migration of just about any species. Abundance of food is a clear factor — the humpback whales move northward in the spring to get to the incredibly rich feeding grounds off New England and Nova Scotia, but then head for the Caribbean during the winter to avoid the cold and to give birth to their young.

The Caribbean is certainly not a rich feeding ground for any baleen whale, so their presence must be due to something other than food. Temperature and day length are the most obvious influences, even though there may be other reasons.

Something else that needs to be borne in mind is that not all that goes on in the ocean happens on or near the surface where it can be readily observed. Albacore were numerous enough to support a fleet of longliners from November through February, and the boats that came into port here certainly had the catches to prove it.

Why the local hook and line fleet hardly ever encountered any is a bit of a mystery, but the low level of effort and the type of fishing traditionally carried out probably kept the fish and the anglers apart.

With both the albacore and the swordfish, which we know occur here, it is strange to think that we do such a good job of avoiding their Tight Lines!