Monkey rockfish most delectable available
If asked what season it is, there are some wags who would answer “Monsoon” rather than “Holiday or Festive”. Certainly the conditions this past week have been just that, rainy, blowy and not really conducive to much of anything that requires going out of doors. No doubt to many shop owner's discontent.
This weekend's forecast is considerably more encouraging, although there will be many demands made on people's time both in terms of social engagements and preparations for the arrival of the Christmas feast itself. As there are many quick to point out, time is getting short.
One such aspect of this is, for the commercial fishermen, that there is a huge demand for lobsters of both the spiny version and the guinea chick. Restaurants do not worry too much about the former, because there are plenty of suppliers with freshly flown in frozen Caribbean spiny lobsters.
This species is identical to the one found here, and there is something to be said for a case of graded specimens. These hardly vary in size, making portion control a breeze.
The other species, the guinea chick, is almost exclusive to Bermuda diners. Although this is not true in the geographic sense, it extends from Bermuda south to Florida and most of the rest of the Caribbean, it does not really support anything even approaching a commercial fishery anywhere else.
As to a commercial fishery here, there is some doubt about that too. In the past, there were a few guinea chick specialist fishermen who used to concentrate their effort during the summer months on that particular species.
It worked out really well because not only was that the off-season for the spiny lobster, but it was also when all the other hook-and-line fishing would be at its best, creating a really nice niche market.
In recent years the Fisheries regulators have seen fit to combine the legal seasons for both species, forcing commercial fishermen to make a choice, with most opting for the traditional spiny lobster which has enjoyed a good market for more than 50 years now, even though it was once frowned upon.
During the winter months the lobster fishermen are allowed to move their gear into inshore waters, but this does not help anyone who is looking for guinea chicks.
Although the spinys will come into really shallow water, including even Harrington Sound and all the other harbours and bays, the guinea chick inhabit the waters often referred to as the “broken bottom”.
Although there is no problem, legal or otherwise, in fishing these spots the winter gales will do amazingly destructive things to any gear placed in this region, so losses can be considerable.
This discourages local fishermen, and the lack of commercial fisheries elsewhere precludes a ready alternative in the form of imported product. Thus the reduction is availability of this species and its relative rarity on menus.
Now to return to the angling, which is otherwise characterised by fishing for sport with the proceeds being utilised by individuals, their families and friends, things are really pretty slow.
Those willing to try trolling may enjoy some wahoo action although it is spotty. The fish that are there are usually pretty nice, but with conditions so variable from one day to the next it is very difficult to establish any sort of pattern.
Being on the Edge at first light is probably an advantage because after a night of darkness, whatever fish are there, should be hungry.
Although there are other species such as yellowfin and blackfin tuna and probably an errant dolphin or two around, the species to concentrate the effort on is the wahoo. Anything else would be a stroke of luck, and it will pay not to tarry too long. A quick strike resulting in a fish in the boat could very well be a signal that it is best to head home.
If time is not of the essence, then drifting on the Bank will almost surely get results. There are good numbers of red hinds available, and while many of these are hardly more than legal size, they are a nice fish by any standard.
Coneys can be numerous and there is always the chance of an amberjack, bonita or other “floating fish” latching onto a bait.
The best shot at success comes from the use of circle hooks and tough baits such as octopus or squid. A hook set higher than the others with a single anchovy for bait often draws strikes from the “floaters”.
Every once in a blue moon that strike will come from a monkey rockfish.
Distinguished by a bright yellow around the mouth and a ragged appearance to the tail, this is one of the most delectable larger groupers that is still common enough to be legally caught. Best of all, although not recognised as a game fish, it will give the lucky angler some nice Tight Lines!