Foreign fleet gamble on island’s reputation
Oh, happy days. After having been conspicuous by their absence the yellowfin tuna have chosen to arrive just in time for the celebration of the 50th Bermuda Anglers Club International Light Tackle Tournament.
This year's landmark event sees nine teams featuring local and foreign anglers competing for the recognition and prizes that go with this prestigious event.
Originally scheduled to allow for four days of fishing, the foul weather last weekend had the organisers revise the programme so that Tuesday, Thursday and Friday were the fishing days.
Less days made the competition that much stiffer as the anglers looked to maximise points by using the lighter classes of tackle.
The first day's catch consisted of 47 fish, of which 14 were releases. As would have been desired 18 of these were yellowfin tuna, while ten were blackfin tuna, and 13 were wahoo, proving that they are still numerous, and the remainder was made up by Almaco jack and barracuda.
All the fish entered were caught on 12lb test line.
The yellowfin were really nice specimens with the majority weighing between 40lbs and 60lbs.
Considering that 12lb test line is the line of choice, catching a fish that is five times the line test allows points to rack up really quickly. Tuna releases score 70 points.
The High Point Rod after the first day was Neil McKinney with 4,974 points from four fish, but this was hotly contested by two other anglers, Niel Jones and Bobby Rego, who each had more than 4,000 points.
The High Point Fish during these early stages was Craig MacIntyre's 59½lbs yellowfin caught on 12lb test. With more fishing still to come, there was bound to be lots more excitement.
Most of the wahoo that were caught weighed in the 20lbs to 30lbs range, although one fish bettered the 40lbs mark.
This is encouraging for the more casual anglers for whom catching any wahoo is a bit of a result. Usually the wahoo fishing has eased off considerably by mid-June and many anglers give up trolling in favour of chumming for whatever happens to put in an appearance.
Until this last week or so it has been blackfin tuna that provided the action along with a number of small game species.
The ILTT was not the only event to fall afoul of the weather last weekend, the 59th Royal Bermuda Regiment W.O. & Sgt's Mess Annual Tournament was postponed and the alternate date is set for tomorrow. That event will also be pleased that the fish have really shifted into summer mode and that good catches are to be expected.
Commercial operators will also be glad to see the arrival of numbers of yellowfin because in recent weeks the market has received a pretty steady supply of wahoo with little variety.
With the departure of the sailing fleet, the foreign fleet is arriving to take their places in advance of the major billfish tournament that make up the month of July. The first of these is the Bermuda Billfish Blast which is slated for July 3 to 7 and incorporates provisions for the Blue Marlin World Cup into its rules.
The latter event is fished worldwide on July 4 and is a serious high stakes contest in which Bermuda enjoys a rather enviable reputation.
This attracts many of the foreign boats who come here focused on catching a real world-beater that would be worth a chunk of change. Basically, you pay the $3000 entry fee before the July 2 deadline, go fishing and catch a fish that betters the 500lbs minimum weight and hope that no one else catches a fish bigger than yours.
It's winner take all and no one knows for sure exactly where the winner will come from. Since 1993, Bermuda has won it eight times with only Kona, Hawaii boasting more wins with nine. It is the size of the fish here that attracts the major players for whom the pursuit of blue marlin is a quest rather than a hobby.
Those simply looking for action should have no problem finding something to catch. Quite apart from the deep sea areas which are actually just the edges of the deep with the real deep blue being the province of the marlin hunters, there is plenty of potential a lot closer to home.
Over the deeper reefs there should be a nice class of yellowtail snapper willing to please. About the only caveat when fishing for these is that a lot of ice is required because they can spoil quickly, especially on a hot summer's day.
In the same sort of location, there should be amberjack and bonitas as well as plenty of potential for robins and other live baits, and when fishing over those reefs don't ever believe that a wahoo won't venture into water 15 fathoms or shallower.
They can and when they do, it can make for some unexpectedly Tight Lines!