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Being in the right place at the right time

Ah, this is the way it should be. Finally, August is acting like it should with the hot days and calm seas being reminiscent of the scenes in Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

The burst of mixing brought on by the passage of a tropical system is short-lived and can only serve to improve things as the sheer heat of the day serves to drive many species, especially tuna, down deeper, and at times even the warm-water lovers such as blackfin and rainbow runner prove less than enthusiastic.

The exception is the blue marlin. This species seems to revel in even the warmest tropical temperatures and will not be deterred if the right lure is in the right place at the right time. That right place could be just about anywhere, as they will push up very close to the drop-offs, where they occasionally surprise those trolling for tuna and wahoo, or other smaller game.

Numbers are still cruising the grounds offshore, and although many of the fish are smaller specimens, do not discount the possibility of something full-sized putting in an appearance.

For the first time in quite a while, there are some promising signs of bait on the offshore grounds. In recent months quite a few seasoned fishermen and anglers alike have remarked on the notable absence of numbers of flying fish.

These were usually at their most numerous during July and August, with the latter month, and its usually calm conditions, making the process of netting them a profitable venture.

In fact, a limited few fishermen used to make such hauls resulting in things like five or ten thousand flying fish being frozen, bagged up and stored as troll bait for years. Once upon a time a similar netting tactic was used by the Bermuda Aquarium to catch the same species for use as seal food.

This was, of course, before commercial supplies of more suitable foods became available.

In any case, the usually common and frequent sight of flyers taking to the air and skimming across the waves has simply not been so common as of late. In fact, they have been very thin on the ground, so to speak. Normally the presence of tuna would be evidenced by the fish leaping out of the water as they pursued the bait relentlessly making for a never-ending cavalcade of white water, swirls and splashes. Not so this year, when this particular sort of bait has been conspicuous by its absence.

Now to the good news. Just recently large numbers of juvenile flying fish have started making a showing out on the Banks and elsewhere. For the moment these are tiny facsimiles of what usually passes for a flying fish but at just a couple of inches long, some of them will be lucky enough to eventually reach adulthood at about nine or ten inches long.

The life history of flying fish is somewhat complicated and, like so much of the pelagic world, poorly understood. They are obvious plankton feeders, and this means that around Bermuda they are on slim rations as the clear waters are indicative of areas that are nutrient poor and therefore support low productivity.

Contrast this with somewhere such as Barbados, where the water receives seasonal enrichment from some of the great rivers of South and Central America, and consequently plays host to countless numbers of flying fish that are a wonder to observe.

Those who have travelled to the region have quickly come to realise that the backbone of the commercial fishery there is flying fish.

While they have never been anywhere nearly as abundant around here, their virtual absence has been disconcerting, but the arrival of numbers of juveniles must be seen as an encouraging factor.

Whether or not they are going to make any difference to the present situation is unclear. There have been numbers of tuna offshore for a while now, and there has been a much better crop of wahoo this season than ever was even contemplated last year.

Having said that, this past week or so has seen a very poor bout of wahoo action. The quick and simple explanation might be the bright near full moon that has provided enough light during the night hours to allow the fish to feed on just about anything they wanted to. The thinking is that as the moon wanes, the bite will pick up.

What would be really nice would be the arrival of schools of so-called “frigate” mackerel. A name that is a complete misnomer because the fish in question are actually juvenile little tunny. But, whatever the moniker, there is no question that they make superb live baits and that when they show up almost invariably there is a surfeit of large wahoo, making for some unbelievably fast action.

At least those are the hopes for both commercial fishermen and the anglers looking forward to next week's 50th RG Wahoo Tournament.

The deadline for entries is Wednesday and a large fleet is expected as anglers rally together for the last major angling event of the year.

After all, for many of the more casual anglers, this is their chance to hit the headlines with their Tight Lines!

Promising signs: for the first time in quite a while there is evidence of bait in the offshore grounds (File photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published August 27, 2016 at 9:00 am (Updated August 27, 2016 at 12:56 am)

Being in the right place at the right time

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