No reason not to go out and get your line wet
September continues and the fishing effort has taken a severe dip for a couple of reasons, one of which should be quite obvious.
This refers to the commercial operators, most of whom are now shifting their focus away from finfish and redirecting it towards shellfish in the shape of spiny lobsters. With gear to service, time that might have been spent drifting on the Bank, or chumming or trolling, gets taken up with hauling and resetting the traps.
The amateurs are even more straightforward. With the major tournaments now out of the way, the belief that the weather will become a more and more unreliable, and a shift towards pastimes that are more indoor than outdoor, the angling quickly gets lost as a priority.
Not that this really needs to be the case. Right now, the weather is certainly summer-like, the seas are, for the most part, calm enough to allow trips out to the Edge and the Banks, while many of the seasonally closed areas have reopened to fishing and the fish themselves are on the move.
Just what triggers this seasonal migration is unclear. It may not simply be temperature, but might be linked to the shortening days, or perhaps some physical changes within individual fish.
Such shifts are considerably more apparent in more temperate waters, where seasons are much more marked and the fishing changes along with them.
Here, it is the seasonal availability of certain species that seems to separate the summer from winter. Both the autumn and spring are largely ignored as the transitions are less noticeable, with many species persisting well past their so-called “appointed times”.
For instance, although blue marlin are thought of as a summer fish, they have been caught every month of the year, with some being caught pretty routinely into at least October.
Wahoo are here all year round, even though they are thought to be a tropical fish. The same goes for yellowfin tuna, again considered a tropical species. Blackfin tuna, which are thought of as one of the species that thrives in even the warmest water, seem to be permanently resident here, which again confuses the issue.
Rainbow runners often can be found into the cooler months, raising questions about their preferences. Other species move from the inshore to the offshore, which is probably an attempt to find more stable conditions, regardless of the actual temperature. Deeper water shows less temperature fluctuations.
Considering all of this, there is no reason not to venture out and to wet a line. As long as the current weather pattern continues to hold, there should be some opportunities. Good catches of yellowtail snapper continue and there are enough wahoo out there to keep trollers going back day after day. For the specialists, it is also a good time of the year to go in search of trophy amberjack and bonita with the now open southwest protected area one of the preferred locations. Opportunities beckon.
Sometimes it is less a question of what is out there, than it is of what isn't out there. Although the frigate mackerel, really juveniles of what we call “mackerel” have again failed to please, there is another species which really has not put in an appearance in some time.
This is the oceanic bonito, or skipjack tuna. A tropical species of considerable commercial importance, this was a regular visitor to local waters and was a great sporting challenge as well. Although the world record is in the region of 45lbs, some large specimens have been caught here as well. In fact, the 20-lb test men's line class record held by a 39lbs 4oz fish was set here in 1978.
Numerous enough to have been referred to as “the cockroaches of the oceans” this widespread species is the target of certain tuna canning operations. Despite being commercially fished on a large scale in the Atlantic, the management authorities have not, thus far, seen any reason to bring in any restrictions.
This suggests that the stock is relatively healthy. Why then, haven't they come through here in any numbers in recent years?
There are other species which were once reasonably common in local waters and which have now all but disappeared. A chat with most any old timer will bring a few of these to light. Some were important, others less so but, in the ecological sense, everything matters.
Are these isolated examples of species that should not have been here in the first place, or is their absence symptomatic of a bigger issue?
To put a more positive spin on things, the fishing undertaken here by anglers is not intense enough or destructive enough to have any major impact on the pelagic species that traverse local waters.
Of the more threatened species, the numbers taken here are infinitesimal compared to the overall mortality rates. Catch and release is encouraged for billfish and other unwanted species.
Overall, Bermuda is doing a pretty good job of trying to ensure her future Tight Line!