Fishing at this time of year? Are you crazy!
Well, it is that time of the year again! The spring is but a distant memory, the summer flew by and now it is back to wintry kit, miserable riding on motorbikes and the expectation that, at any moment, the weather will turn mightily nasty and we will all end up drenched.
Whether this actually proves to be the case or not, the belief that it is greatly reduces the number of sportsmen and women who will even contemplate a fishing expedition.
In fact, hardly any will even consider taking a light spinning rod to the beach and casting for palometa or bonefish, both of which often endure until well into the wintertime.
Not only is the weather a feature that deters most weekend anglers but it is also that time of the year when social and familial engagements and responsibilities combine to reduce free time to virtually nil, especially when it comes to weekends. And it would help if the offshore situation provided something in the way of inspiration or at least a very real possibility of coming home with a suitable alternative to turkey and cassava pie, both of which will dominate the next few weeks' menus.
To be brutally honest, the fishing has been nothing short of awful these past few weeks. Most of the commercial operators are grateful for lobster traps and this is currently buoyed by the increased demand for lobsters as part of the festive season.
A very few will continue to fish the Banks throughout the winter mainly drifting and working the bottom. If one puts in the time and works it really hard, it is possible to fill up a tub or two with fish that are eminently marketable.
Most of the real weight comes from the so-called “floating” fish like amberjack, bonitas and some of their ilk such as the lesser amberjack and gwelly. The lesser or locally “bastard” amberjack is a smaller version characterised by a larger than proportional eye. This suggests that the fish tends to frequent deeper, darker waters than its cousin does. Most of the rest of the catch will be made of red hinds and coneys, the latter of which provide firm, if small, white fillets that are desirable.
Actually, the word “working” the bottom is the operative one. It is not merely a matter of dropping down and waiting for the boat to move over a spot where a fish snaps away at your baited line.
It should be a pretty constant sequence of winding up and dropping back again as the bottom terrain changes. Constantly working the line will result in more bites and jigging or striking at the appropriate time must surely increase the proportion of hookups even when circle hooks are used.
There are also those times when a properly tended line will allow the angler to differentiate between a big fish and a piece of real estate. If you spend a day doing this the way it should be done, you will get a good night's sleep because you will be exhausted.
Those who are determined to catch a game fish will be setting themselves up for an interesting sequence of events. On the one hand, there is good, old-fashioned traditional trolling. Rig up the garfish, set the downriggers and follow the 30 to 50 fathom contour all around the island and hope that, at some point, a rod will keel over and scream. Then you have to hope that the wahoo (the most likely of the usual suspects) stays attached long enough for it to be boated.
An alternative, and one that has had mixed results recently, used by some of the professionals has been to chum on Bermuda's Edge, usually over the deeper reef areas, in the hopes of getting some robins that can be kept alive in a live well.
They have then been transported to the Banks, both Challenger and Argus, where they have been fished in the usual live bait fashion.
Before going off thinking that this is the best idea since sliced bread, having to get the robins on the Edge strongly suggest that the chances of getting any on site might be slim. That is also a long way to take bait that, in the normal scheme of things, should be just as abundant on the Banks. While this has had some success, the reports range from single wahoo through to four or five. In anyone's book, that is a lot of effort. About the biggest positive is that tendency for fish to be larger than average at this time of the year but even then, the thought of traipsing all the way to Argus for three wahoo is a bit daunting.
In any case, at this point, this is all a bit academic. The forecast for this weekend, which is generally correct, is calling for high winds and conditions that will deter even the heartiest soul from putting in an appearance offshore, thus completely avoiding any possibility of Tight Lines!!!