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Plenty of opportunities for a decent catch

Well, it's not like there is a lot of fishing going on at the present. Most of the commercial fleet is trying to get the most out of their lobster trap allotments with just over eight weeks left to go.

It has been a mild winter and this is cited as the reason for less than normal lobsters on the inner bottom or shallower reef areas. It was always thought that the colder the water the more numerous the lobsters would be on the near shore patch reefs.

As usual, there has been enough in the way of frontal passages to make for some days when it was simply too breezy to head offshore. That makes it a bit of a gamble to head out and start looking for where there might be a concentration of fish. People can and do get lucky but, for the most part, it has been the wahoo that have provided the limited successes that offshore fishermen have had.

Chumming and bottom fishing has provided a tiny bit of variety but January and February really are not seen as “fishing season” by any but the hardest of the die-hards.

Many of them take advantage of this relative “down” time to carry out the annual maintenance on their craft in anticipation of an early spring. Such a thing doesn't always happen; in fact, actually not too often at all, but, rare as it might be, it can and has done and will again. As the Boy Scouts say: be prepared.

How early, you may well ask. For a start, the harbour waters have been churned up by schools of marauding jacks as early as mid-March and the offshore spring wahoo run has commenced around that same time and pretty well run its course inside of three weeks, leaving the late comers to wish they had been more proactive.

The revelation this week that the Bermuda Exclusive Economic Zone was unlikely to be the site of much in the way of illegal fishing really should not come as too much of a surprise. The Bermuda fisheries legislation has provisions for licensing foreign vessels to fish in the zone but for the most part that has been little interest. Most of the world's richest fishing grounds are already known and are being heavily exploited. They also share a few things in common that this island's isolated location does not offer.

Such things include input from rivers, estuaries and glacial runoff; basically, sources of nutrients. Some areas feature an oceanic phenomenon known as upwelling where nutrient-rich waters from deep down are forced up to the surface where plankton and other life forms can exploit it. In short: lots of nutrient equals lots of food which attracts higher forms of life. The Sargasso Sea, which surrounds Bermuda, has often been referred to as the ocean desert. That is not all doom and gloom, though; even deserts have some specialised life forms.

Structure is also important. The Grand Banks are just that: huge oceanographic areas that receive input from land masses that are converted into masses of plankton and the rest of the food chain culminating in the fish that man pursues.

Rich currents hugging a coastline make for almost perfect conditions and these are the places where the fleets congregate. There are maps that colour code the concentrations of fisheries resources in the world and, sadly perhaps, this is not one of them.

Although Bermuda did licence mostly Taiwanese vessels to fish for albacore in the area, this was short-lived.

A few other ventures licensed and did a bit of exploratory work but also failed to hit any real mother lode. There was no question that the fish were here at least seasonally; but, in the Taiwanese case, this was a long way to come from their base in the West Indies. There were places closer to home that offered at least as much fish. Closer is generally cheaper. Cheaper costs make for more profit.

This does not mean that there aren't fish out there in the economic zone. It is well known that they are — just look at the wahoo, tuna and marlin that come off the high seas each year and which are caught in numbers by local fisherman and anglers. The issue is that what is a lot of fish for what is essentially an artisanal fishery just isn't enough to support an industrial fishery that is looking for thousands of tonnes (1,000kg or 2,204lb) of fish.

This is a quantum leap in terms of the local catch, even including all that the amateurs catch and whatever illicit fishing goes on. All in all, it is real small potatoes compared to what Captain Birdseye, or whichever household name brand you might wish to name, wants and needs to stay in business.

Maybe not being the most productive place on earth is a blessing. It keeps the factory ships away but even now, given a lull in the weather, it is possible for both the commercial fisherman and spirited angler to sally forth with the reasonable expectation of, maybe not a boatload, but some rather rewarding Tight Lines!

It was always thought that the colder the water, the more numerous the lobsters near shore (Photograph by Robert Bukaty/AP)

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Published February 04, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated February 03, 2017 at 11:23 pm)

Plenty of opportunities for a decent catch

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