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Whale of a time to be had while waiting for the season

Making a splash: there may be more to be had from whale watching for the next week than from fishing (File photograph by Ros Staples)

Today may be a celebration of fools but there is no fooling that the spring migration of humpback whales is well under way. There are a number of whale-watching operations enjoying success on pretty much a daily basis and there have even been some notable successes by watchers who have chosen to use aircraft as their vantage point.

While not that easily combined with fishing effort, the prospects for a journey out on the briny to look at and photograph the whales is probably at its best right now.

If fishing is the main intent, then keeping an eye out while trolling the drop-off may allow some observation of these gentle giants. If they are really playful, the splashes can be seen from a long way off, as many tonnes of breaching whale crash back into the ocean.

Concentrating on the trolling will result in wahoo being the most commonly caught, although there are some school-sized tuna about as well. By all accounts, the offshore temperature is lower than is to be expected, and that may be a bit of a deterrent to those species such as dolphin, which really prefer tropical climes. Regardless, however, it is only a matter of time until the summer species make their presence known.

Thus far, wahoo numbers have not been momentous, but any day now the spring run may commence. Just how numerous the fish will be is anyone’s guess, but there are a few old salts who reckon that the next full moon on April 11 will result in things starting to happen. If this is the case, it will pay to be in position to take advantage of the situation.

If it is not, the boat had better be in working order, even if fishing is not strictly on the agenda yet. With the America’s Cup less than two months away, there will be competition for services and resources, which will make the annual chaos in advance of May 24 look sedate.

On that note, it has taken the Bermuda Game Fishing Association, a loosely organised body that tries to co-ordinate the island’s recognised angling clubs and other bodies, as well as maintaining the Bermuda records, longer than usual to come out with the 2017 angling tournament calendar.

As may be surmised, the America’s Cup events have had a significant impact on scheduling, and there are a few other changes that warrant some attention.

The America’s Cup races start in late May and continue through almost all of June, making it coincide almost perfectly with the recognised angling season. May and June are generally seen as months spent trolling, although conventional wisdom has the tuna and smaller-game species settling down to be chummed by about mid-June.

This has necessitated a number of changes to the usual parade of events. First off, it is noticeable that there is no entry for the Sandys Boat Club Tournament. Although this has been listed in recent years, for various reasons it has not taken place, so it has been omitted from the new schedule.

Another conspicuous change involves the ever-popular Bacardi Rum Tournament. This year it is scheduled for May rather than June, and it does not have an alternate date. This will put additional pressure on the organisers, who will be praying for a calm day so as not to have to cancel the event. The reason for this is that the company’s commitment to the America’s Cup precludes most of the late-May and early-June weekends and, in any case, these have also already been spoken for by other organisations.

Similarly, the Bermuda Regiment Tournament, another popular event, has had to be shifted from its usual position in early or mid-June to July because the military is also involved in AC35.

The well-established billfish events have long laid claim to the weekends in July; then there is Cup Match, which brings everything to a halt. August is relatively quiet as per usual — the assumption being that things will have got back to normal by then — but there is the introduction of the Gary Hines Memorial Tournament, which will be the first new tournament in quite a while, and one that will pay tribute to a significant contributor to the sport of angling in Bermuda.

The season pretty much rounds out with The Royal Gazette Wahoo Tournament, although there are some internal club events that continue into November.

So there it is, the basis for planning the months ahead.

What with whales, yachts, superyachts and the fastest, wind-driven boats on planet Earth all competing for attention, there has to be some way to squeeze in a few Tight Lines!!!

For the full 2017 tournament schedule, click on the PDF link under “Related Media”