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Small not beautiful when it comes to fish

What is going on out there? Here it is; right on the very cusp of the recognised angling season and it isn’t as if the commercial fleet was landing dozens of wahoo or yellowfin tuna. Right now it is quite the opposite, unfortunately. Not really likely to provide the weekender with any sort of impetus to get offshore, is it?

The sad fact is that although there are some of each around, nothing is in any great abundance. A good haul seems to have been about five and many a boat has had to settle for one or two. Although some of these wahoo are respectable specimens bettering the 50lb mark, there is an increasing proportion of small fish. This is something like what would normally be expected by lacking the numbers that make concentrating on them really worthwhile.

What there do seem to be way more of that might be expected are blue marlin. Yes, the big fellows that normally restrict themselves to the deep water away from the edge of the drop-off. These are the fish that one encounters when dragging a line in the deep blue between the Banks or in the Churn (the deep between Bermuda’s Southwest edge and Challenger Bank). They also don’t usually show up in any quantity until a bit later in May and early June.

Running contrary to popular belief, in the past week or so there have been at least five separate blue marlin hook-ups by commercial boats. These boats were, for the most part, trolling the 30-50-fathom curve for wahoo or tuna. While, on the one hand, this is an encouraging sign for those hoping to make fortunes pursuing big blues in the Bermuda Triple Crown series of tournaments, it could also be worrisome. Is it possible that bait is so scarce that the apex oceanic predators are being forced into shallower than normal water in search of smaller fish? This might help to explain why there aren’t any schools of wahoo or tuna taking up residence.

Certainly, there are no reports of flying fish or flying squid tearing up the surface of the blue briny; but surely there must be some lower components of the food chain to support enough in the way of game fish to justify putting in the effort.

Should all else fail, then there are always some hinds, coneys, bonitas and that ilk which will at least provide something for the table between now and the time when things do liven up — hopefully soon.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the world, a significant international annual championship is being fought out as 50 teams who have all won major angling competitions from around the world meet in a showdown to determine the winners of the 2017 Lucas Oil Offshore World Championship. Not surprisingly there is a local connection.

Fishing as the team 2003 offshore world champions, the squad of Allen DeSilva, Bobby Rego, Dave Fingland and Danny Fox have suffered nothing but some hard luck. The Pacific waters off Quepos, Costa Rica are normally home to myriad gamefish but just now they are proving to be more than a little elusive.

By the end of three days, the assembled fleet had caught one black marlin, one striped marlin, 40 blue marlin and 150 Pacific sailfish. Compare this with last year’s figures which, admittedly, had 16 more teams but the numbers were markedly different in that while the marlin figures were comparable there were a total of 1,495 Pacific sailfish caught and released during the four day event. For a famous hotspot, things were decidedly slow.

On the third day, Fingland got the team off to a more fruitful start early on by catching and releasing a blue marlin for 500 points. This moved them into 37th place even though so far only 40 of the 50 teams had scored any points. This would be rectified later that day as the other teams finally scored. After three days the overall leaders had 2,300 points with second place a mere 100 points behind with the third place team trailing by 200 points. It was tight at the top and with slow fishing, anything can happen.

Putting things into perspective, even the finest fishing spots have their good and bad days, seasons or even years.

Just what governs such is still pretty much of an unknown. There are loads of theories: water too warm or too cold; too much or not enough wind, blame El Niño or the lack of it, too much bait or not enough, the list goes on.

There is even a theory that the fish somehow know that they are taking a beating from fishing pressure on certain routes that they travel so they revert to others; as the fishers catch up with them again the route is changed back again.

The bottom line is who knows what underpins the whole ecosystem that allows mere mortal anglers to indulge in Tight Lines!