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Ready for an unpredictable winter

A welcome long weekend before the annual holiday madness sets in. And although the fishing has been quite good this past week, the offshore forecast is sufficiently grim to dissuade even the most diehard angler from braving the briny to wet a line.

A difficult state of affairs for the keen angler who is going to find many of the next few weekends turned over to preparations for other events. Difficult but not impossible for some.

While there remains a more than ample supply of bait offshore in the form of small mackerel, robins and blackfin tuna, the real success seems to have stemmed from individuals relying on the good, old-fashioned trolling methods. Rigged baits, mostly garfish and a few productive lures have been attracting the right sort of attention with any number of rather nice mixed bags being brought to the docks.

The quality has been variable but if a catch consists of six wahoo, no one is really going to worry about how big they are. Most of the 'hoos are in the 20lb bracket, although fish up to about 60lb have been caught as well. The norm is for most winter fish to be larger than average, but there is no telling until it is swung aboard the boat.

The big news this past week has been the number of yellowfin tuna that have pleased. Again, most of these were caught while trolling and while they were very obviously school-sized fish, numbers of up to a couple of dozen were nothing to be sneezed at.

That this was a particular school of fish that happened on the Banks area is highly probable because they were there one day and gone the next. If the fish were on a migration, there may well be other schools that will pass through over the next few weeks; it is just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. But isn't that pretty much all fishing?

In addition to the wahoo and tuna, there have been some dolphin caught and the occasional skipjack (oceanic bonito). The latter species has been conspicuous by its absence the past few years despite being a common occurrence in the world's warm waters.

The problem with fishing in the winter is its sheer unpredictability. Most anglers like to have a chance to organise themselves. For instance, if the plan is to fish on Sunday then Saturday is for fuelling up the boat, readying bait and tackle and laying in provisions; whatever they may be. During the summer months this can be done with a fair degree of reliability. During the winter, a beautiful Saturday can be followed by a howling gale the next day. It is this level of insecurity that has most anglers simply giving up and either hauling the boat out of water for the duration or simply making sure that the craft is safely swinging on its moorings.

There is also a shift in emphasis; fishing during the summer is definitely sport fishing: wahoo, marlin tuna, light tackle, all those good things. In the off- season, it is all about fish: fresh fish, if you can get it. Bottom fishing on the Banks offers the best return. Less fuel is burnt and the hinds and conies will usually yield up enough in the way of fillets to justify the time spent. Some of the so-called “floating fish” ambers, bonitas and gwelly can add some variety and weight to the haul.

Working the deeper reef areas will continue to produce yellowtail snapper for a few more weeks as long as the tides remain clement. Porgies will provide a bit of a distraction while working the bottom but it will be the barbers and conies that will be the mainstay of the fillet.

Just as the original tourism focus was on the recognised angling season from May until November, this juncture brings us to this year's final column. The season has run its course starting off with an encouraging but all too brief wahoo run, followed by the billfish providing some thrills and spills through high summer; then the frigate mackerel finally showed up as did a late run of wahoo. Absent during the months when they were most expected, the yellowfin tuna gave a brief flurry of activity as the month of October flew by, leaving all to contemplate the winter ahead.

As the exigencies of commerce dictate, so must this column now move into hibernation until the warmth of spring re-rouses the angling spirit come April. In the meantime, in advance of the festivities of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and new year, here are all the best wishes for happy ones and hopefully between now and Easter, some of you will be able to slip in the odd successful venture in search of Tight Lines!

Skipjack has been conspicuous by its absence the past few years

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Published November 11, 2017 at 8:00 am (Updated November 11, 2017 at 12:18 am)

Ready for an unpredictable winter

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