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Change of season, yes, but yellowfins still have scope to please

The weather this past week has been classic change-of-seasons weather. The passage of the first of many cold fronts dropped the humidity, brought rain and lowered the temperatures. In short, soon winter.

On the plus side of things, although there may be gales to contend with, this pretty much puts the tropical season on hold. While they can still come up this way, the lower offshore temperature means that they are less likely to be able to strengthen and cause the havoc that they almost inevitably do. On the minus side, the sportfishing season starts to fizzle out. It does not come to an abrupt end, but the effort drops off massively, and with the commercial fishery concentrating on lobsters and off-season maintenance, there is usually very little to report.

This does not mean that there aren't any fish to be had. Wahoo continue to please and these can be taken throughout the year, with some actually thinking that they give a better account of themselves in the cooler water. Although the yellowfin tuna is recognised as a “tropical” tuna species, schools often persist here through the winter months, rather than moving on.

This raises another question: where do the yellowfin come from and where do they go? Out of the very many yellowfin tuna that were tagged here years ago when doing such was a bit of a fad, only one tag was ever recovered and that fish was recaptured off Puerto Rico. Nothing very conclusive there.

Commercial tuna fisheries work the Gulf of Guinea off Africa for large numbers of small yellowfin, as this is believed to be a spawning area for the species. Theses juvenile school-sized fish are occasionally seen locally, hence the minimum size restriction here although the average fish is considerably larger; usually 20 pounds or more. Then there are schools of the mid-sized Allisons that normally dominate the summer season and which put the island on the map for light-tackle fishing. Then there are the really big ones: fish that go well clear of the hundred-pound mark. Far from common here, but frequent enough to make them a welcome challenge.

The Dominican Republic is luxuriating at present in a harvest of really large yellowfin that are pushing the 200lb mark. Although schools of tuna that size have occurred here, each incidence was definitely a short-lived phenomenon, suggesting that maybe in all the Atlantic there are a few schools of such giants and they just move around, sometimes entering areas where fishermen can have a crack at them.

This would account for the sporadic capture of large yellowfin at different locations within their rather wide range. These big ones are a challenge on middle to heavy tackle, but the more run-of-the-mill tuna can make for great light-tackle action.

One of the things that may account for the recent successes in the area of the Dominican Republic is the use of fish aggregating devices. Now, it helps to remember that although these places in the Caribbean are islands, they are big — as in a lot bigger than Bermuda, which is tiny (1/1,432 the size of Hispaniola) — and have a lot more coastal regions as well as land-derived inputs into the marine environment, as in rivers, etc. FADs do not create more fish, but they help to concentrate fish, particularly bait species in known areas where they are accessible to fishermen.

All fishermen know that flotsam attracts fish, as do other forms of structure. The wreckage of Argus Tower is a good local example. Whether or not they are willing to bite is one thing, but there are always schools of jacks, mackerel, rainbow runners and other fish in and around the wreckage. Some species centre on such things, even though they wander hundreds of yards away during the course of their day.

Unfortunately, flotsam does not turn up on command and there are often periods when the ocean's currents simply keep all that stuff away from some locations. The Sargasso Sea is a bit of a collecting point for floating debris, and so there is flotsam in our general vicinity. But, having said that, a hundred miles offshore would be in our vicinity but very unlikely to be encountered by any Bermudian-based boat.

FADs vary widely but generally consist of some material — perhaps sail-like or pallets or even just ropes that eventually foul — that floats in the water column, anchored to the seabed. Usually out of sight and far enough below the surface not to be interfered with by passing vessels or even stormy seas. On some occasions, they can be set in very deep waters. The locations of such apparatus are known and they are found by using GPS or other navigational tools. They are in use in many places and are popular with blue-water fishermen who reap the benefit of whatever fish decide to hang around these objects.

Over the years, some experimental rigs have been set around Bermuda, but there has been no concerted effort to introduce this type of fishing enhancement. While such a project could be undertaken by an individual or several, it would probably stand a better chance of success if the fishing organisations or even the Government were involved.

Just think, in the right place, such could make for some fantastic Tight Lines!!!

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Published October 20, 2018 at 9:00 am (Updated October 20, 2018 at 1:36 am)

Change of season, yes, but yellowfins still have scope to please

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