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Changes afoot across sport fishing

Steady breezes and a building sea were enough to force a postponement of the 2019 BFCAT tournament last Sunday. The alternate is not this weekend which, if it had been, would have caused all kinds of upheaval, it being Mother's Day.

Instead, it is slated for the following Sunday when it is hoped more favourable conditions will prevail.

The weather did offer a few windows during the midweek and commercial boats took full advantage of the weather. Trolling for wahoo remains the dominant tactic and it has paid off handsomely for some with catches of up to 18 being recorded.

On the downside of things, the wahoo providing the numbers are mostly small fish even though there are some much larger specimens being caught from time to time.

Tuna and dolphin are also being taken by trollers and with the water warming up and conditions starting to show signs of settling down, the action will probably switch to chumming before long.

The primary target then becomes yellowfin tuna with blackfin putting in an appearance when the bait runs towards the shallower areas.

Once chumming starts paying off, it usually doesn't take too long for the tuna market to be glutted and this becomes the province of the tournament anglers looking to amass points quickly on light tackle.

Most of the tournaments award points for released fish nowadays, so it need not be carnage on the high seas.

With the movement towards catch and release now taking hold in all aspects of the angling sport, another opportunity for anglers has been thrown into the mix.

The Billfish Foundation is trying to reach anglers to involve them in the Atlantic Ocean tropical Tuna Tagging Programme. This is limited to the recognised tropical tuna species: bigeye, skipjack and yellowfin.

There are reports that the Bermuda Fisheries Division is promoting this project as well and certainly there has been a long history of locals participating in tuna tagging programmes.

From a purely sporting perspective, the fun comes from the catching of a tuna and they are sometimes so numerous and willing that keeping them becomes as non-issue. So tagging as many as possible and then turning them loose actually enhances the experience.

As an additional incentive there are cash prizes at stake. Further details can be had online at: https://billfish.org/featured/tropical-tuna-taggers-needed/.

Something else being brought to the attention of the local angling clubs is the possibility of having a Wahoo tagging programme!

Now that you have gotten over the initial shock from the mere idea of tossing a perfectly good, highly sought-after, edible fish back overboard, the focus can shift to some of the pros and cons of such a practice.

On the one hand, there are often very small, obviously young-of-the-year wahoo that can barely break the elastic band on the deep troll which would very probably survive the capture-and-release process and probably thrive.

Proper tagging of such could lead to the accumulation of a lot of information that would be very valuable as little is really known about wahoo, their movements and general ecology.

All very good and laudable although the thought of those prime fillets not making their way into your fridge may be something of a disappointment.

On the others side of things, the mere thought of putting fingers anywhere near a wahoo's set of chompers is nothing short of frightening. Even the smallest ones have razor-sharp teeth and are likely to flop around a bit.

Reaching over the gunwale to pull the hooks out of a billfish that is alongside the boat is one thing, but the thought of fingers anywhere near a wahoo are never a good idea.

Not sure how this catch-and-release business is going to work: most will opt for a gaff and the billy club, regardless of size. How this idea pans out will be well worth watching.

The IGFA has also notified the angling public of some changes they are making to world records.

Fortunately, most of these changes will not affect local anglers unless they are travelling to other angling locations to achieve some of the slams that the IGFA acknowledges.

Their Inshore Slam has been expanded but there is only one of the species that can reasonably be caught here and that is the bonefish.

Tarpon are a big maybe here and snook is a no-hoper.

Ditto for cubera, roosterfish and milkfish, as well as the other species.

One thing which might have some effect is that the bonefish species has now been separated into Atlantic and Pacific bonefish.

With the new Atlantic bonefish species records, this will mean that some of the classes previously held by Pacific-caught fish will now became vacant, making opportunities that might well be filled by Bermuda fish in the future.

There are also two new line class species, both of which are only found in the Indo-Pacific, so not of much consequence here.

Two new Trophy programme clubs are also being started. To qualify, a yellowfin or bigeye tuna must weigh at least 200 pounds — no mean ask!

The final change is that now any record entry must weigh a minimum of one half of the line test or tippet used.

Lots of developments on the fishing front and not much time before the picnicking and parading sets in.

Then it will be June! Yes, time does fly and boats have a tendency to promote procrastination.

Remember, the summer is not all that long and time is of the essence when it come to Tight Lines!!!

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Published May 11, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated May 12, 2019 at 4:13 pm)

Changes afoot across sport fishing

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