Fishing scene showing signs of recovery
Now I know how Rip Van Winkle felt when he woke up.
Just on the verge of a promising looking fishing season and, BANG, out of a fairly clear blue sky comes the pandemic that has kicked more things into touch than any of us could have imagined.
Here it is mid-July and things are just coming to life, in the fishing context, at least.
So, where we were? Back in March the offshore scene was showing some signs of coming to life. While there were a few wahoo being caught sporadically and large patches of green water, it really didn't matter because most boats were still undergoing their winter refits.
The onset of the lockdown stopped any and all progress for several weeks and as things were slowly permitted, it was the commercial fleet that started coming back to life, albeit slowly as in very slowly.
As far as the sport fishery was concerned, it seemed as if it had dropped into a black hole.
So deep was this that the usual BGFA annual tournament schedule is so redundant as to cancel its publication.
Long before May rolled around, Bermuda Anglers Club had postponed the International Light Tackle Tournament for a year, the Bermuda Fishing Clubs Annual Tournament (BFCAT) came and went without anyone seeming to notice, as did the Regiment and Bacardi Tournaments.
Club tournaments events simply disappeared as curfews and other priorities changed life in ways that could not have been foreseen.
Apart from a few brave anglers, June was a complete write-off. And that was unfortunate.
Why? Because the angling was above average quality and there were precious few able to take advantage of it.
The usual spring wahoo run continued through May and into early June with some high-quality fish being caught by those lucky enough to get offshore.
Very slowly, angling activity ramped up. A major source of reliable information previously came from the charter fishing fleet but with no visitors this aspect of the economy was left, for want of a better description, dead in the water.
Perhaps a blessing considering that warmth is fuel for tropical systems, June was noticeably cooler than usual. This kept the wahoo active for most of the month with the occasional white marlin intercepting lures intended for wahoo or tunas.
It was, however, warm enough for the arrival of numbers of yellowfin tuna in the middleweight size class. The average fish was close to fifty pounds, an ideal size for light tackle, even though there are few practitioners around at present.
These same fish seem to have decided to call the Banks home for a while as they are still out there with some boats having a right field day with them.
Peter Pearman's crew had a remarkable day recently, using live robins to catch eighteen fine yellowfin tuna.
As if this were not enough, on the way home, they caught and released a blue marlin as well. An abundance of tuna can only mean that numbers of billfish are not far behind. Maybe a little late, but the water is now warming up and effort is increasing.
Word that the airport would reopen in July and that there would be some mechanism to allow foreign anger to come and go from the Island, saw a sudden influx of the foreign sport fishing boats starting to grace the yacht club and other venues.
This coincided nicely with the worldwide July 4 Blue Marlin World Cup that saw some surprisingly active local participation.
As it turned out, this was not to be Bermuda's year as the Captain Marty Bates' La Onda Mila took the honours for Cape Verde Islands with a fine 964-pounder, completely eclipsing the next best which was a 667.2-pounder taken by previous winner Done Deal out of the Gulf of Mexico.
Although hastily put together due to all the uncertainties, the Bermuda Triple Crown is taking place.
Plenty of shore-side modifications – virtually everything is virtual, these days – but the angling is just what one would expect.
The Bermuda Blast is taking place with fishing from yesterday through to today. The landmark 20th annual Bermuda Big Game Classic runs from Sunday with fishing on the Monday though Wednesday.
The Sea Horse Anglers Billfish Tournament rounds out the Triple Crown over the following weekend.
Visiting boat, Captain Eddie Murray's Auspicious got things off to just that kind of a start on Thursday with a blue marlin release and followed this up with another one, moving them into top spot on the first day.
In close pursuit was local boat, Miss TJ with visitor Just a Dog back in third.
In the afternoon, Miss TJ hooked up and was still battling a big fish likely to make the minimum weight and push her team ahead of the competition. With two days to go, the event is still anyone's to win.
With most of the deep water around the Island having been left unexplored over the last few months, the next few days should see an upsurge in action and plenty of spirited competition from participating boats.
Look ahead specially to the Classic as it coincides with the July full moon, thought by many to be the best time of the year for a real trophy blue marlin.
This event usually draw's the lion's share of participation n this three-leg event with plenty of local boats vying with the foreigners for top honours.
Looking beyond the Triple Crown is fraught with difficulties with events being cancelled or postponed on an almost daily basis.
The Bermuda Invitational Fly Fishing Tournament has also now been called off for this year.
Originally scheduled for June, it was first moved to September and, now, put back to 2021, citing travel arrangements, uncertain airline schedules and just more of the malaise that the pandemic has engendered.
Various local tournaments are in flux as the club fixtures as decisions are only now starting to be made. One thing is for certain; and that is the fish movements and habits are totally immune to what affects mankind and will continue as Nature bids.
Establishing no doubt that the fish are out there, perhaps the best approach to this summer is to leave the pandemic and its associated woes behind and head offshore for a bit of sanity and some peak season Tight Lines!!