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Prowess tested in ultimate game fish pursuit

While the summer lethargy may have set in, September will soon be here and the fishing season will rapidly conclude thereafter.

It may be hot but for many this is the time of the year to venture offshore in the calm weather that has predominated the scene for the last few weeks. Sooner rather than later, it will come to an end.

The Bermuda Release Challenge proved to be a runaway success on Sunday.

Bright skies and calm seas saw great participation from 16 local boats that put in the effort to prove their prowess in the pursuit of the Atlantic's ultimate game fish.

Unlike the more strictly regulated Bermuda Triple Crown, the Release Challenger afforded beginners and novices opportunity to master the fine art of using the sort of tackle that catching the blue marlin demands.

The great conditions also lent themselves to the final results with the only downside being the amount of seaweed that kept crews busy clearing their rigs.

The overriding stipulation in this particular tournament is that all fish caught had to be released, regardless of size, with blue marlin scoring 500 points and white marlin worth 100 points per release.

The bite was very definitely on with a number of multiple strikes and plenty of action from the marlin. In the final tally, the winner was Captain Peter Rans' Overproof with a total of three releases.

The win was on time with Overproof achieving the feat ahead of Captain Dylan Simpson's Sea Blazer which also boasted three blue marlin releases.

With a total of 18 blue marlin being released this meant that most other boats scored doubles or single releases, making the tournament average in excess of one fish per boat per day which is high by any standard.

Possible reasons for the good fishing come from a myriad of sources. Starting off with the most obvious is the concerted lack of effort put in with billfish as the target species.

Consider that, in most recent years, a foreign fleet of something like 30 highly expert marlin fishers arrives in June and stays on pretty much through July and, quite apart from the Bermuda Triple Crown and Blue Marlin World Cup, these highly honed crews spend virtually every day they are here on the water fishing for billfish.

Their success rate is unquestionable and despite the fact that they produce good numbers of captures, the vast majority of which are released. Interestingly enough, what tagging data is available strongly suggests that after being caught fish leave the area.

Certainly, if we were dealing with humans this would make a lot of sense. Simply put, one does not frequent areas where one has been hurt.

There are also many fish that are briefly hooked or experience some sort of a run-in with fishing craft. Combine this index with the relatively small are of ocean to which Bermuda-based boats have access on a day-to-day basis and that means the local population has been well worked over.

This year has seen lighter than usual tournament pressure, a very small number of sport fishing charters due to the lack of visitors and pretty much just occasional fishing from the commercial fleet which is far more interested in wahoo and tuna, the more saleable target species.

As with any natural system, there are variations from year to year and without a doubt some years have been far better than others.

Historically, it will never be known just how good, or bad, the billfishing was years ago simply because most marlin were incidental catches at a time when the emphasis was on light tackle fishing for most of the species available locally.

A final question that has arisen this year is although there seem to be plenty of marlin around, the really large fish are conspicuous by their absence. Most years see repeated reports of fish in the 800 pounds plus category being seen, hooked or released.

There have been very few such accounts this season and while there may be some yet to come, the late season has usually been dominated by smaller fish, thought to be males in the 150 to 250 pound range.

With the billfish competitions now a thing of the past, the expectation is that there will be a run of wahoo starting at any time now. In the best of worlds, this coincides with the influx of numbers of juvenile false albacore alson known as little tunny, locally and mistakenly called “frigate mackerel”.

These make wonderful live baits that are relished by the wahoo as well as other species but is the nexus of the wahoo run and bait arrival that makes for some of the more spectacular fishing to be had locally.

So far the outlook has been quiet with no large schools of bait being seen on wither the Edge or the banks. The fast yellowfin action of a few weeks ago has died down and the wahoo are encountered fairly regularly but on a rather sporadic basis.

Still, when something happens it seldom gives much in the way of warning, so the only sure way to be in on the action is to be offshore and looking for some Tight Lines!!!

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Published August 15, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated August 14, 2020 at 9:48 pm)

Prowess tested in ultimate game fish pursuit

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