Action winding down as season comes to an end
All over! The season has come to an end.
Although in days gone by, tourism maintained the end of the fishing season was the end of November, all the charter boat operators and anglers know that was pushing things a bit too far.
Late October was about it; before the weather became too unreliable and interest waned along with the reduced numbers of game fish cruising offshore.
The tournament calendar is similarly sparse as the angling clubs wind up the yar; this year being exceptional for mostly wrong reasons.
On a positive note a good few of the major tournament did take place with a reasonable degree of success. All are hopeful that things will be better in the spring.
With the emphasis on the sporting qualities of game fish firmly removed from the equation, the target of greatest interest becomes the quantity and quality of fillet. Whole fish are a factor as well but, to be honest, hardly anyone deals with whole fish anymore.
A notable exception to this is the hogfish. This species lends itself to baking and while that is akin to roasting a turkey or similar, they are not readily obtained in the usual fish markets.
Back in the days when fish pots were legal, they were frequently caught in traps set in channel areas as well as some deeper reefs and were an important market fish.
Other fishing methods are less successful for this species and can be very time-consuming, thus moving them largely out of the purview of the commercial fishermen.
There are, however, a very few casual fishermen who use handlines as well as rod and reel to catch hogfish. Just recently, one such fisherman caught a very large specimen in Castle Harbour.
Although not qualifying as a Bermuda record, the fish was indeed destined for the oven and probably provided its captor and family with a feast.
Hogfish are members of the wrasse family, related to the slippery dicks and yellowhead wrasses so common on local reefs.
It grows much larger than most other wrasses and the biggest are always males which also form the distinctive hog-like snout.
A common reef fish, they tend to move around a good deal, often coming inshore over grassy flats and into harbours and bays.
They are also a favourite with spear fishermen as they make for a large target and are a most rewarding catch.
Preferred hook baits include live crabs although pieces of squid, shrimp and other molluscs will be readily taken by a hogfish.
Smaller hogfish, usually the female of the species, are also delectable, but anglers setting out to catch hogfish should be minded that there is a legal minimum size of 14 inches for this species.
To return to the “fillet” fish, the commercial fishermen actually go after some rather unlikely species.
With bad weather likely to be the norm for the coming next few months, species which can be found nearer shore become a lot more popular.
A day too rough for directed fishing on the ocean proper often sees the reef and channel areas as calm enough to work efficiently.
A common species is the triggerfish or “turbot”. Bearing no relation to the real turbot, the common or grey triggerfish will take almost any hook bait and occur in numbers that will satisfy almost any fishermen.
The rub comes in the difficulty associated with cleaning them, but they do yield up a from white fillet.
If gutted and skinned there is a section of the market that sees them as a prize destined for boiling or stewing.
With the average fish weighing up into the vicinity of around a pound, a good catch can quickly move into the realm of profitability for.
Another species that lends itself to such exploitation is the barber. Common enough on the reefs, they almost always weigh right on a pound and they make for two good fillets.
Related as they are to the groupers, the quality is good and with the consumer usually looking for something that can be tossed into a pan and quick fried, it is a popular product.
For those who refuse to give up and live in hope of having a day off and decent weather coincide, there will be the occasional day when the traditional pursuit of wahoo and tuna can continue.
There is no doubt that some fine wahoo bite during the winter, but numbers usually leave something to be desired.
Yellowfin tuna may remain on the offshore grounds or may vacate the area and there will probably be a report or two of encounters with bluefin tuna.
This level of action may suffice for some but for most, it is now time to desist from active angling and to enjoy a winter’s slumber punctuated by recurrent dreams of Tight Lines!!!