Weather puts paid to opening tournament


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Just when it looked like the 2012 angling season was about to really kick off the weather and; well, maybe, a little enlightened discretion, forced a postponement of the Bermuda Fishing Clubs Annual Tournament (BFCAT).

Although on the day, which happened to be Mother’s Day, the weather was probably fishable in the morning, in keeping with the forecast, it did get a bit uppity in the afternoon and probably would have made for an uncomfortable day out on the briny.

There is also the suspicion that there might not have been a whole lot of fish involved either, because, for some reason, things suddenly have gone quiet offshore. Although the fishing had not been incredibly marvellous or anything like that, there was a distinct slowing up of action from last weekend on into this week. A few will put the blame for such firmly on the prevailing easterly wind but there well might be other considerations involved.

Fairly obviously, chumming for tuna might have taken a bit of a backward step as an easterly breeze makes securing a good lie on the Banks very difficult and the tide associated with such conditions is usually anything but productive. Having said that, there are probably lots of yellowfin in the general vicinity because once they show up, they tend to take up residence. In fact, there is some evidence that they return to the same places time after time. It will just take some more consistent conditions down on the Banks to have them become fairly reliable invaders of chum slicks.

There are some indications that whatever spring wahoo there was is well and truly over. Trolling will produce a few here and there but the days of getting into double figures are probably now past until the autumn run, unless, of course, you happen on some flotsam that is home to a school of them.

Having started to paint a gloomy picture, it should also be said that there should be plenty of small game on the offshore grounds. Rainbow runners, jacks, mackerel and maybe some oceanic bonito should be readily available. If the chum is moving on to the Bank, there should be some blackfin tuna willing to come around even though this species really prefers the much warmer water that comes with high summer. Things will improve markedly as the weather settles.

The inshore fishing should be picking up as well. Many of the species that spend the winters off in deeper warm come inshore or otherwise move into the shallows as the water heats up. Part of the reason for this is that the deeper water (and it doesn’t have to be all that deep) is much more stable in terms of temperature it simply does not cool off as much as the lesser volume of inshore waters do when exposed to the wintry winds and lack of radiant energy from the sun.

On warm, sunny days there will be bonefish that will actually muddy the sandy bottoms close to shore at places like Somerset Long Bay. Early morning is the best time provided that the tide is at mid-tide or higher. The fish move in to scrounge around looking for food as the tide moves in. They then retreat as the tide does.

Old timers will tell you that cockworms are the bait of choice but local bones will take bits of squid, shrimp (champagne taste!) or other fishy substances. They can be caught on artificial lures but that is a real labour of love because presentation is the key and tossing a lure out there without disturbing what is a very skittish fish is no mean feat.

Largely ignored these days, bonefish are a great game fish on light tackle. While spinning gear is first choice for most, they are also a favourite with fly fishermen. Places like the Bahamas and Florida Keys still have bonefish as a focal point but, that simply isn’t the case here any more.

On another positive note, Bermuda bones attain large sizes and can be a real challenge. Early season is good if only because the beach areas that are the preferred fishing grounds are deserted as compared with the inundation of beachgoers during the school break. Something worth looking in to if you want some action close to home.

It is of interest that Ms Ellen Peel, the much respected president and CEO of The Billfish Foundation (TBF), who has also served for three years as a US representative to the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), has recently been named by President Obama as US Commissioner to ICCAT. This is a high ranking position and it is noteworthy that, for once, it is not solely in the interests of that country’s commercial fisheries.

The announcement by the White House was made on May 10. In the past, because of her passion and dedication to marine resources, Ellen was asked in 2009 to serve as the Acting US Recreational Fishing Commissioner to ICCAT, pending final approval by the President.

ICCAT is a 42-year old inter-governmental fishery organisation of some 50 member nations responsible for the conservation of tunas and migratory species like billfish and sharks in the Atlantic Ocean, and its adjacent seas like the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Mexico. Although most of the organisation’s work involves commercial fisheries, some of its outcomes have influenced our local legislation, such as the minimum legal sizes for marlin and tuna.

Over the years, both in her American governmental capacity and as a result of her involvement with The Billfish Foundation she has had considerable interaction with the delegates to ICCAT from Bermuda. For the most part, these have been encouraging in the matter of promoting billfish conservation. Many of the foreign sport fishing boats that visit here have been closely associated with her work and the Foundation’s positive efforts in promoting tag and release.

Ellen Peel is certainly no newcomer to the marlin conservation scene as she has been head of TBF for 16 years and boasts an active and practical knowledge of the challenges that are involved in promoting this concept.

Despite many challenges like the reduced worldwide populations of billfish caused by commercial longlining and netting, her message has remained clear good conservation pays in benefits to the fish stocks, the oceans’ ecosystems, improved fishing opportunities, strong economies and prepared future generations of ocean stewards and users. Through education, research, science, advocacy and uniting the recreational fishing community as one powerful voice, TBF’s accomplishments have been many including key socio-economic work in Central and South America, its Tag Release program and worldwide technology on three oceans.

All this will soon leap into sharp focus as there are quite a few boats due to spend the first half of the summer here and their entire remit is to catch and release as many marlin as possible. Bigger is better but there is nothing wrong with racking up the numbers. As this goes on, three is renewed local interest in the pursuit of these great gladiators and the structure of the local tournaments strongly favours tag and release.

Like it or not, ready or not, summer officially starts on Thursday. There probably won’t be too many who will be able to take advantage of the holiday to wet a line. Picnics, dinghy racing and other traditions will take precedence but do realise that it is high time for Tight lines!!!


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Published May 19, 2012 at 7:00 am
(Updated May 19, 2012 at 7:03 am)



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