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Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Shore fishing in Bermuda

Back from my first ever cruise, courtesy of my in laws, who set up a mega family event for their 50th wedding anniversary. Basically, 35 of us boarded a cruise ship in New York, then sailed to Bermuda, where we docked for a few days, before sailing back to New York.

While various family members of various ages has all sort of outing planned on the island, I simply brought along a telescopic bass rod with a few lures and some terminal tackle. 

My plan was to give shore fishing in Bermuda a decent shot, and at worse case possibly going out on a mixed or private charter, in case the shore fishing was tough or non existent.

Turns out that I didn't have much to worry about. I had access to deep water in walking distance of our ship, which is where I ended up spending the entirety of my off board time.

Day 1:

We docked at the naval dockyard, which is a tiny strip on the Northwest side of the island. Getting off the ship, I noticed some areas near the tour boats where fishing was not allowed, so I ventured a bit further away. I tied on a a small jig and rubber grub, much like I'd use for walleye or bass, and within a few casts, I landed my first fish. Turned out to be a Red Hind, apparently a member of the grouper family. Nothing big, but a very welcome start to my Bermuda fishing adventure.

A couple casts later, I hooked into another fish, this one ended being a snakefish, also known as lizardfish.

Check the set on teeth on these critters

After catching some more red hinds, I caught a squirrelfish. Giant eyes on these.

After seeing some small bar jacks swimming by near surface in deeper water, I tried fishing for them without any success. Eventually, I decided to cast back to the shallower rocks where I started, and caught some more red hinds.

At this point, I decided to make my way to the other side of the dockyard, after a pit stop on the ship for some food and water. I found a small shop on pier 41 that sold frozen bait, and picked up a small box of frozen squid. 

Working my way along the industrial section of the dockyard area, I stopped to fish off the sides of the concrete structure. The water off the wall is a straight drop into a good 25-30 feet of water, which is clear enough to be able to see at least 20 feet below the surface. 

I baited a jighead with some squid, and on the first drop, clouds of colorful fish of all sizes swarmed my jig. Didn't take long too hook up, and I landed a species of wrasse the locals named "slippery dick", due to it's extremely slimy texture secreted when trying to escape being held. 

Good fight, and super colorful fish.

Next drop off the wall caught me a blue striped grunt, which turned out to end up being the majority of what was biting over the next couple days. 

As it was small enough and legal to use as bait, I tossed it out to deeper water, and within a minute or so, I got a nice hit form something bigger that cut through my 25 lbs flouro leader within a couple seconds. Most likely a barracuda, as apparently, there aren't any sharks in the area I was fishing.

Caught many more bluestriped grunt off that spot, as well as some more red hinds, wrasse, squirrelfish, and a small barred hamlet.

Eventually, I made my way around the deep water structure, and found a old decaying wooden wharf. Again, giant schools of fish schooled up under it, mainly blue striped grunts, as well as some decent lane snappers.

Again, I decided to use some of the smaller grunt for bait. I managed to catch 1 needlenose fish and small barracuda, but was unable to land them due to being about 7 feet higher than the water. Both fish came off when I tried to lift them from that height, so no pictures, but I did enjoy a decent fight with the barracuda.

After a while decided to cast some lures, managing some follows form various jacks, but unfortunately, no takers. No topwater action, all interest came while twitching jerkbaits at moderate to high speeds.

Eventually, I decided to work my way back towards the ship, stopping at the spot where I had most of my success earlier on. Some bigger fish had moved in, I managed to lane a nice Bermuda bream.

After a more of a mixed bag of smaller fish of the species I was getting used to, I hooked into something bigger near bottom. After a good fight, I landed a nice sized triggerfish.

Released it after a couple quick pics, as the ship would not allow us to bring any fish on board.

That ended my first day of fishing in Bermuda...

Day 2:

After my success on the first day, I planned to hit the same areas using more grunts as bait in hope of possibly catching some bigger fish. This time, I started at the dock shop to pick up some more squid, as well as some bigger saltwater hooks to rig on heavier fluorocarbon leaders. 

I then headed for the wharf, where I had caught the barracuda and needlenose fish the previous day. Unfortunately, the few jacks I saw weren't interested in eating anything bigger than the tiny minnows busting surface every now and then. 

Eventually, I got bored of catching mainly smaller grunts there, and headed under the road bridge along a small stream, and came out onto the surf. Climbing some treacherous coral rocks, I was able to find some spots to cast jerkbaits into the crashing waves for the first time during my trip. Fish had other plans though, and all I managed was some more follows from small schools of jacks.

Decided to work my way back towards the other side of the dockyard. Stopped at my deepwater hotspot, landed some more red hinds, and another nice Bermuda bream. A few more shots at jack resulted in one missed hit a few more follows.

After stocking up on some more water and cold beer at the dock shop, I headed back to where I had started fishing on Day 1. This time, I opted to cast a perch pattern Rapala xrap for the first time during the trip. 

I fished a wide deepwater pass, where all the boat and yachts pass through to get from the dockyard to the big water and rest of the island. 

Twitching and ripping the lure at a fast pace, I hooked up within a few casts. The fish made one of the most blistering runs I have ever experienced on light tackle, I'd say similar to bonefish. After turning around and running towards me, the fish then ran real fast again, I was starting to question if I had enough line with 400+ feet of braid on my spool. I thought I had hooked into a big jack or possibly a bonefish, but after finally managing to subdue and land the fish, I was surprised to see it was Little Tunny, also know as False Albacore or "Alby".

I had no clue these fish had that much power, apparently, they run at over 65 km/h! Unfortunately, the fish had a treble hook embedded deep into it's gill, as wasn't going to survive. I kept it, unsure of whether or not it was edible, but hoping it was going to be similar to blackfin Tuna, as it looked sort of similar and they are a related species.

After about 10 to 15 minutes of casting the area hoping for another one, I decided to make my way back towards the ship, hoping I could get some more more insight from one of the locals.

Sure enough, as I passed the first tugboat, the two workers on board saw me carrying the Alby, and came over to talk. Turns out that very few people eat them, and only if they are immediately bled and iced. As it had been about 20 minutes in the heat, the Alby was basically good for bait now. I offered it to one of them, who happily accepted it to use for bait after work.

Both Trey and Ryan grew up fishing in Bermuda, and were able to identify most of the fish I caught from my pictures, better so than some of the others I had asked about them up until that point. We made small talk about fishing, and honestly, I could have kept talking, but they were in middle of work, their boss passed by a couple times, and I was running out of daylight to keep fishing. 

Managed one more snakefish on the xrap, and made my way back toward our ship. Just before getting there, I noticed a small crowd had gathered around a shallow pool near a ship, and one of them called me over seeing my rod. There was a big school of small bar jacks swimming in circles, and I hooked up immediately as I cast into it.

Shortly after, I was finally holding my first Bermuda jack, though it was a lot smaller than what I had hoped for...

I assumed that was it for the day, and boarded the ship. 

My room was located on the port side of the ship over deep water, and later that night, my younger son and I were sitting out on our small balcony while everyone else was out enjoying the ships various entertainment venues. 

I looked down and noticed that they had turned on the deck light, about 50 feet above the surface of the ocean. In the kight, we saw hundreds of jacks busting the surface, chasing tiny minnows. I got the crazy idea of making out way down to the deck, and trying to hook a jack off the side of the ship. Easier said than done, but I did manage to cast to a good hundred or so fish, that kept circling or chasing my lure. Unfortunately, not one hit!

At least I have a good story to tell...

Day 3:

I originally planned to spend the last day at the beach with my younger son, while the rest of the group went on a sightseeing / shopping excursion to Hamilton. However, their plans changed, and they all opted to take a private shuttle to the beach. Being that it was my last day, and I hadn't stepped foot onto the main island, I did consider going with them... for a few minutes. 

Then my fisherman instinct kicked in, and headed out to try a half day of exclusive casting. LOL

I started off casting the area where I had caught the Alby, only to get a few more snakefish and a couple red hinds on the xrap.

I then made my way over to some other spots, just waiting to sight fish big schools of jack busting the surface for minnows. I did get plenty of good opportunities at them casting from various angles, but again, all I got were lots of follows and swirls, but no hits.

Made another stop at the docks shop for some beer and rum.

Finally, I decided to avoid the crowds and board the ship early, as we were sailing back to New York by mid afternoon.

All in all, I'd say my Bermuda shore fishing experience was one of my better DIY saltwater fishing trips. I landed 53 fish of 13 species, and missed countless others. I managed to outfish most of the locals that I ran into by far, only downside was that I didn't get to experience fishing anywhere else on the island, let alone anything else Bermuda had to offer.

On the flip side, that would have meant renting a scooter and devoting more time to exploring than fishing, and being that we were in Bermuda for a total of 2.5 days, I was sort of shot on time.

Oh well, the Bermuda beaches and exploring will have to wait for next time, if ever that happens. 

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