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Negotiating the channels through the reef system off the southwestern shore of Bermuda isn’t for the faint of heart. The winding channel weaves its way through massive coral heads just beneath the surface, some only a foot or two outside the markers. There’s no room for error here, as many a careless skipper has discovered.
But the fishing you find once you get to the edge makes the harrowing trip worthwhile. The reef off the southwest edge drops off quickly, but then it rises again a few miles offshore on two of the area’s most famous seamounts: Challenger and Argus banks. This area of submerged reefs has strong currents that bring in both bait and predators in large numbers.
Fishing and Filming
We fished these fertile waters for wahoo last summer while filming an episode of Sport Fishing Television with Capt. Hamish Burns, a native Bermudian who generously agreed to serve as our host. Burns is a private recreational angler, but he and his son, Hamish Jr., are both experts at this game in their home waters.
After successfully traversing the reef, we began searching for live bait near a point of reef named Sally Tuckers. Although many methods exist to catch wahoo in Bermuda, live-baiting ranks as one of the best, and it’s certainly the most fun, especially when the strike comes at the surface.
Burns led us to a spot known to harbor “robins,” the local name for redtail scad, what we Floridians refer to as speedos. The two Burns men went to work chumming with handfuls of glass minnows (aka fry), and before long, schools of the elongated baitfish appeared beneath the boat, zooming frantically back and forth as is their habit.
Filling the Well
Hand lines were soon deployed, and in no time, fellow angler Dan Jacobs and I had dehooked a dozen or more robins into the livewell, and Hamish Sr. announced it was time to fish. I assumed we would make a lengthy run to the fishing grounds, and was surprised when we motored only several hundred yards and began putting out the live baits.
Burns explained that the wahoo often swim tight to the reef along the drop-off, so we would start there. Never one to argue with local knowledge, I pitched in and helped set the spread. The robins were pinned to 6/0 circle hooks on wire leaders, side to side through their nose with a trailing stinger hook slid beneath the fish’s skin just in back of its dorsal fin.
Fishermen in Bermuda like downriggers, it would seem, since every boat I saw appeared to have one or more affixed to a covering board or the transom. We dropped a couple of baits down on Burns’ downriggers and left another bait swimming near the surface, in the hopes of maybe attracting the attention of a passing yellowfin tuna.