Every colour tells a story in ocean

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  • The many colours of the ocean tell their own stories (Photograph by Sideya Dill)

    The many colours of the ocean tell their own stories (Photograph by Sideya Dill)


It’s all about colour! When decking the halls for Christmas, the predominant colours are red and green.

There are reasons for this, notably that the green came from the trees that were evergreen and why, during the winter, pagans and later Christians brought such plants indoors — sort of representing the forever-ness of nature. There are various accounts of where the red comes from but there is no getting away from the fact that they are the colours of the season and there is little shortage of them at the moment. Suffice to say that every colour tells a story.

To look at the ocean, Bermuda’s waters are blue, at least to some eyes, as the inshore often looks more green than blue. The water over the shallower reefs is a clear blue with dark grey patches being the reefs. As the water gets deeper it gets bluer with the sand holes (where the porgies are supposed to reside) appear to be a much lighter shade. This all then gives way to the deep blue that is the open sea. Hence, the term blue-water angling or blue-water fishing. In fact, any variation in that shade of blue draws remarks like “the water looks green” as the shade often takes on a greyish hue. Generally, this is not where the fishing for pelagic species is going to be good. There are a host of reasons why this might occur, but the bottom line is that the offshore anglers try to avoid such water. The open ocean is blue and that’s it.

But the story does not stop there. Look at the fish that dwell in the sea. What sort of colours are at work there?

First off, look at the reef fish: parrotfish, angelfish, wrasses and lots of others. Many are brightly coloured and, to a human’s eye, stand out. But consider the colour of the coral reef itself. It is all sorts of colours: purple sea fans, golds and browns pinks and greens; bright colours actually blend in quite well and probably work as camouflage to some degree. Throw in the fact that most fish are capable of some range of colour variation and some can really blend in almost to the point that they are invisible. This is a real advantage for both predators and prey, depending on how you look at it.

Others, like the lionfish, make it a point to stand out. Spines and venom are enough to dissuade most of the opposition so hiding is not necessary.

Moving out onto the open sea, the fish out there all have dark backs and light front, or bottoms. Remember that fish swim with their backs to the surface and their bellies downward.

The dark backs will usually be a selection of shades of blue or sometimes grey. The only really notable exception is the dolphinfish, which is a riotous celebration of greens and yellows with electric blue highlights.

Leaving that species aside, thinking about wahoo, tuna or marlin, that back colour blends into the blue that fades with distance and virtually disappears from sight from anything looking down on the fish. This is because down means looking away from the light and it just fades off into darkness, rather like our vision of outer space.

The reverse works just as well because with the sunlight brightening the surface anything looking up sees pretty much a sea of white and the fish’s white underside blends in, making it hard to pick out against a “sky” of white.

It is not surprising that most pelagic species are equipped with good eyesight because it only takes the slightest reflection or momentary roll or twist to expose a flash of colour that does not fit in and that is all it takes to give the prey away to a predator.

So far, this all makes sense. But what about all the deep dwellers; red hinds, coneys, red snappers and the like? They must stand out being as brightly coloured as they are. In truth, they near disappear. As light penetrates the depths, it is attenuated with red and yellow being the first wavelengths filtered out. So at the bottom, red appears a nondescript grey. Even the high-visibility items used by divers lose a lot of their fluorescence at depth. So being red and living down deep is a form of camouflage in itself. It really is all about colour, isn’t it?

Although the weather has been good enough for boats to head out on the deep blue briny, the fish have been notable by their absence. Even live-baiting is not getting much in the way of results, so it probably pays for the weekenders to stay home, do the chores associated with the holiday festivities and gain some points with the boss. Then, when things improve, there will be some justification for heading out in search of Tight Lines!

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Published Dec 17, 2016 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 17, 2016 at 10:53 am)

Every colour tells a story in ocean

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