Water is always warm for local fish
Beware of harbingers of spring. Despite what some might think, humpback whales can get lost as easily as humans can and while they will eventually find their way to where they should be, it is probably not a wise move to set a clock or even calendar by them.
In fact, it can simply be a matter of them having found a diversion much the same way as travellers who ae not in any hurry to get somewhere may stop off somewhere unlikely for a couple of days to take in the sights.
Despite the optimism often brought on by the arrival of whales, tropicbirds and other organisms, the worst of winter is still to come with continued gales and cooler temperatures. It is all fine when the flow is from the south: it may bring rainy weather, but it is generally warmer but a cold front from the northwest gives winter its real icy bite. Certainly icy enough to have locals donning sweaters, anoraks, boots and even gloves.
The saving grace here is the vast amount of water that surrounds this tiny island. While small volumes of water, such as those contained in enclosed little bays or harbours, are subject to more marked changes, it would take something on an extended global scale to change the offshore temperature by more than a few degrees. The shorter days and weaker sunshine that characterises the winter in the northern hemisphere does have an effect on the deep sea, but this is not as profound as most people think. Even then, that change is going to be limited to the upper layers. Just think about the people (not locals, that is for sure) who enjoy a dip at the beach. While many of us think “Brrr”, the actual water temperature is often in excess of those found on popular northern beaches at the height of summer, so it is no great hardship for those so inclined.
There is a similar tendency to classify species of fish as warm-water or cold-water. That all goes a little awry here because the water never really gets cold enough for what might be called cold-water species. Even though it is at its coolest in February or March and the blue marlin is thought of as a very warm-water species, there have been specimens caught here throughout the year. Obviously, the coolest it gets is still warm enough for them. Something else that needs to be remembered and that is the water temperature 50 or 100 metres down is pretty much he same year round so although everyone associates marlin with the warm (80+F) summer water, there is no reason for the fish not to spend a considerable time a hundred feet or more below the surface. Even at the Equator, the water at that depth is significantly cooler than it is at the surface and there is no shortage of data to show that marlin, for one, often cruise at those depths.
One commercially important species that has had a remarkably free ride around here is so wedded to a temperature that the fishery is based on finding that specific temperature and exploiting it. This is the albacore, a highly desirable tuna species that has pretty much found its way into everyone’s kitchen cabinets on one occasion or another.
An important aspect of the high seas longline fishery, boats use electronic probes to track the 16C (61F) depth contour and then fish it. When they strike it right, literally tonnes of albacore can be hauled aboard. Some experimental fishing done here in the late Eighties/early Nineties and the limited amount of longline fishing done by local commercial fishermen have consistently produced albacore though most of the year. Traditional chumming and trolling really does not probe that sort of depth of water and, as a result, albacore are seldom caught here. Naturally, there are aberrations and some nice albacore have been caught here by sports fishermen but the numbers are miniscule compared with the yellowfin and blackfin tuna that make up the bulk of the catch.
Just to round out this picture is the fact that the wahoo is also thought to be a tropical fish. Yet they are caught here all year around, with the peaks of abundance probably more linked to breeding or feeding cycles than to anything to do with temperature.
During the last few weeks and, for the foreseeable future, small numbers of quality wahoo will continue to please. Whether they are cruising just below the surface or come rushing up out of the deep really isn’t apparent but regular trolling continues to get results. Less commonly, they will still appear in chum slicks. Again, part of the problem is that there are very few anglers bothering to chum at this time of the year. At the moment, a quick troll followed by dropping a line down to the bottom in the hope of snagging enough bottom fish to justify the trip is most people’s idea of Tight Lines!
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