Gods of the seas not in agreement for season opener
Well, here it is, finally: the long-awaited fishing season in all its official glory. But, boy, does it leave something to be desired. After a couple of weeks of promising fishing activity and the arrival of quantities of bait, the stage looked set for this weekend’s inaugural tournament. But the midweek return of winter has cast the entire picture into a hazy mist.
Visions of calm seas and deep blue water have refocused on a churned-up sea with numerous whitecaps that end in froth and foam reminiscent of snow. Not exactly the best encouragement for someone wanting a halcyon day on the briny. Apart from the difficulties associated with merely trying to stand up and work fishing gear, there is also the likelihood that the fish will be less receptive to trolled offerings — and the prospects of establishing a chum slick in a favourable tide seem pretty dim as well.
Less intrepid anglers may also have another hurdle to face. The boat has languished all winter long on the moorings and the bottom is somehow reminiscent of an unshaven old man with whiskers gone wild. With the start of summer festivities just a scant fortnight away, the boat has to be licked into shape or the home front may well erupt in a most unpleasant manner.
Getting the boat into shape is something that can have some ramifications for anglers. While there are advantages to having a clean bottom to the hull, there may be some downsides as well. Depending on the material of which the hull is fabricated, the presence of various marine fouling organisms can be seriously damaging, as in the case of ship worms burrowing into wooden hulls, to the nuisance of barnacles and algae on a fibreglass hull. Clearing off all these infestations and leaving a smooth, clean bottom usually means that the hull will slip through the water much more cleanly owing to reduced friction. This means that less power is needed to drive the boat along and often results in a saving on fuel costs, something that is desirable.
On the other hand, some operators who often use trolling as a means of fishing have noticed that a boat with a clean bottom leaves behind less white water, and this can affect the fishing. Obviously, if the boat is slipping through the water smoothly, it causes less disruption to the water and, therefore, the wake is clearer with less bubbling and less white water is produced. When trolling, this reduction in white water often seems to tally with a decrease in fish action. What the relation is between the white water and the attraction of fish is unclear, but there is some evidence to suggest that a hull’s sonic signature does indeed have a bearing on the attraction of game fish. A change to the drag on a hull will have some impact on that sonic signature and many anglers have noted that they get better action when the bottom is less clean. For a fisherman, this is more desirable although the increase in fuel costs may be the price that has to be paid.
This entire concept can lead to a huge discussion that not only includes the hull shape, dimensions and displacement, but also single versus twin propellers, rudders and other paraphernalia. Doubtless, boat designers, fishermen and engineers will all have something to say about this, probably ad infinitum. Enough already.
As soon as the weather settles, it is time to go fishing. But before running offshore, casting all caution to the wind, there are a few other seasonal things to be cognizant of — not least of which are the return of the protected areas, generally referred to as “hind grounds”. These large areas are well known, having been established for many years in various guises. Lesser known but more likely to affect the small boat and more casual angler is the “grunt ground” situated off the East End adjacent to Fort St Catherine. This newer protected area is meant to prevent fisherman of all types taking advantage of the population of blue grunts that aggregate for spawning.
Although grunts are not closely related to the better-known grouper species, they follow the same modus operandi for breeding by assembling in numbers at relatively small locations and doing their thing there. The theory is that by concentrating their spawning effort over a smaller area, greater reproductive success can be achieved. This is good. What isn’t good is that the fish of a particular species are so congregated and obviously hungry after expending so much of their energy into the spawning rituals, they are particularly vulnerable to fishing effort. The adage of “shooting fish in a barrel” comes to mind.
The wind won’t blow for ever and there are those lucky enough to be able to venture offshore on days other than the weekend — this may well be shaping up as an opportunity for them. Given all the other early indications, a bit of settled weather will likely see them enjoying some exciting spring Tight Lines!!!
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