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Warming up but ocean activity still slow

Oh, it's still winter but one must remember that spring comes early to Bermuda. There will be more gales and inclement weather but the days are getting noticeably longer and the water is showing signs of warming up.

These are all indications that the summer season is not all that far into the future. As people like to say: “time flies when you are having fun”.

The truth of the matter is whether or not you are having fun, time does indeed fly.

The recent flurry of hectic activity seems to have broken up. One possibility was the return of gale force winds and a drop in temperatures sent the fish down deeper and into cooler water that reduced their metabolisms and therefore their need to feed.

These optimists think that improved conditions will see a return of the fish and more productive days on the Banks and elsewhere. Much more likely and certainly the view of some of the old sages, is that the spring run is now officially over.

While it is a well-known fact that the spring run is exceedingly short-lived, it has also been thought that it is more of an April/May event.

The truth to tell, it has often taken place in February and March and that leaves some doubts as to its actual cause. Water temperature was thought to have been a key trigger but there is little evidence for that. Put into perspective, the offshore water temperature seldom drops below 18ºC. That particular figure is used by some oceanographers to actually define the Sargasso Sea, on the edge of which we find ourselves.

To envisage the Sargasso Sea, imagine a bowl of like temperature water floating on a larger water mass. As the main mass shifts so does the bowl which accounts for why the Sargasso Sea is not really geographically defined. It gets its name from the Portuguese who called the common brown seaweed that now bears the scientific name Sargassum after a garden plant that it resembled; probably ever so vaguely. In any case, the name stuck even though it underwent a transformation or two.

Some sources suggest that the name had something to do with grapes. That idea comes from the grape-like little balls that help the weed to float.

Why is this important? Because the seaweed is a very real plant and needs to have sunlight. If it did not float, it would be on the bottom of the ocean where there is no light and that would be the end of it.

Just another example of just how amazing Mother Nature is, she seems to think of everything.

While most of us see the seaweed as a nuisance, it is actually a vital component of the ocean web. It forms the basis for an entire ecological community with all sorts of other living organisms including crabs and shrimps.

Just try grabbing a clump and then rinse in out into a bucket of water, you're likely to find all sorts of things that make the weed their home. Also associated with the floating mats are any number of juvenile pelagic fish species.

Larval dolphin, jacks, chubs and other species have been identified as living in association with the seaweed. It probably affords the juvenile fish some measure of protection from predators.

Although seldom the case here, in many areas, the beds of weed are welcomed because blue water species like dolphin often lurk beneath the brown mats. We mostly curse the stuff because it gets on troll baits and does a wonderful job of snagging on the deep troll wires and forming a massive clump right around the ball.

Something that may go unnoticed is the fact that the seaweed stems can often have another organism growing on them that produces a fine but sharpish sort of shell. Although it appears innocuous, it can, in fact, abrade nylon fishing line. Probably not a problem on 50 or 80-lb test but on lighter line this could come down to make or break.

While the spring wahoo run may be over, the good news is that there will still be fish out there. They may have scattered out over the local area with small concentrations in areas like the south-eastern side of the Banks or along Sally Tucker's on the Southwest Edge.

The yellowfin tuna don't seem to have the same consistency as the wahoo, at least in terms of movement in and out of an area. When they show up on the offshore grounds they tend to hang around for a while, often never moving more than a few hundred yards from where they are concentrated. Recent tuna catches have ranged from just a couple to five or six. Most of the fish have been school-sized, weighing in at the lower end of the 20 to 30-pound range.

As things progress, there should be more opportunities for catching tuna, especially if the offshore currents settle down and make it possible to find a nice leeward tide that allows you to anchor on the Bank and send the chum out into the deep where there may be some larger tuna lurking.

The International Game Fish Association has just realised its monthly (more or less) list of newly approved world records and it seems that our friends on the Pacific coasts of Costa Rica and Mexico have heavily got into catching Almaco jack.

The same species as our bonita, the records are tumbling and, given the way things are going, the one record still held in Bermuda (men's 12-lb test) probably won't be there much longer. This is a bit unfortunate because there can be little doubt that there are some really trophy bonitas in local waters. There is plenty of evidence of this from commercial catches made on the Banks and elsewhere.

What may be part of the problem is the lack of light tackle angling directed at this species; after all, during the summer chummers pretty much have their sights set on tunas.

Another problem comes from misidentifications. While there are loads of so-called experts around, it is actually very difficult to separate a large Almaco jack from a middle to large amberfish. Body depth and general shape play a part in the identification process but neither is definitive. As a result it is quite likely that some really hefty bonitas end up being called amberjack and are not even considered potential record material.

Bear this in mind while fishing this summer season. Remember that nice amberfish that you caught might actually be quite a bit more than just the source of your Tight lines!!!

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Published March 05, 2011 at 1:00 pm (Updated March 05, 2011 at 1:44 pm)

Warming up but ocean activity still slow

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