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Bermuda waters facing a seaweed invasion

It is doubtful that the thought of angling has even crossed your mind in the last week or so. Although it is now well into our winter, there have still been some beautiful warm, sunny days with calm seas and fishable conditions.

The fact that just about no one is in a position to take advantage of such, coupled with some apparently rather uninterested fish cruising through the area means that there has been little in the way of fishing success to report.

About as nautical as most locals get this time of year is to contemplate a trip to the Miami Boat Show next month. Even the various tournament organisers take a bit of a break before realising just how late it is and then there is a mad dash to get the season’s fixtures into place.

But whether or not we get involved, in any way, shape or form, the ever-present oceanographic processes continue and the seasons progress.

You don’t have to venture offshore to see evidence of the physical circumstances that are affecting the sea around us. Large mats of seaweed have come in and have almost totally succeeded in blocking up some of the smaller coves. Those who have been out on the briny have reported numerous large mats of weed, making trolling at best “difficult” in some areas, and near impossible” elsewhere.

Not surprisingly, the vagaries of the oceanic currents aided by the sometimes strong onshore breezes move these mats inshore where they eventually come to rest in coves and bays and along the South Shore beaches. It is usually thought that the dominance of easterly winds mean more seaweed and, sure enough, during the winter months we see plenty of easterlies.

So the masses of weed on shore should not come as too much of a surprise.

This deposition has been facilitated by yet another phenomenon: the rather extreme tides that have been the norm for the past few weeks. The high points of these allow the weed to be placed rather higher than normal, making it likely that the next tide may not wash it back into the sea. A return to more normal tide ranges may leave the material high and dry where it will start the process of drying out, rotting and causing that odour that is all too often associated with the sea.

Once referred to as “January tides” with a similar effect often occurring in March, the tidal flux is considerably more than the normal metre (just over three feet) or so that we normally expect. In truth, they aren’t all that much different but when dealing with the ocean’s tide a few inches can make for a huge difference in where the water reaches.

With the relatively gently sloping coastline that dominates the water’s edge on the is Island, mere inches of additional water can substantially change appearances along the shoreline as well as causing some reefs and their sea fans to actually break the surface something not normal here.

Such extremes are expected with hurricanes when the associated surges can raise tides several feet or the heady disaster that is categorised as a tsunami (incorrectly referred to as a “tidal wave”), which can change the normal flux by many metres and which can totally alter an entire coastline and the inland areas in the space of minutes.

There are a number of factors beyond earthquakes and hurricanes that can affect tidal ranges. Rather obviously, such momentous events cause the displacement of large quantities of water and any such movements result in other movements that serve to balance them out. More minor factors include barometric pressure and wind-driven water such as waves.

Something which has been observed and which may or may not be related to the actual incidence of more extreme tides has come from observations on the part of lobster fishermen. With most of them carrying a significant portion of their gear up on the inner bottom between the patch reefs, they get a pretty clear view of the bottom and the reef’s inhabitants.

While the lobster trapping has been pretty good, they have noted a fair few rockfish taking an interest in their traps, especially the ones with a nice crop of spinys inside. Never let it be said that a rockfish (or just about anything else, for that matter!) will turn up its nose as a fresh crustacean dinner.

These fish, often well over 50 pounds and maybe even over 100, are pretty much fearless and will often follow a trap to the surface. Bearing in mind that the whole business may be taking place in only a dozen feet or so of water (a lot less if the tide is low), this brings the fish into pretty close proximity with the fisherman.

For this reason most boats carry a heavy line (close to rope) with a big hook ready to be tossed over with some bait, preferably a live fish but most anything will do. Old-timers used to refer to this piece of gear as the “Benny”; a term which had its origin as the top trump card in the game of euchre.

If the rockfish latched on and everything held then the trick would indeed be taken and the fish would be ending its days on the deck of a fishing boat. Oh, that it would be such a sure thing: hooks break, they straighten, sharp corals weaken lines and, well, not all rockfish lose the day.

Should it cross your mind on some calm weekend afternoon to cruise around set lobster traps in the hope of seeing and then catching a rockfish, don’t expect to pull off the feat with what might be termed regulation gear.

Such beasts will make a mockery of anything less than unlimited (130-lb test plus) tackle and they certainly will not play by any game fishing rules. And do mind the commercial fishermen’s gear with the courtesy and care that is due a lot of time, effort and experience has gone into the setting of such traps and it is not the place of amateurs to interfere.

Anglers with young families might want to take a look at the IGFA website where some fun computer games have been installed to try to introduce the younger set into the angling world using something that they are probably already profoundly familiar with.

These can be found on the Internet at http://www.igfa.org/Fun/Games.aspx. While they may not be a substitute for the excitement and healthy activity that comes from actually going fishing they can some land-based entertainment and, at least, a fleeting illusion of Tight lines!!!

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Published January 19, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated January 18, 2013 at 10:50 pm)

Bermuda waters facing a seaweed invasion

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