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It is not just the winter weather that is to blame

File photograph by Akil Simmons

As must be clear to even the least observant landlubber there has been no sports fishing during this last little bit.

Even the commercial effort is down about as low as it ever goes and with little encouraging information coming ashore, the weekend warriors are likely to remain shore-bound awaiting better times.

Not that the time of the year really has all that much to do with it. In the course of every seven or eight days there is at least one period of sufficient calm to allow fishermen to get out in their boats.

This has at least allowed the commercial operators to service their lobster traps and to earn a living when, at best, they might only manage a day or so on the preferred fishing grounds.

So it really isn’t the normal pattern of winter weather that is to blame. Even allowing for periods of bad weather, there have been Februarys in the past that saw a run of wahoo down on the Banks that had numerous boats punching into a head sea all the way to Argus to get a piece of the action.

There were enough fish to go around and they were all sizeable.

Then there was the March some years ago that saw the start of a run of wahoo that went on for weeks. It was discovered, quite by chance, when a commercial boat decided to put in a few hours’ trolling effort along the South Shore only to find literally thousands of wahoo all too willing to please.

The schools eventually broke up but not before most of the fleet had followed their path around the Island and out to the Banks, inflicting heavy casualties on their numbers, much to the great joy of many fishermen and anglers.

So just what is it that is making even the most intrepid and dedicated anglers stay home. Surprising as it may seem, that El Niño phenomenon that seems to make the international news headlines on a daily basis has an impact on what happens here in the North Atlantic.

Thousands of miles in separation, the mid-Pacific and our part of the world share a single atmosphere and this has effects that can be incredibly far-reaching. To try and simplify matters, there is another climatic factor called the North Atlantic Oscillation or NAO.

Anyone looking to deeply enlighten themselves can find a huge amount of information on the internet relating to this, most of which is barely intelligible because it is primarily in “science-speak’.

In layman’s terms this is a relationship between a low pressure region over the North Atlantic Ocean and the Azores High with which all are familiar.

The strength of this oscillation, which is a fancy word for atmospheric pressure changes within a range, has a determining effect on the weather patterns in this part of the world.

Recent research shows that the changes to the atmosphere wrought by El Niño eventually have an effect on the pressures in this part of the globe.

Such atmospheric changes can help determine rainfall, land and sea temperatures and water movements. Even the likelihood of hurricanes is in some way linked to these complex systems.

Accepting that there are global weather changes and no one has to look beyond the newspaper or television news programmes to see that there are all sorts of strange happenings, it is almost inevitable that the atmospheric changes have some impact on the oceans.

Just by altering weather patterns, areas will be warmer or cooler than usual and that probably starts a whole sequence of events.

Just about everyone thinks that, one way or another, oceanic events must exert some influence on fish and their movements.

In fact, to keep things really simple, consider this: changes to ocean currents mean that the plankton which drift around are also moved around.

With plankton being the basis of the entire marine food chain, any changes to their concentration and location must have an impact on the entire food chain all the way up to the great predators which include the sharks, wahoo, tunas and billfishes.

While our understanding of these systems is poor, at best; it rapidly becomes clear that the substandard fishing that we have experienced over the last couple of years probably had less to do with our activities than trends on a far greater scale than anything our 21-square mile could even start to influence.

Having said that, there is no doubt that fishermen and anglers alike are hoping for a return to a situation that is somewhere nearer to normalcy.

A spring wahoo run, even a weak one, would be preferable to the dearth that characterised most of last year.

So might an influx of school-sized yellowfin; which, in turn, should attract numbers of marlin and so forth.

Fortunately, for us and for much of the world’s population, climatic extremes such as those being experienced at the present time are the exception rather than the rule.

With scientific debates over things like global warming still leaving us without any firm conclusions or ways to improve things, all we can hope for is for Nature to stabilise so we can go back to some Tight Lines!!!