This is the coldest danged summer since heck was a pup — a cold pup. Cool weather and cold upwelling offshore combine to allow the cold water current running down the coast from the north to win the annual push-pull contest with the warm water current flowing up the coast from the south. What does it mean to the critters of the sea?
With water temperatures in the high 50s, barely breaking 60 degrees instead of the normal mid-60s, surface fishing action such as bonito, barracuda and yellowtail is nonexistent locally. This is a tale of Woe for those of us who wait (im)patiently all year for the sizzling surface gamesters of late summer.
Calico bass fishing — a popular pastime of local anglers — is fair and sometimes really good, but its consistency can be an issue. These well-revered bass lower their activity levels and therefore their dietary needs when water temps are low, so they survive times such as these. But this will be a slow-growth year for them.
The Wow side of the equation is all about groundfish, which react very favorably to cold nutrient-rich waters. This is expected to turn out to be one of the best “recruitment” — referring to big fish making baby fish — years in a long while. This is on top of fairly good recent recruitment years.
We’re already seeing high numbers of juvenile rockfish, which we carefully release to grow bigger. Add copious quantities of new babies from this year’s crop of youngsters and we’re looking at a dramatic increase of rockfish, which are already plentiful. Fishing for groundfish has a bright future, thanks to natural cycles.
Those natural cycles may bring us Woes for some fish, but Wows for others. In the multiyear and sometimes multidecade natural cycles we all live through, there are great periods for nearly all critters. Meanwhile, others survive the lean times, like us humans are surviving the lean economic times.
Our favorite critters we like to visit seem to be doing fine. I’m seeing great quantities of forage fish (sardines and mackerel, for example), and the various marine mammals that feed on them appear to be foraging comfortably in the colder waters. We’re also seeing plenty of whales, sea lions and dolphin.
There are plenty of reasons to cast off and go on a seafaring adventure, although you might scratch surface gamefish from your list of expectations — unless the cycle reverses and the warm water current wins the battle for the remainder of the season. It could happen.
— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help.