Understanding what a reset does with many of our species will assist fishermen in fishing smarter and often enhance productivity.
Throughout the season, fishermen are faced with weather events that hinder our time on the salt. High winds associated with fronts, pressure gradients or minor storms are a part of nature. If these winds are reasonably substantial, corresponding sea conditions keep most vessels tethered to the dock or on the trailer. Only the hardiest of the beach, bridge and bulkhead bunch brave these garbage conditions. While weather scenarios can hamper fishing efforts in the short term, they can have highly beneficial long term affects. Experienced anglers recognize what can be termed as a “reset button” on the fishing scene that can either help or hurt their productivity. Understanding what a reset does with many of our species will assist fishermen in fishing smarter and often with enhanced productivity.
Striped bass anglers are often big winners from a reset button! In recent fall bass campaigns, I recall a week-long blow that cranked at 25 to 30 mph daily accompanied by a 6-foot seas. The waters I fish were pretty much devoid of striper activity, save for the occasional schoolie pod. After the wind, the same waters seemed instantly alive with a push of sea-lice-laden linsiders. Even though boat fishermen stayed largely at home for a week, the Mother Nature’s reset button brought the bass to my playing field. Barometric plunges, blustery winds combined with rough seas can send fish miles along their journey. It can bring them closer to the beach, into the estuaries or even out to the canyons (nobody wants that). If a full or new moon match up with a weather occurrence, the odds of a population shift is even more likely. When the early stages of the striper run enters each area, there’s a chance a weather event can usher in the big cows that are often on the lead edge. On the flip, if schools of personal bests are already present in an area, a prolonged weather event can shuffle them along leaving fewer cows and more schoolies behind.
Bottom fishing may also improve dramatically after weather pushes through. Fluke will often move around after weather pushes through and other summer flounder that were stationed in nearby may swim in from neighboring habitat and replace some fish that may have left. It’s a big shake-up which is especially beneficial after they’ve been pounded and picked through for days on end. Anglers would be smart to use this reset button to target hotspots that may have dried up or become mostly throw backs on recent outings. Other species such as cod, haddock and ling can operate similarly in their tendency to either move or replenish after a prolonged blow.
Moderate swells and winds are acceptable, but large heaves associated with tropical storms or hurricanes are the opposite. They create fluke lockjaw for days as outings following these systems almost never produce good catches. And if the storms take place in mid-August or later, there is a chance a decent percentage of the population will migrate to the continental shelf earlier than normal.
Tautog and sea bass are territorial species that don’t often change their lairs and dwellings. But a major shift in weather can move fish around the rockpiles and wrecks they live in. Blackfish that get hammered hard by the fleet will hunker down within and tighter to structure during weather. But when they come back out following a swift current situation, they often do so in different areas of the same structure allowing anglers to target quality fish over once picked-over areas.
Pelagic species such as tuna, mahi and marlin can miraculously show up in popular offshore spots following a big swell and they can also be sent on their way when another weather system enters the pattern. Sometimes anglers win and sometimes they lose when Mother Nature hits the reset button.
As I wrap this story up, Hurricane Ian’s seemingly weeklong wind and rain affects have finally passed and a surge of cow bass have moved into my waters two weeks ahead of their usual arrival along the beaches. There is no doubt this beast of a storm got the stripers on the move, once again emphasizing the importance of understanding the powers of nature’s reset button and how it can affect your fishing in the future.