Thursday, 22 January 2009

Cold fish

No matter how much you think you know about angling, nature and the fish will at times always prove you wrong. Saying that, the CELOCANT will stick his head above the parapet and no doubt be shot at, however, here goes.

Why do we not catch decent fish from the beach in the extreme cold weather? The reason is because the sea temperature drops. ‘Hang on’ I hear you say ‘they catch plenty of big fish in Norway and the Artic waters’. That is true, nevertheless, those fish live in deep water and the sea temperature alters very little over a period of time at those depths.

The shallow water from the beach is the first to drop in temperature after a cold snap. When this happens the worms tend to burrow deeper and become dormant. By not moving, they show less casts on the sand and the bait diggers find it increasingly difficult to provide for the anglers requirements (ask any tackle dealer). Also the cold affects the crustaceans; they either move to the deeper water or become inactive and go into semi-hibernation; generally hiding away out of the predators reach. With the lack of food the mature fish vacate the area in search of pastures new – normally deeper water.

As the larger predators move away this gives licence for the pesky tiddlers to compete for the food that is still showing. When the decent fish disappear there always seems to be an abundance of pin whiting. These juveniles are making the most of the situation without having to look over their shoulder or being eaten by their big brothers. Dabs, although part of the predators’ food chain, have the advantage of being able to lie flat on the bottom and are well camouflaged. They also do not seem to be overly influenced by the cold. Rockling, or slugs, are a different matter; they seem to thrive on cold weather; and with the lack of feeding competition from other fish, normally oblige the beach angler from getting a blank.

What causes the extra cold weather? High pressures that hang over Britain in the winter months will circulate the wind in a clockwise direction around them. This wind will touch the artic and Scandinavian countries bringing in their coldness. Its journey across the North Sea does little to warm it up. When it hits our coast it is from the north or east and as the saying goes ‘when the winds in the east, the fish bite least’ (not always!). These high pressures tend, if they are stable and strong enough, to stop other weather fronts from moving them. With the prolonged cold wind the inshore sea temperature drops and the decent fish go. Most humans do not feel the pressure change (yet the mercury in a barometer rises), however, that does not mean to say that the fish underwater cannot – and maybe it changes their feeding habits. Needless to say when we get a low pressure the wind circulates in an anti-clockwise direction and normally comes from the south or west. Coming off the land, the wind warms up, and fishing will start to improve (eventually).

The severe winter of 1963 (see my post ‘January 1963’) created cold northerly/easterly winds that started to freeze the sea along the shoreline at Sandwich and Pegwell Bay. This wind carried on for at least two months and the fish became impossible to catch. The probable reason for this was they had the sense to vacate the area completely. Those that didn’t were washed up frozen along the shore line. From the beginning of January 63 there was not a single fish caught from the beach until March.

So what can we conclude from all of this:
Fish do not like the sudden cold temperature change in shallow water.
Their natural feed also suffers from the cold and is not available.
High pressures could have some influence on the fishes metabolism.

As I said at the beginning of this post, the fish and nature will always prove you wrong and this is only my theory, however, what do you think?