Fronts also play an important part in a fish's world. Their lateral lines sense the increase or decrease in pressure brought on by a frontal passage. A dropping pressure most surely means winds and storms which cloud the water, making feeding more difficult. Many biologists attribute heavy feeding activity prior to the passage of a front to that fact. These are daily occurrences, and the effects can be predicted on a pretty regular basis.
What I am seeing, and I have seen it more over the last three or four years, is a slow migration of fish to a more northerly latitude. We catch fish in North Florida these days that are not known to be native to the area. On one summer trip, my son and I caught a limit of mangrove snapper in the one to two pound range. These snapper are warm water species, seldom found inshore in any numbers north of Sebastian Inlet. The fish we caught were thirty miles upstream in the St. Johns River system. Live shrimp caught not only these snapper, but flounder, seatrout, and largemouth bass, all under and around the same docks.
My analysis indicates two reasons for these fish to be where they are right now. First, a drought has been in place for a number of years, eliminating rainfall in and around the St. Johns River basin. That means the sea water can ride the tide further upstream. Salinity measurements are higher today than they have been in many years. That explains the saltwater fish so far upstream. But it does not explain subtropical species being so far north.
These snapper, snook, and record numbers of tarpon can be found everywhere in North Florida. Rare catches of snook in the St. Johns in the past were attributed to fish coming through intrusion dams or being released into the river in the Melbourne and Cocoa area. But, lately, numerous catches are being reported on a regular basis in the river. The night fishing around the Bridge of Lions in St Augustine is approaching Sebastian Inlet proportions. Tarpon have been thick in the St. Augustine inlet, feeding in the huge schools of mullet. The mullet are lingering longer before making their migration to the south.
All of this points to weather changes, and global warming, whether real or not, is a convenient and popular explanation. Whatever the cause, warmer water means new fish, and we will need to adjust our approach to catching them.
This same phenomenon is occurring on rivers and inlets all the way up the US coast. Those of you in more northern states can see the subtle changes if you pay attention. Fish stay a little longer into cooler weather before migrating. They show up in the spring a little earlier. Baitfish are everywhere.
Is this the sign of future warming? I don't have that answer, but I do know that fishing is as good as it has been in a long time, and I plan to make every adjustment I can to take advantage!
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