Gone Fishin’; El Nino to blame for many problems | SierraSun.com

Gone Fishin’; El Nino to blame for many problems

If you have been out fishing at all this spring, you have certainly noticed the cold, unsettled weather. According to the weather experts, we can thank El Nino for these conditions.

Over the three-day weekend, my family and I traveled south to the Monterey Peninsula to attend a wedding. During our trip, not only was the weather a little unsettled, but I experienced a couple of other apparent El Nino-related problems.

I lived on the Monterey Peninsula as a young adult, fresh out of college. While down there, I had some good fishing experiences. One of them occurred during the spring: squid fishing off the piers.

Having no experience with such fishing, a co-worker invited me along to give it a try. His only instructions to me were to wear old clothes, because it can be messy.

While not the most exciting fishing I have done, it was a fun experience. Schools of these squid would swarm around Fisherman’s Wharf and Municipal Pier, apparently attracted by the lights.

You use multiple hooks and jig them up and down to snag the squid, then drop them in a trash bucket.

The squid came to Monterey Bay during the spring to spawn. While not great sport, squid make great table fare. My kids are not too taken with the tentacles served with the fried squid at the restaurants; neither am I. The rings, or abalone-style squid, are really delicious.

Back to El Nino. They were having the Squid Festival the same weekend that we were down. It was not too good, however, because the squid had not come into the bay. Why? You guessed it, El Nino. It seems the warmer waters kept them away.

Friends had also told me that the squid fishing as we knew it in the ’70s changed when the Coast Guard rock jetty was put in place. Many locals thought this changed the migration pattern and fishing from the local piers has not been the same since.

At any rate, El Nino has warmed the waters off the bay to an extent that the commercial squid fishermen are finding very little to catch. For the commercial fishermen, it is unfortunate El Nino years typically just change the type of fish caught. This year, the fishing for Albacore was very good just offshore as an example. Albacore are not usually caught this far north.

Between the wedding and the reception, we took a walk along the wharf bike path and found a crowd at the beach west of Fisherman’s Wharf. Upon investigating, we found the excitement was due to a group from the Marin Mammal Center capturing an adult sea lion; not a real simple task.

A very large pet carrier is set with its door open. The animal is then headed into the carrier by about four volunteers with what appears to be large plywood shields. It seemed to work well enough for them to capture two sick animals.

In talking with the people from the mammal center, it seemed their feeling was some form of toxic chemicals were causing the illness.

They had a rash of reported sea lion illnesses south of Monterey several days before, and many of the sea lions had died. Until the toxicology reports were back, they would not know what caused the illnesses.

After getting back to Truckee, I happened to see a news report regarding the sea lion problem. The problem was not due to toxic chemicals, but rather the warm waters brought on by El Nino. Apparently there was not enough food.

That would seem to confirm why we did not see as many of these mammals as we had on our last trip, and why they were practically nonexistent this time.

The impact of El Nino is a very widespread occurrence. It seems no matter where we live or where we travel, we can find some impact in the area that relates to this change in the weather pattern.

We in the mountains are all too aware of the impact the weather can have on our local economy.

So, as those raindrops beat against your rooftop at night, just remember summer will get here sometime. When? According to most experts, summer will arrive sometime around mid-June.

Check the calendars, we are almost there.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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