Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014
The Roosterfish Foundation . . .
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
A Baja Adventure of TITAN proportions

Hot water: El Niño or conspiracy theory?
The day after my article, "Even-numbered year produces odd catches in the Sea of Cortez," was published in Western Outdoor News, I received an email from my friend, Graham J. Clarke who winters at the East Cape RV Resort in Los Barriles, BCS. Owned by another of my friends, Theresa Comber, this is where I, too, hang out when I'm in the area.

His e-mail began, "I caught this dorado on the fly a hundred yards north of Martin Verdugo's Beach Resort. I'm the Englishman staying in the East Cape RV with Theresa Comber. She and other folks in the park tell me that it is a rare occurrence to catch a dorado from the shore, let alone with a fly. I know you have been in Baja for many years, so I'm asking you, the man of knowledge, is it?"

ODD CATCHES BY Graham J. Clarke and Lance Peterson keep the unusual string alive.

I promptly replied, “To catch a dorado from shore on any tackle is unusual. On fly it very seldom happens; I honestly can only remember five anglers who have caught them on a fly in my 40 years of traveling in Baja. Congratulations for a remarkable catch!” … and I filed his story in a Roadtrekker folder for a future column.

Following that e-mail was one from Lance Peterson, Baja flyfishing guide and friend. "In my experience, dorado from shore is not rare here in BCS, but it's certainly uncommon for fly anglers. Great catches from shore on the fly require dedication and skill. A bit of good fortune doesn't hurt either."

Two weeks later, Graham caught another one, in precisely the same place as before … hmmm.

This time Graham commented, "I have been fishing the shore since the end of October; mornings at first light, and evenings for the last hour, from the lighthouse to the north of Los Barriles and there has been nothing. It has been as though everything had gone — no lady fish, jacks, small roosters nor any fish that make shore fishing good here in the winter. It has been a strange season!"

Then a few days before the end of March, this appeared by Ed Zieralski in the San Diego Union-Tribune; “91-pound opah gaffed in San Diego Bay, Rare, but tasty giant swam in front of Fisherman's Landing before Brandon Buono gaffed it.”

I hadn't even read the story before the following popped up in my IM from Chris Wheaton, WON contributor. "So here is another idea for an article. The opah, a couple of dorado have beached themselves, and that louvar found swimming around confused? … all connected somehow?"
The hot water, El Niño or is it a conspiracy? Yikes, what is going on? Again, I added that to my Roadtrekker file.

At the Fred Hall Fishing Show, Del Mar, Jonathan and Jill Roldan, Tailhunter International, couldn't stop talking about the phenomenal but weird winter season they were experiencing. "Our clients have been catching typically summer species, billfish, dorado and wahoo all winter,” Jonathan, WON Columnist, reflected.

I began to believe that maybe all this
El Niño chatter was significant. Still at the show, William Decker stops and asks if I've ever heard of a trevally being caught in the Sea of Cortez. I believe so and offer to check my files to confirm where and when … more fodder for the now bulging Roadtrekker file.

After the show, before I could research Decker's question. Peterson posts a photo of a bluefin trevally he caught on a fly from a Baja beach.
"After many years of fly fishing the surf in Baja California Sur, I've come to expect an unusual catch now and then. However, this particular species, a bluefin trevally, came as a complete surprise!” said Peterson.

All right already. The conspiracy theory is tough to prove. So let's start with "
El Niño" and who else better than my friend, Chris Dunn, WON's own Fishing Weatherman and blogger on

I asked him, "With the unusually high sea temps in the Sea of Cortez throughout this past winter, there have been a number of odd or unusual catches. Blue trevally, louvar off Loreto, many of the usual summer species, wahoo, dorado, striped marlin and billfish off of Cerralvo, etc., and last but not least, the 91-pound opah in San Diego Bay. Is there a possibility that these occurrences could be influenced by an
El Niño?"

Dunn answered, "That opah in S.D. bay was pretty bizarre. Sailfish, wahoo and dorado off Cerralvo through the winter? Impressive."

“I'd say the “developing”
El Niño is not having any impact on these unusual occurrences because El Niño hasn't developed yet!" He explained. "I think that it’s more likely a result of the local/regional weather and water conditions rather than the larger-scale impact typically seen with El Niño."

For his more detailed answer:

Ah ha! His answer seems to dismiss the "
El Niño" theory, which Jeff Gannon, Terrafin SST-View, confirmed.

"Temps off Baja Sur and all the way up into the Sea of Cortez look to be a couple of degrees warmer than usual right now in most areas. That’s been the pattern all winter - even in January and February."

This left me with ‘the Sea of Cortez never cooled off” as the closest answer. But my question remains: How many more odd catches may turn up in this even-numbered year?


There is a 50 percent chance of
El Niño developing during the summer or fall.

ENSO-neutral continued during February 2014, with below-average sea surface temperatures (SST) continuing in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean and above-average SSTs increasing near the International Date Line. Toward the end of the month, strong low-level westerly winds re-appeared over the western equatorial Pacific. Convection was suppressed over western Indonesia and the central equatorial Pacific (Fig. 5). Collectively, these atmospheric and oceanic conditions reflect ENSO-neutral.

The model predictions of ENSO for this summer and beyond are relatively unchanged from last month. Almost all the models indicate that ENSO-neutral (Niño-3.4 index between -0.5°C and 0.5°C) will persist through the rest of the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014 (Fig. 6). While all models predict warming in the tropical Pacific, there is considerable uncertainty as to whether
El Niño will develop during the summer or fall. If westerly winds continue to emerge in the western equatorial Pacific, the development of El Niño would become more likely. However, the lower forecast skill during the spring and overall propensity for cooler conditions over the last decade still justify significant probabilities for ENSO-neutral.
The consensus forecast is for ENSO-neutral to continue through the Northern Hemisphere spring 2014, with about a 50 percent chance of
El Niño developing during the summer or fall.


THIS SEA SURFACE temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean (above). El Niño is characterized by unusually warm temperatures and La Niña by unusually cool temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. Anomalies (below) represent deviations from normal temperature values, with unusually warm temperatures shown in red and unusually cold anomalies shown in blue.

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