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Give Yourself a Break

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The fish are out there. Or more accurately, down there, out of sight. And while sometimes it’s just nice to get out and chase them around, striving to improve your chances of hooking up makes your time, fuel, and gear investments look a little more worthwhile. That’s where Mitch Roffer, PhD, comes in. Roffer founded Roffer’s Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service (ROFFS) to help take a chunk of guesswork out of anglers’ offshore fishing experience. And if you’ve got sea-surface temperature charts on your MFD, or are thinking about getting them, you need to know what Roffer has to say.

Here are three things you should know:

1. Taking the Temperature: The bite starts when the fish are in their comfort zone: If they don’t like the conditions, they’re on the move rather than feeding. “Fish have preferred habitats, so there are temperatures that they’re comfortable in, that allow them to enter in, and then feed,” Roffer says. “When it’s too cold, fish will totally leave the area. When it starts getting too warm, fish go down in the water column as well as moving north.” Roffer says you can key your fishing to when temps hit for game species: striped bass in the low 50s, mako sharks around 59 to 60, or the tunas at 60 to 72.

2. Color Code: Roffer points out that water has more than just temperature to recommend it to fishermen. “Not only is the water temperature itself important but the type of water—the origin of the water—is important too,” Roffer says. “And this is where we use the ocean color. We’re looking at the clarity of the water and the origin of the water, so if it’s obviously coming from the Gulf Stream because one can track it day after day, while following the signature temperature of the water.” He equates it to an experienced radiologist reading an X-ray. You may see color patterns, but until you learn what they mean, the finer gradations will be lost on you.

2. Break Time: Roffer notes that the edges between water of different temperatures are the key. “Once the fish are in the area, they concentrate in areas where there is a concentration of food,” Roffer says. “And we have learned that these occur where one can find a stable water-mass boundary, which is in many cases defined by a relatively strong sea surface temperature change that has been sitting over some good bottom structure for three or four days.” It’s not something you can understand just by looking at a sea-surface temperature chart. You need to watch the developing situation—it’s a movie rather than a snapshot. Think of it like watching a single image from a weather map, and then watching the animated video loop of the weather pattern. You can predict what’s going to happen much more effectively. ROFFS does this analysis while you’re at your job or attending to other things, watching the water movement and noting promising locations.

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