Angler’s Angle: The Scoop on the Loop
It’s fascinating to think about a natural force located hundreds of miles away being the driving force for fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. It makes much more of an impact on fishing than any boat, captain, crew, lure, or bait. It’s massive in size. It ranges yearly from one hundred to two hundred miles long. It’s a half-mile deep, yet invisible to the naked eye and for a long time, unknown to most.
What is it? It’s the Loop Current, and you most likely did not even realize how it helped you or your charter boat captain catch a fish. Or how it kept you from having a successful day of catching on the water.
Tom Hilton of the popular Hilton’s RealTime Navigator, an offshore satellite fishing forecasting and mapping service, explains how this phenomenon impacts all of us who love to head offshore.
“The Loop Current is a huge downwelling cyclone, which is constantly pulling nutrient-rich water and currents downward in a clockwise pattern. This creates an environment devoid of the essentials needed for marine life,” said Hilton. “But for every action, there is an opposing reaction. As the Loop Current pulls the nutrient-rich water down, that water and current have to go somewhere and that somewhere is where you want to fish!”
Using satellite imagery for boats chasing pelagic species such as Marlin, Tuna, Wahoo, and Mahi-Mahi along the Gulf Coast is as common today as checking the offshore forecast before a trip. Gone are the days of blindly leaving your homeport ‘hoping to find the pretty water.’ Captains today know exactly where that water is before ever untying at the dock.
As we all look for anything good to say about the year 2020, one positive is that the loop current came in about as close to the Gulf Coast as it ever does, which led to a great fishing season.
“Let’s use Perdido Pass in Orange Beach, a central point along the Gulf Coast, as a reference. The Loop Current was within about 185 miles of the pass. That’s close, and as a result, we saw great fishing in 2020,” said Hilton. “Some years, it doesn’t get within 300-400 miles of our area.”
The Loop Current is so vast that while it may be 200 miles from shore, it spins off those warm water currents that bring beautiful, bountiful water in close. That’s when the fishing can get red-hot in the cobalt blue water with the ultimate Gulf of Mexico gamefish, the Blue Marlin being caught as close as just thirty miles offshore.
“Warm water, counter-clockwise eddies are spun off the Loop Current creating upwelling cyclones that are continually bringing nutrient-rich water to the surface. Those waters create the very beginning of the food chain offshore. Bringing with it fish that have been traveling in these currents from hundreds of miles offshore to being within reach of our Gulf Coast fishing boats,” explained Hilton.
Like everything else, offshore fishing has dramatically changed with the use of technology. Services such as Hilton’s provides anyone headed offshore a glimpse of real-time conditions whether they are running a 70′ sportfishing yacht or a 26′ center console. Captains plan their trip by piecing together all the puzzle parts of information.
Water color, sea surface temperature, moon phase, major and minor feeding times, currents, and historical data are important factors when planning a trip. These factors not only influence where boats will spend their day fishing, but these nautical nuggets also give clues as to where not to go!
“For so many of us, our time on the water with family and friends is limited. So when we get a chance to head offshore, we want to try to stack the odds in our favor as much as possible for having a successful trip,” said Hilton.
It looks like 2021 could be shaping up to be another banner year offshore. The Loop Current is already moving closer to us than it historically does at this time of the year. Hopefully, that’s one tide that doesn’t change from 2020.