The Scoop on the Loop
Gulf Shores & Orange Beach
It’s amazing to think about a natural force, located hundreds of miles away as being the driving force for fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. It makes much more of an impact than any boat, captain, crew, lure or bait. It’s between one hundred and two hundred miles wide, 2,600 hundred feet deep and nearly invisible to the naked eye. It’s the Loop Current and you may not even realize how it helped you catch a fish or kept you from catching one.
Tom Hilton of the popular Hilton’s Realtime-Navigator, an offshore satellite fishing forecasting service predicted back in the spring that this year might be a challenge to find blue water without making very long runs to do so. He was right! The ‘pretty water’ remained far offshore all summer and never provided much of a chance to fish the normal in close spots around the hundred fathom curve.
The Loop Current is the driving factor that determines the currents in the Gulf of Mexico. This year it spent most of the year abnormally far south until recently returning to its more normal position. “The Loop Current is a huge downwelling cyclone, which is constantly pulling nutrient-rich water and currents downward in a clock-wise 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 be fishing!”
Warm water, counter clock-wise eddies are spun off the Loop Current creating upwelling cyclones that are continually bringing that nutrient-rich water to the surface. Those waters create the very beginning of the offshore food chain, from microscopic organisms all the way up to the apex predators of the Gulf.
It would be nearly impossible to gather that information without the use of satellites, that’s why so many of us rely on services such as Hilton’s when planning an offshore trip. Hiltons provides an altimetry map, which shows where the upwelling (nutrient-rich) and downwelling current (nutrient-poor) areas are located. Altimetry is the first piece of information I consider when heading offshore, as it not only gives me an insight on where to go but just as importantly, the areas to avoid.
Right now there are two upwelling cyclones in the Gulf that are producing very favorable fishing conditions. One is located way down around Independence Hub, about 130 nautical miles from Perdido Pass, but the other one I have my eye on is much more reachable for most of us on a fall fishing day trip. “A little Southwest of the Elbow is a beautiful eddy which should make the rigs like Beer Can, Petronius and Ram Powell all very fishy,” according to Hilton.
Hilton says we should also see better water than we have seen all summer all the way up to places like the Nipple and 131 Hole. “The water may not be cobalt blue there like it is at some of the rigs, but it will be blue-ish green and plenty fishable. Another important part of the offshore equation is current. Right now, there is a good, strong current up there which is needed to spur on the bite.” said Hilton.
Pelagic species like tuna, wahoo, dolphin and billfish are always on the move to find their desired conditions. They know instinctively where to go, whereas we may need a little more guidance to find those same conditions, like using today’s satellite technology.