Does this mean El Nino is well on its way...or perhaps is already here? Not necessarily.
I still contend that our coastal waters never really cooled off during this past winter and tracking studies done on eastern Pacific bluefin and albacore (remember those?) show a certain portion of the population remains in the same general area throughout the winter. Remember the two 50# albacore caught on New Year's special on the Shogun this past winter?
The fish were still there! It's just that they may spend more time farther down in the water column, they may be just a little too far out of our range and normal winter weather prevents any sane mariner from straying too far from port. With the warmer water in place through the winter, perhaps the yellowfin never migrated as far away as they typically do.
Now, after having said all that, there are plenty of signs that El Nino is still DEVELOPING and will likely have some impact on our summer/fall fishing season. But more importantly, it has a significant impact on weather patterns. More often than not, the presence of El Nino during the winter months results in a wet, stormy pattern for the southwestern U.S. That's something we desperately need!
So why isn't this El Nino? Technically, to be considered a true El Nino, we look at sea surface temperatures (SSTs) along the Equator. The ranges are divided into regions: 1, 2, 3 & 4. The far eastern portion of that range, just off the coast of Peru and Equador, are known as ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) regions 1 & 2. Farther out in the middle of the Pacific are regions 3 & 4, the combination of which is known as region 3.4.
It's that "middleground region we look to for overall changes in the character of the water structure across the mid-Pacific to determine if El Nino really is taking shape or not.
A majority of the forecast models (simulations) project El Nino WILL happen this year.
The chart below shows the forecast in that region 3.4. Anything that is inbetween +.5 and -.5 is considered "neutral." +.5 or higher, for 5 consecutive overlapping 3-month seasons is where we find the official definition of El Nino.
The solid line shows where we've been for the past year: Neutral...until this spring when we started to show an upward trend.
The dashed line projects out a forecast "mean" value, which could be higher or lower, but nearly all members of this particular model indicate a moderate El Nino by the fall & winter.
To give you some perspective, the monster El Nino of 1997-98 had a maximum value of 2.4 on this scale. 1982-83 was a 2.2. 2009-10 had a max value of 1.6.
Of course, this is just ONE forecast model, but a big one could happen this winter. The way this particular El Nino is developing, and showing strong indications of developing, gives us more confidence in a forecast that will verify.
What will it mean for your fishing trip? Get out on the water and find out!