By Capt. Joe Kent
If you are a regular surf fisherman or just love to swim in the surf I do not need to remind you of the unusual year we have had along the upper Texas Coast for seaweed. In fact, it has been the heaviest and longest infestation that anyone can recall and there are those in their late 80’s and 90’s who support that contention.
Each year beginning in the late spring a surge of seaweed or Sargassum Weed, as this variety is called, invades the beaches around Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula. Almost always the duration is not long.
Found mostly in the Atlantic Ocean and greatly concentrated in the Sargasso Sea, the Sargassum Weed’s name is a result of Portuguese sailors likening this ocean-dwelling species’ bladder’s appearance to small grapes called salgazo.
Sargassum weed gravitates toward milder, more temperate and tropical oceans and farther toward shallow bodies of water such as coral reefs. While some Sargassum weed attaches to the ocean floor, there are two species – the natan and the fluitan – that have become holopelagic, which means that they drift and migrate around the oceans and bodies of water throughout the world, though they are mostly concentrated in the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding bodies of water such as the Gulf of Mexico.
While it is difficult to think of any positive effects from this smelly nuisance, there are many.
The Benefits of Sargassum Weed
Sargassum Weed acts as a mobile transport habitat for a great variety of marine life and as sublime refuge for young fish that may lack mobility. When young fish find a safe haven in Sargassum weed, they are far more protected from the ocean’s predators, thus making it possible to survive to adulthood. These patches of seaweed as we call them provide shelter, food and a place where schools of fish may form, further protecting young fish and other marine life. Many species of marine life take refuge in the Sargassum Weed and travel thousands of miles with this floating habitat, seeking protection and survival. With the presence of all of these young fish in one location, large game often hover around, awaiting a shot at the young prey. All of this serves as a great boon for anglers, letting the large game fish come to them. Once Sargassum Weed has found its way to a shoreline, it can be culled and used as nutrient-rich fertilizer and compost for land-dwelling organisms as well.
The Fisherman’s Delight
Now that we see some of the benefits of our local seaweed or sargassum, let’s visit about how to take advantage of its presence. For surf fishermen, dealing with the frustrations of having to reel in your lines often and removing clumps from your hook is just a price to pay for the fish it potentially brings with it.
This year there have been more pelagic migratory fish caught in the surf than in many years and a big part of the reason is the seaweed they followed in. Triple tail, a common resident to weed lines and weed patches, have been caught in greater numbers all around the Galveston Bay Complex.
Ling, scamp grouper, and even species of sharks not normally found in the bays have been reported, all likely due to the seaweed infestation.
Offshore anglers are reporting outstanding action this season on a large variety of fish largely due to the food chain presented by all of the shelter created among the fields of seaweed in the Gulf.
August is in my opinion the best month for offshore fishing along the upper Texas Coast. Anglers able to make it 20 miles out and beyond should have a big concentration of Dorado, also known as Mahi-Mahi and Dolphin Fish, to go after.
Chicken Dorado, as the smaller variety are called, attack small bait with a vengeance and this year, on a good day, fishermen focusing on weed lines and patches should mop up on them.
One nice thing about Dorado is that there is no bag and size limit; however, with that being said, good stewardship dictates taking only as many as you, your family and friends will consume.
For tablefare, they are among the best fish in the ocean.
The specie reproduces prolifically and grows fast. Just wish we could say the same about red snapper.
Now, the next time you see those piles of seaweed, think Dorado! That is their habitat.