Saturday, November 04, 2006

Caplin rule the summer...from under the shadow of my kayak.

As the days become longer and the icy waters begin the long climb up to a reasonable temperature ...something is stirring. With sea birds periodically pitching into the water, and whales blowing off shore and then cruising a beach as if looking for something...well, they are....they know that any day now, the caplin will return.

These tiny 7" fish will school on mass and head into the bays to spawn. They will wait for the tide and the water temperature to be just right. Then they will move...They will spend an evening or two, over a few weeks, riding up onto the beaches and spawn on mass. The waves will be alive with silver flashes of fish as they squirm and wriggle to hold on the beach. They deliver the next generation of food for almost anything larger then they are, in the waters for this part of the world. A wave will come back in and they are gone. When the caplin 'roll in', it is common practice to head for a beach with a small dip net in hand. As for the right water temperature, I've also had fisherman tell me that they believe, if such conditions are right, that the caplin will spawn at the surface of the water if need be. Funny, but for a fish that is so important to this ecosystem, we know very little about it. We know they gather in groups in so many schools, that in would be impossible to count. We know that from early June until mid August, they can come onto bays at various times all along the east coast and around the rest of the island. Usually they only hit a beach once, but some have been known to be revisited weeks later. These schools can range in size from a few cubic meters across, to ten acres. Some years they are early, other years late. Sometimes the fish are large, and other years half the size. Once they leave the bays in the late summer, it is believed they head out for the plankton rich Atlantic waters between here, Greenland and Iceland. But except for the few summer months in our waters, for the rest of the year, we have no real firm idea as to where they actually go, or even if they stay in these large schools.

One thing is for sure...that every whale, dolphin, seal, squid, seabird and cod (almost all fish species) travel to this coast line, and hug it's shores, feeding and gorging itself on these small fish for the better part of the summer months. If it was not for this tiny fish, then the whales, the great seabird colonies and an inshore fishery....would never exist like this.


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