GIMME A BREAK!: UNDERSTANDING TEMPERATURE BREAKS
locating temperature breaks can be one of the most important keys to finding
and catching pelagic saltwater game fish. These "breaks" are actually notable
divisions or "walls" between two distinct areas of water that vary in
temperature by anywhere from one to a few degrees.
While novice anglers tend to focus mostly on more obvious visual signs to determine where and when to fish, veteran saltwater anglers know to seek out temperature breaks, which often hold schools of bait and the larger predators that feed upon them. Here are some useful tips for finding temperature breaks and using them to improve your angling success.
What Makes the Breaks?
In simple terms, temperature breaks occur when colder oceanic water currents converge with stretches of warmer water. Such areas typically play host to big schools of bait, as well as opportunistic game fish in search of an easy meal. A sudden change of a degree or two along a break can cause large numbers of fish to congregate. With this in mind, an angler's ability to locate temperature breaks (or lack thereof) can mean the difference between a successful outing and an empty fish hold.
Baitfish tend to hang out on the warm water side of a temperature break, crossing the line at will to feed in the body of colder, more plankton-rich water on the other side. Game fish, such as marlin, sails, tuna, sharks and dorado (dolphin), are drawn toward these breaks primarily because the bait schools are there. The predators spend most of their time on the warmer side of a break, venturing across into the colder side and back again as necessary to "herd," capture and devour their prey. In effect, the temperature break is like a giant "buffet table" for the larger pelagics - and there's often a long line of "diners" on hand to take part in the feast.
How to Find Temperature Breaks
Most experienced saltwater anglers first obtain detailed satellite charts and current fishing reports (available at various sites online) to get basic data on where temperature breaks have formed over the last couple of days. Useful information can also be obtained from up-to-date phone in fishing reports, and of course, through other private boaters. Armed with this information, anglers searching for temperature breaks can set a course for the most likely areas, and then try to pinpoint the location of the breaks with electronic temperature gauges. Generally speaking, the more dramatic the temperature change along the break, the better. If you detect a line that varies a degree over a distance of a quarter mile or so, this may be a good place to fish. If the variance is two degrees or more, however, the break will be even more likely to produce. Temperature breaks can come in the form of a long straight "line," or they can form a more circular pattern. The circular patterns form "pockets" of warmer water surrounded by colder water (typically appearing like a whirlpool or eddy on a satellite map). While either type of break can hold fish, these pockets are often veritable "honey-holes" when it comes to attracting schools of bait and opportunistic saltwater predators.
Look for the Indicators
Always stay on the lookout for the tell signs of life near a temperature break, such as baitfish activity and surface-feeding game fish. Typically, there is a distinguishable change in water color along a break. The colder water will appear somewhat green, while the converging body of warmer water will be a darker blue. This sometimes forms a visible line that is detectable with the naked eye. Wearing high quality polarized sunglasses, however, such as those made by Costa Del Mar, can make it easier for anglers to spot these sudden changes in water color. When searching for a temperature break, be sure to also keep an eye for floating paddies or floating grass/weeds that may be holding game fish. Watch as well for other possible indicators that a temperature break (and fish) are nearby, including: circling birds; "nervous" surface water (which usually indicates frightened schools of bait); or even a slick of "oil" on the surface caused by predators feeding on bait in the vicinity.
You've Found the Break, Now Locate the Bait
Finding a temperature break alone may not be enough to ensure fast fishing action; you may need to find the exact location of the bait in the area. For this reason, it's important to have a hiqh quality fishfinder on board. If your sounder has an audible temperature alarm, set it to alert you when you cross an area where there is a distinct variance in water temperature. Then troll along temperature break using a "zig-zag" trolling pattern, moving back and forth along the line where the colder and warmer waters meet. While doing so, be sure to monitor your display carefully for any marks. If you come across a school of bait, there's a good chance you'll experience a jig strike from a nearby predator right away. If you don't hook up immediately, try "yo-yoing" the iron, or dropping down a live bait on the spot. One way or another, you should be able to drum up some action within this zone.