El Niño is a term that refers to an ocean event characterized by warmer waters. The warm water pushes north from the equator and with it comes the opportunity to catch warm-water species of fish not normally found off California waters. Scientists are predicting that 2014 could actually be a Super El Niño. A similar event hasn’t happened in over a decade.

San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Ed Zieralski recently attended San Diego’s Day At The Docks. DATD is an annual festival where the public has the opportunity to get on sportboats and talk to the captains and crews.  Zieralski talked to several long-time sportboat captains to get their thoughts on the upcoming season.

2012 Orange County dorado
2012 Orange County dorado

El Niño, mention the oceanic phenomenon to ocean fishermen and watch their eyes light up.

El Niño is the name given to an event that warms sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and changes weather. In addition to bringing much-needed rain to Southern California, it also brings exotic fish to San Diego’s doorstep, starting with albacore in the spring. Our last big El Niño was in 1997-98, and that just so happens to be the years that albacore showed again in big numbers off San Diego. They had been missing for nearly a decade, but when sport fishermen out of San Diego boated 36,429 longfins in 1997 and nearly doubled that in 1998 with 60,028, it signaled the start of six straight years of very good albacore fishing. It peaked in 2002 with 239,801 tasty albacore caught by the San Diego-based sport fleet. The fleet’s last big year on albacore was in 2007 when 37,446 were boated.

But with scientists predicting a “monster El Niño” forming this year that could rival the 1997-98 and 1982-83 El Niños, it’s no wonder that Day at the Docks producer Catherine Miller found captains and landing personnel in a better mood this spring. Miller met with many of the captains and landing personnel in recent weeks as she prepared for the 35th annual Day at the Docks, the fleet’s one-day celebration of the sea and fishing that is set for Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. along the sportfishing waterfront in Point Loma.

Photos: Pacific Queen Sportfishing (top); SoCal Salty (above)