Food chain can serve as a lesson to us all

Published: Thursday, April 10, 2014 at 02:10 PM.

What does fishing mean to me? Fishing is not a sport to me, it is not a pastime, it is not a hobby, it is not a choice. To me, fishing is communing with nature and connecting myself to this big round ball we call Earth and the universe in general. Fishing makes me calm. Fishing makes me more aware of nature. Fishing makes me stop and think about how everything is connected to everything else. Time stops and is irrelevant when I am fishing (just ask my wife). This “connection” I feel isn’t solely restricted to fishing. When I am parenting, gardening and hunting I have these same thoughts. The “Butterfly Effect” in my opinion is real and destiny is not.

To be more specific on these words, I will explain. Upon leaving the inlet in mid May I notice a small flock of terns are working and dipping into the water just offshore. Yes this is a signal that there are some fish there, but let’s thinks about why those terns are working. Terns eat small minnows called glass minnows, but terns cannot dive bomb a school of minnows like pelicans can. The glass minnows are swimming around feeding on plankton. The bonita, Spanish mackerel and bluefish in turn feed on the glass minnows, we in turn feed on the predator fish. These predator fish like the bonita, Spanish and blues will swim around and around a spread out group of minnows and bunch them up into a tight ball. The predator fish start rocketing up through the school of minnows with their mouths open. Most of the time they (the predator fish) are not striking at a single minnow but just blasting through the school hoping to score at random. The predator fish know if they drive the minnows to the surface the minnows cannot go any further and thus are easier prey. This creates an opportunity for the terns to have a meal of either whole jumping glass minnows or bits and pieces that are just lying around from the predator attacks. This affords us at the top of the food chain (while we are inside the boat anyway) to locate our prey. We motor up to the war that is raging on the surface and cast our lure. Since our lure kind of resembles the glass minnows but is swimming funny and looks a little different the lure becomes easy prey for the predator fish. We are then hooked up and become part of the food chain. We also need to realize that there are some fish that are smarter than the young whipper snappers zipping around on the surface. In many cases (not all) the bigger lazier fish just hang below and wait for the scraps to fall to them so they do not have to burn the calories it would take to chase down their meal.

If you will notice this is a lesson in the food chain. What happens if one link is removed? Next week for we will think about what would happen if all the plankton died off and how this connects us all together. The Butterfly Effect. Google it.

Tight lines and fair winds


Capt. Chris Medlin is a third-generation tackle shop owner and charter captain. He makes his home on Topsail but loves fishing all over. Most of the time you can find him at East Coast Sports in Surf City or just contact him through his website at

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