Large catches of sole (Solea solea) were made in early 1996 from the south-western North Sea. Sole suffer physiological damage in waters below 3–4 C. In February 1996 cold water of 3–4 C unusually extended from the Continental coast onto the Dogger Bank. It is likely that the increased catches were due to the consequential distribution and behaviour of the sole, making them more susceptible to capture.
Exceptionally large catches of mature sole (Solea solea (L.)) were made in February 1996 by Lowestoft fishermen from the south-western North Sea. Surprisingly this was not welcome. The UK allocation of the North Sea sole is -4 % of the EU Total Allowable Catch (TAC), and fishermen are restricted nationally, and by the fishing companies, to a tightly managed ration. The Lowestoft Journal (8 March 1996) reported the suspension of a local fishing skipper for not throwing back 5000 kg of sole caught in the Silver Pits. We will show that the abnormal catches were due to exceptionally cold waters.
Sole in the North Sea are at the northern extremity of their range, with sole seldom living in waters below 5°C (Horwood, 1993). In fact, North Sea sole were successfully introduced into Lake Quarun, Egypt, where they lived in temperatures in excess of 30°C (El-Zarka, 1965). Young sole migrate from their shallow inshore nursery grounds, such as the Waddensea, as winter approaches (Creutzberg & Fonds, 1971).