Friday, October 12, 2012

The Shogun Returns

The Shogun team collecting bluefin moved into the second half of the trip focused on tagging bluefin and collecting bluefin and yellowfin tuna. They searched the ocean on the US side of the border and moved back and forth between the waters south of San Clemente Island and Mexican waters. During the day they connected with a large school of bluefin tuna that Captains Aaron and Cole were able to put the team on. Once there tagging commenced and approximately 30 fish were released. A new load of bluefin was collected with fish that were just ranged from 14-25 lbs. 40-50 lb fish were also mixed with the school. It was a great day of fishing, and an enthusiastic crew working together with the scientists managed to get all the tags out- and collect a load of fish for scientific study.

-Dr. Barbara Block

Ted Dunn owner of Shogun, Dr. Block and Chuck Farwell enjoying sunset on Shogun after a super day of tagging and collecting bluefin In October off the waters of San Diego! 

We could have tagged. 100 if we had only had tags!

The Shogun back in San Diego
Alex prepares to move bluefin from the hold

Moving fish
Bluefin swimming in the pool
The movers and the shakers - Nick, Ben, John and Dane

Thursday, October 11, 2012

5 for 5

Bluefin tuna circling before getting tagged

TAG Director Dr. George Shillinger, Robbie Schallert and Captain Dennis Cameron measuring a 259 cm bluefin

Dr. George Shillinger and Robbie Schallert discussing tagging operations

Guest angler Keith Brander battles a bluefin tuna

Dr. Shillinger deploys an acoustic tag

Final sunset over Northumberland Strait
Team Canada, including guest angler Keith Brander and Halifax native Naomi Pleizer, had another epic day on the water...5 hooked and 5 fish left the F/V Bay Queen IV with electronic tags. The bite happened around 2 pm with all three boats (Bay Queen IV, Carrie Anne and Nicole Brandy) simultaneously hooked up. The Bay Queen IV hooked two more fish just before sunset on a flat calm day in the Northumberland Strait.

-Robbie Schallert

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Shogun Expedition, October 7-8

The Tuna Research and Conservation Center team is on the Shogun in October this year- a bit of an unusual time for our bluefin tagging team. The trip started with an enthusiastic team of students, staff and post-docs. On board this year are Chuck and Barb, Stanford Graduate student Dane Klinger, Post-doc John Dale, Technicians, Ethan Estes and Alex North. The team on board is also composed of a trio of Stanford@SEA former undergraduates, Ethan, Laura Lilly and Nick Mendoza. Visiting scientists aboard from CICESE are Oscar, Ana and Maria from Dr. Tim Baumgartner’s and Axa Rocha lab to help in a collaborative research.  We fished to the south- and quickly got into to small spots of yellowfin tuna exactly of the right size we were looking for. This season we’re looking for fish to swim in our flume and starting out with a 15 lb tuna helps as the smaller 8-10 lb fish will occasionally turn around making the studies challenging.  We collected about 5 of this size and continued to the south. The conditions were a bit rough and never improved but the fish showed up bright and early the second day of fishing. We had a wonderful set of stops on kelps where the entire pelagic community was hanging out- with yellowtail, Mahi and yellowfin tuna. Petrels flew above and it was a super fun stop with lots of great fishing action and a loaded vessel with yellowfin. We’re heading back up the line to drop the fish off for truck transport back to the lab. We plan to collect and tag some bluefin tuna in the next few days.

-Dr. Barbara Block

Yellowfin tuna collected on the first leg of the trip

"Da Bumps"

Back on the water after another day of windy weather, we headed to a place known as “Da Bumps”, a shoaling area off Cape George, about a 1.5 hour run from Port Hood.  We started marking fish immediately, but our search was interrupted by a call from Captain Bernie Chisholm (Nicole Brandy), alerting us that he and his mates on the Nicole Brandy had a fish on!

Captain Dennis Cameron on the Bay Queen IV

Captain Dennis Cameron readies the squid rig
We stopped fishing and raced westward, in the direction of Fisherman’s Bank (see October 7 blog), to catch up with the Nicole Brandy. Approximately 45 minutes later, Captain Dennis Cameron pulled alongside the Nicole Brandy and we successfully transferred the first fish of the day to the Bay Queen IV. We opted to  deploy an acoustic tag on the 259 cm CFL fish and then quickly released her back into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. 

-Dr. George Shillinger
Tuna transfer form the Nicole Brandy to the Bay Queen IV

Craig Cameron reeling in a bluefin
Although the forecast called for diminishing winds, the winds increased steadily through the afternoon.  We headed back towards the “Da Bumps”, scanning the sea for diving gannets and steadily marking large fish.

Dr. George Shillinger and Robbie Schallert

We finally hooked up again around 5:00 p.m. but lost the fish to a pulled hook about thirty minutes later. 
Inspired by numerous marks on the scanner, registering fish from 40-60’, we opted to give the tuna one more try.  We headed back to the exact same spot where we hooked the second fish and hooked up immediately – only to lose another fish (again to a pulled hook) right at the rail.

Almost there...
That was enough fishing for October 8. We headed home, arriving back at the docks around 8:00 p.m. For now, tomorrow’s marine forecast looks very promising – winds < 10 kts…could be a great day!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fisherman's Bank

After a lengthy stay on shore due to bad weather, the TAG team went out to Fisherman's Bank on Friday and had another very productive day. Dennis Cameron's Bay Queen IV was the tagging boat and Bernie Chisholm on the Nicole Brandy and Steve McGinnis on the Carrie Anne were the catch boats. Located near the coast of Prince Edward Island, Fisherman's Bank is a 2.5 hour trip from our home port of Port Hood, Cape Breton Island - so it was a long day as we left the harbor at 6 am and returned at 9 pm. Bluefin tuna aggregate on the bank to feed on schools of spawning herring at this time of year. After the herring complete this annual ritual, they move off the bank and so do their predators.

-Dr. Steven Wilson

Dennis Cameron aboard the Bay Queen IV.
Bernie Chisholm aboard the Nicole Brandy.
Steve McGinnis aboard the Carrie Anne.
Troy Cameron fights a bluefin on the tagging boat.
Winds were light and it was a beautiful day. Four large fish (273-284 cm) were tagged with both a mini-PAT and an acoustic tag and a smaller fish (218 cm) was tagged with just an acoustic tag.

Dr Steve Wilson attaches electronic tags to a 284 cm giant Atlantic bluefin tuna.

-Dr. Steven Wilson

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hot Bite

Captain Steve McInnis and Captain Bernie Chisolm pass off  a tuna to the tagging boat
Lloyd McInnis fights a tuna while Pilot Whales swim past
Pilot Whale visits the tagging boat
Dr. Mike Stokesbury eye-to-eye with a bluefin tuna

Captain Dennis Cameron irrigates a bluefin tuna

Bluefin tuna  slides out the door with a pop-up and acoustic tag

After some bad weather, the TAG team hit the water and found the bluefin biting all day...the F/V Carrie Anne was hooked up before the tagging boat even got to the fishing grounds. It stayed hot all day with multiple hook-ups aboard both vessels...we will give it another try tomorrow!!

-Robbie Schallert

Friday, September 28, 2012

An Angler’s Perspective – Nova Scotia, Canada

Here is an angler's perspective from TAG supporter and bluefin enthusiast, Keith Brandner (Tenafly, New Jersey) regarding his recent experience angling for giant bluefin in Nova Scotia, Canada.

An Angler’s Perspective – Nova Scotia, Canada
I recently spent three days up in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, trying to catch a giant bluefin tuna. I had never been in Canada, let alone off in a remote town in Nova Scotia, so I had no idea what to expect.  All I had to base it off of was the volumes of stories from Zane Grey from back in the 70s, magazine articles, and the crazy reports from the captain. I cannot even express how many text messages and emails I received saying: “Hammered ‘em again today, buddy! After we released our fish we sat there and just hand fed them for the rest day…Man it doesn’t get old!” Needless to say, I was very excited.
Figure 1: tuna under the boat!
The ride out to the fishing grounds does not give much chance for the anticipation to build. As a Northeast canyon fisherman, I am used to 3+ hour motors out to the fishing grounds, so when the engines stopped just 15 minutes after they had roared to life, I could not help wonder if something was wrong. But nothing was wrong. In fact, everything was perfect! My nervousness about whether the fish had left between the captain’s last trip and this did not last very long – after about 30 seconds of throwing chunked-up herring into the wind-chopped, green water, a flash from below signaled that they had arrived.
I will remember my first glimpse of a giant bluefin tuna for the rest of my life. After years of hearing that these fish were “the size of a Volkswagen,” I learn that it is not an exaggeration. The flash from below, though moving very fast, was impossible to miss. The massive tuna, circling underneath the boat, was taking swipes at the herring chunks we were tossing overboard and slowing moving up the water column until it was crushing the chunks as they hit the surface of the water. It was an incredible sight.
Figure 2: The author fighting a tuna as the sun goes down!
When the captain finally asked if I was ready to catch one, it almost caught me off-guard. I was having so much fun just watching these fish swim, eating our bait next to the boat, that the thought of leaving it behind was almost sad. After a few more tosses, we decided it was time.
Figure 3: What an incredible fish!
It only took a few seconds before one of the huge fish took the bait and promptly took half of the spool with it.  Even 60 pounds of drag could not tame this fish. After about 45 minutes of battle, the fish finally rolled next to the boat. I found that one really cannot appreciate the truly incredible size of these fish until one gets to see them boat-side, clear as day. I could not believe it – I put my hand on the gill plate of the fish and found that my hand was just larger than the eye of the fish. 

Figure 4: I guess he's ready to go!
After some photos, the fish gave a strong kick to let us know that he was ready to be released. As it swam away, I could not help but wonder what was next for it. Would it continue feeding on the bank, or would it begin its journey down to the Gulf of Mexico to begin breeding? Or would it make the transatlantic journey to the Mediterranean Sea? I guess it is the wonder, intrigue, and amazement that keeps us coming back day after day and year after year. The next few days were just as good as the first. The fish continued to put on a show and just like the captain had said, it never got old. I cannot wait to go back again next year!

-Dr. George L. Shillinger

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

5 Bluefin Tagged on Day 2

Dr. Steve Wilson tags another giant bluefin in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence.
On Canada 2012's 2nd day on the water, we met a Canadian film crew out on Fishermen's Bank and they came aboard to document our tagging work. With 3 boat's fishing, it only took less than an hour before the F/V Nicole Brandy had hooked-up. Another was caught at lunchtime and 3 more were hooked late in the day alongside a herring boat hauling its net. The fish ranged in size from 222 to 283 cm. As we started heading back to Port Hood, sea conditions began to deteriorate and we would be kept ashore for several days.

-Dr. Steven Wilson

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Canada 2012

Dr. Steve Wilson inserts a Wildlife Computer mini-pat, while Captain Dennis Cameron irrigates the bluefin tuna's gills

The TAG-A-Giant team has descended on Cape Breton for the 2012 tagging season. The F/V Carrie Anne caught the first fish on Fisherman's Bank...a ~900lb bluefin. Dr. Steve Wilson and Dr. Mike Stokesbury quickly went to work inserting a satellite pop-up tag and an acoustic tag...the whole process from hook-up to release took under 22 minutes. We are heading back out tomorrow and look forward to a successful year!!

-Dr. George Shillinger
Director, Tag A Giant

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Salmon Shark Start

View from our Era flight from Anchorage to Cordova
Aerial view of a glacier

The shark team has descended on Cordova, Alaska to see if they can locate and tag Salmon Sharks...a warm-blooded cousin of the Great White which migrates over vast swaths of ocean. The team is led by Aaron Carlisle and his band of Stanford Shark researchers...Dr. Taylor Chapple, Dr. Adrian Gleiss, and Robert Schallert. It is truly amazing here in the Last Frontier...glaciers, mountains, animals and wonderful people. We leave bright and early aboard Alaska Fish and Game's R/V Pandalus...hopefully with good news to report in a couple days!!
-Robbie Schallert

Cordova Harbor at 9PM

R/V Pandalus

Sheridan Glacier

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thursday Triple Header

Common dolphin checks out the boat

Mating manta rays

Leaving the Inlet heading out to the fishing grounds

When it rains it pours...the team headed to the Gulf Stream a little later than normal because of the heavy fog in the morning. We trolled around for a couple hours on a flat calm day...basically water skiing weather...checking out the dolphins (hundreds of them), sharks, whales (humpback, sperm), and mating manta rays. Just when we almost forgot why we were on the water, three of our four lines went tight! Everyone grabbed a rod and the three bluefin were brought on board and given archival tags. The team topped the day off with an additional yellowfin and took advantage of the smooth ride back to the dock!

-Robbie Schallert

A Busy New Year for the Great Marlin Race

The past several months have witnessed some amazing outcomes for the Great Marlin Race (GMR) program, and 2012 is getting off to a fantastic start as well! Perhaps the highlight of 2011 was establishing a collaboration with the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). After seeing the success we had in 2009 and 2010 at the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT), IGFA Board Chairman Paxson Offield, IGFA President Rob Kramer and IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser approached us with the idea of taking the Great Marlin Race to the next level – with a goal of running GMR events at 5 different interntional tournaments in the 2011-2012 season.

The 2011 HIBT GMR was the best ever, with ten tags sponsored very early on in the tournament. As happened in 2009, several of the tagged marlin headed southeast from Hawaii, with two of them passing all the way into the southern hemisphere. The winning marlin, sponsored by West Marine, reported from a point 2,188 nautical miles away from where it was tagged.

The inaugural IGFA Great Marlin Race event happened at the Club de Nautico de San Juan’s 58th Annual International Billfish Tournament on September 5-11. Because of inclement weather, only six tags were deployed during the tournament. Over the following 4 months, five of them reported from within 600 nautical miles of where they were tagged, scattered from the North Coast of Venezuela to a point 589 miles east-southeast of Puerto Rico. On January 5, 2012 – exactly 120 days after it was deployed—the final tag popped off and began transmitting information. The 575-pound blue marlin had traveled southeast some 4,776 nm from where it was tagged and crossed the equator to have its tag pop off near the coast of Angola, Africa.

We also ran a “Blacks vs. Blues” event at the 25th Black Marlin Classic at Lizard Island Australia, where five tags were deployed on black marlin over two weeks in early October – including three on giant girls over 850 pounds! Three of the tags reported from within 350 nautical miles of Lizard Island, but two of them traveled nearly all the way past Phoenix Island – winding up 2,325 and 2,739 nautical miles away!

2012 is getting off to a busy start, with six tags sponsored at the South African Deep Sea Angling Association Classic February 22-25, and ten more going out at the Gamex and AIBT tournaments in Exmouth Australia, starting March 10 and running through the 23rd. More information about these events can be found on the IGFA website:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

High Pressure

Robbie Schallert liphooks a bluefin tuna

Today was our fourth day in a row on the water and tomorrow will be number the 9 years I have been tagging in North Carolina I have never been on the water more then three days...this high pressure system has been wonderful and it looks like the weather is going to be good through the weekend.

It was hot both in the water (78 degrees) and out of the water (73 degrees), but the bluefin bite cooled down a tad. We did manage to tag one bluefin over 350lbs today and also caught three yellowfins and one wahoo.

The highlight of the day was when Mate Alan Scibal pointed out a blue marlin that spy hopped around the boat. We were visited by hundreds of common and bottlenose dolphins, as well as some pilot whales and a few hammerheads.

-Robbie Schallert