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!
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: http://igmr.igfa.org/.
Today was our fourth day in a row on the water and tomorrow will be number five...in 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.
Robert Schallert inserts a tag into a bluefin tuna
Seth Marshall fights an 84 in bluefin tuna
Richard Montana fights an 80 in bluefin tuna
The day started out with a bang...caught and tagged a bluefin over 84 inches right off the bat. The rest of the day we spent looking for the next bite...checking the pods of dolphins or the line of sargassum. Then late in the afternoon we got the second bite...an 80 incher tagged and sent out the door.
We were lucky enough to have two experienced anglers with us today...Seth Marshall and Richard Montana...who stuck around an extra day to help in the chair and on the mat. They are both an intracate part of the Reelin' for Research tournament held in Morehead, North Carolina the first weekend in May...this year it will be on May 5th (Cinco de Mayo). The Tournament benefits the N.C. Children's Promise in memory of Richard's father who passed away from cancer. You can check out their website at: www.reelinforresearch.org. It was a pleasure to have these guys on board and to hear their passion for the ocean and for people!
Nice day on the water...Capt. Charles Perry ran the boat hoping to duplicate Thurday's performance. If we were tagging yellowfins...he would have succeeded. We could barely keep our baits in the water before another yellowfin was on us...caught 26 by the end of the day and still managed to tag one bluefin tuna by days end.
Brent Brewer poses with his fish, while Robbie Schallert keeps the fish oxygenated during surgery.
Yellowfin tuna quadruple header!!
Robbie Schallert and Andre Boustany tag a the 11th bluefin of the day!
Tyler Brewer battles a bluefin, while Dad steers the chair.
Keith Henry fights his first bluefin, while Brent Brewer (right), Mate Alan Scibal (left) and Capt Dale Britt (above) look on.
Maybe the bad weather last week bunched up the bait...or maybe the fish were there all along and not hungry...but whatever it was the tuna were snapping yesterday...and they were snapping early. The skeleton crew of Andre Boustany and Robert Schallert barely had a chance to get ready before Capt. Dale Britt and Mate Alan Scibal had tuna on the line. While one fish was getting tagged and released...another fish was being hooked...this continued for two hours straight. Luckily, we had three experienced anglers (although none of them had ever caught a bluefin) on board cause it was "fish on" all day. Keith Henry jumped in the chair first and alternated fish for fish with his best friend Brent Brewer... occasionally letting Brent's son Tyler get on the reel to feel the power. We tagged nine fish before 10:30am for a total of eleven bluefin on the day. The fish ranged between 180-320 lbs and all received Lotek archival tags. The tags record internal and external water temperature, as well as depth and light level (used to determine Latitude and Longitude).
When the bluefin turned off, the yellowfin turned on...we were routinely covered up by schools the whole afternoon. We caught nine of them and lost another five, along with two mahi mahi. The team was also visited by schools of hammerhead shark and a fully breaching humpback whale.
The weather kept us off the water today...but it looks like Sunday should provide us with another tagging opportunity!
Beth Gardner fights a bluefin tuna while Ben Best guides the chair.
Alan Scibal wires a bluefin while Katy Davis looks on.
Kevin Gross poses with his bluefin while Robert Schallert and Andre Boustany place a Lotek archival tag in the fish.
Katy Davis reels in a bluefin.
Ben Best shows off one of the green turtles before being released into the Gulf Stream.
It was one of those days on the ocean...flat calm...warm weather...tuna biting...marine mammals everywhere...schools of sharks riding the waves. We tagged three bluefin and caught five more yellowfin. We also released four rehabilitated turtles into the Gulf Stream. We had five guest taggers on board the Sensation...Ben Best (Duke) caught the first fish of TAG 2012 and Katy Davis (Duke) caught the first tagged bluefin of 2012. Kevin Gross and Beth Gardner from NC State each caught and tagged a bluefin. The Sensation crew of Alan Scibal and Dale Britt were once again on top of their game and will lead us on the water again tomorrow!
North Carolina fishing this time of year always presents challenges in terms of consistent weather, but hopefully the high pressure system that is pushing across the country will build and give us a good stretch next week.