Tarpon Acoustic Tagged in Charlotte Harbor

After a tough morning of fishing, Ryan Hodges, guided by Capt. Austin Lowder, landed a JWilson IMG_5123_Moment50 pound tarpon in Charlotte Harbor that is now carrying a BTT acoustic tag.  Acoustic tags are implanted via a small incision in the abdominal cavity, which is closed with a stitch, and completely heals in about two weeks. This tag will transmit for five years to numerous receivers strategically placed throughout the Harbor and in other locations in the coastal United States.  One benefit of acoustic tagging is the large network of organizations using the same equipment – their receivers detect BTT’s fish and BTT’s receivers detect their fish.  Because of this, we’ll be able to get a good idea of local and regional movements from this and other tarpon we tag.  Special thanks to Clarke Ohrstrom for his generous donation to sponsor the tag.  Clarke had the pleasure of being ‘on deck’ on the skiff as his fishing buddy landed the tarpon.  Clarke will be notified of the movements by his specific tarpon as data are downloaded from the underwater receivers every few months over the next 5 years.  Click here for more information on the program and learn how to sponsor an acoustic tag.AAdams-0644

$150 Million Bahamas Flats Fishing Industry Threatened by “Draconian” Regulations

In response to what they feel as moves by a “completely unacceptable” regulatory body (the Bahamas Fly Fishing Industry Association [BFFIA]), the Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association (AFFGA) formally requested that the Department of Marine Resources abandon installing the BFFIA as the regulators for the entire industry.

In particular, the AFFGA opposed the controversial draft regulations proposed by the BFFIA which the AFFGA claims will not only fail to protect the $150 million flats fishing industry, but irreparably harm it.

Read the full article. 

Please Submit Comments on Florida’s Draft Barracuda Regulations Before June 22

To Our South Florida Guides and Anglers,

FWC has alerted us that they will present the Draft Rule for barracuda to the FWC Commission at the Commission meeting June 22-23, in Apalachicola. Barracuda will be addressed on Thursday, June 23. If the Draft Rule is accepted by the Commissioners, the Final Rule will be voted on at the FWC Commission meeting in St. Petersburg on November 16-17.

The current regulations are:

Photo: Pat Ford

Photo: Pat Ford

  • 2 barracuda per person per day, with a 6 fish vessel limit
  • There is no size limit

 The proposed Draft Regulations would add:

  • A slot of 15″ to 36″ (barracuda within this slot can be harvested, with harvest limits as stated above)
  • Allowance of 1 barracuda over 36″ per vessel per day

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is pleased that the harvest restrictions remain in place. Prior to these regulations, the fishery was essentially unregulated. However, we feel that the slot is too large, and should be further constricted to allow more barracuda to mature and reproduce.

We encourage anglers and guides to attend the FWC Commission meeting in Apalachicola if they are able, or to submit statements directly to FWC prior to the meeting by emailing FWC Director of Marine Fisheries Management, Jessica McCawley at jessica.mccawley@myfwc.com

More details on the draft rule and public workshops are at the links below:

Workshop summary

Draft Rule presentation

Commission Meeting Agenda 

Fishing for bonefish in South Florida this summer? Join BTT’s Summer Fin Clip Challenge!

This July 1- August 31, BTT will be holding its Summer Fin Clip Challenge in South Florida!

Photo: Rick DePaiva

Photo: Rick DePaiva

Awesome prizes will be awarded to the top three bonefish fin-clippers, and anyone who collects three or more fin clips will receive a BTT trucker hat. Fly or conventional tackle can be used. In the event of a tie, the last fish clipped first will win.

The challenge will run July 1-August 31, and kits can be picked up starting June 30th at participating locations: The Fly Shop of Miami, Florida Keys Outfitters, The Angling Company.

Kits can also be picked up at the Miami BTT office or Florida Keys BTT office or requested by mail from brooke@bonefishtarpontrust.org. All addresses listed on below poster.



First Place: Nautilus NV G8/9 reel with Jorge Martinez engraving and Cortland line

Second Place: Your choice of Costa Sunglasses and soft-sided cooler with BTT logo

Third Place: Line Lair with BTT logo


Thanks to our tournament sponsors Nautilus Reels, Costa Del MarCarbon Marine, and Cortland Line.


Bonefish on the Brain Interview with Tom Karrow

bahamian guide2

Tom with guide Dex Rolle in Exuma. Photo: Dan Decibel

Tom Karrow is gathering up guide stories, histories and knowledge all for a pretty cool project that is being funded by BTT.  Bjorn from Bonefish on the Brain interviewed him and asked him to share some information about this project and to lend some of his insights gained thus far.

Read the interview. 

BTT Donates to the Guides Trust Foundation in Honor of George Hommell Jr.

The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust (BTT), has donated $5,500 in proceeds from its George Hommell Jr. Florida Keys Habitat Fundraiser to the Guides Trust Foundation, a Florida Keys-based organization dedicated to helping those connected with the Florida Keys fishing industry to recover from injury and illness. The check was presented to Captain Duane Baker, the Commodore of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association, who said, “On behalf of the Florida Keys Fishing Guides Association and the Guides Trust Foundation, thanks for your support. This was a great event for a great cause, and our fishery, environment and way of life depend on our foundations going forward together.”

BTT was founded in 1998 by a group of anglers, guides and scientists who were concerned about the decline of the bonefish population in the Florida Keys. While the organization has grown to include members from over 20 countries, and research and advocacy efforts throughout the U.S. and Caribbean Basin, the majority of its funds and research effort still focus on the Florida Keys. BTT relies heavily on the support of Florida Keys fishing guides and anglers to conduct important research and serve as advocates for the flats fisheries. “We are pleased to support the Florida Keys guide community, which has been instrumental to BTT’s progress and success over the years,” said BTT Executive Director Jim McDuffie.

The annual George Hommell Jr. Florida Keys Habitat fundraiser takes place in Islamorada, Florida in honor of the legendary guide and angler George Hommell Jr., a pioneer of flats fishing, a founding member of BTT, co-founder of World Wide Sportsman, and a strong advocate for conservation of the flats fishery.

Thanks to the hard-working local event committee of Duane Baker, Adolphus Busch IV, Carmen Perez-Padron, Bill Stroh and Bert Scherb, the 2016 Hommell event at the Islander Resort in Islamorada drew a crowd of 180 anglers, guides and BTT sponsors, including longtime supporter and Presenting Sponsor Maverick Boat Company. Other event sponsors included Sweetwater Brewing Company, Tito’s Vodka, Keys Commercial Investments, Mote Marine Lab, Caribee Boat Sales, Adolphus Busch IV, Tom Evans Jr., Bert Scherb, Tom Davidson, Gus Hillenbrand, John Nau and Mark Piggott.

Remaining proceeds from the event supported the George Hommell Jr. Florida Keys Habitat Fund, which is dedicated to researching, protecting and restoring the Florida Keys flats fishery.


BTT Deploys First Tarpon Acoustic Tags!

image2In partnership with UMass Amherst and Carleton University, BTT has officially launched The Atlantic Tarpon Acoustic Tagging Project by tagging its first two fish in the Lower Florida Keys! Two acoustic tags were placed in tarpon this week by BTT contributing scientists Lucas Griffin from UMass Amherst and Jake Brownscombe from Carleton University.

These data on Atlantic Tarpon movement patterns and habitat use will be used to improve conservation efforts. Through this project, we aim to uncover the connectivity between various regions of the western Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico; if tarpon use the same spawning sites each year; if changes to freshwater flows into coastal areas including the Florida Everglades, Apalachicola, St. Lucie River, Caloosahatchee River, and Indian River Lagoon influence tarpon movements; and determine the movement patterns and habitat use of tarpon. This information is essential to protect the future of the fishery. Learn more about the project and how you can get involved by helping us tag fish or sponsoring a tag here.

image1-5Thanks to Capt. Travis Holeman and Capt. Bear Holeman for putting on us on the fish and Neil Rojas from Cudjoe Sales Fishermen’s Warehouse for hooking us up with the right tackle to catch them!

BTT Expands Knowledge of Bonefish Spawning


Pre-spawning aggregation of bonefish.

BTT has been working with lodges and guides in the Bahamas as part of our ongoing efforts to identify bonefish spawning locations, and to better understand pre-spawning and spawning behaviors and requirements. We rely on guides and lodges to contact us when they see possible spawning, and their help has been instrumental to our work.

In late April, the guides of East End Lodge on Grand Bahama Island identified a pre-spawning aggregation of bonefish. They contacted BTT’s Bahamas Initiative Manager, Justin Lewis, and after a brief visit to the site, Justin put science into action. After a few phone calls and quickly arranged travel, Jacob Rennert, of Florida Institute of Technology, joined Justin at the site. Over a four-day period during the full moon phase Justin and Jacob found schools of 500 to 3,000 pre-spawning bonefish located in a small deep protected bay.

Bonefish eggs.

Bonefish eggs.

Pre-spawning bonefish typically stage for several days, and gather in pre-spawning schools in protected bays before swimming offshore at dusk. After swimming offshore, they descend to approximately 200 feet, and stay there for an hour or two before quickly ascending. We believe it is during the ascent that they eject their eggs and sperm into the water, fertilization occurs, and the eggs hatch about a day later.

One of the questions we seek to answer is whether they must spawn in deep water or if they are capable of spawning in shallow water. In other words, why do they risk the gauntlet of predators to leave the flats and spawn offshore? We believe the drastic change in pressure from the surface to 200 feet, followed by the drastic decrease in pressure as the fish ascend helps to expel the eggs and sperm.

DSC_0258 (2)To test this, Justin and Jacob captured some bonefish and kept them in a small inflatable pool on a nearby dock. They checked on the fish every hour or so, and over the next few days they checked to see if the bonefish eggs were developing and if the bonefish were able to spawn. None of the bonefish spawned in the pool, but on the third night, several females expelled eggs when gently squeezed. This tells us that bonefish eggs continue to develop in shallow water, but that actual spawning doesn’t occur on its own in shallow water. This suggests that there is something about the descent to depth that is important for spawning success. This further underscores the importance of protecting the shallow bays that bonefish use for pre-spawning and the nearby offshore deep areas they need to spawn.

DSC_0267 (2)This was the first time bonefish have been successfully strip spawned, and was done with two females under no treatment. This is another important step towards a bonefish restoration program for the Florida Keys, and will provide valuable information for BTT’s Bonefish Restoration Research Project. Many thanks to Rob Neher and Cecil Leathen, guides and staff of the East End Lodge for exceptional hospitality and help with the research. This successful trip would not have been possible without all of their support.