World Angling needs your support to bring “90 Miles” to the silver screen

official film poster for 90 milesIn November 2013, a team from Bonefish & Tarpon Trust traveled to Cuba to work with, learn from, and share information with colleagues in Cuba. It was an international mixture of scientists, guides, and anglers. The goal was to share information on a common vision – bonefish, tarpon, and permit conservation. How do we protect the habitats that support the flats fishery? Can we use the charismatic nature of bonefish, tarpon, and permit to help us conserve the habitats that support these gamefish? What connections might there be between the flats fisheries of Florida and Cuba, between Cuba and the wider Caribbean? What lessons could we share that might help conservation efforts? Can the Cubans learn from our mistakes in the Florida Everglades? Can we learn from the Cuban’s approach to flats conservation?

One of the benefits of the trip is a film that is now in progress by Will Benson that explores these and other questions that are so important to the future of the flats fishery in Cuba, Florida, and beyond. Learn more about how you can support this project here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1696211919/90-miles

This project will provide us material that will help us in our fundraising for our Cuba Initiative.

End of the Year Donation Opportunity

EOY_AskBanner_EmailClickToMakeDonation_ButtonYour support is extremely vital to Bonefish & Tarpon Trust because it makes an immediate impact that allows us to continue our mission. Our research projects and programs pave the way for brighter and stronger fishing opportunities for bonefish, tarpon, and permit. Your end of year donation will directly support the following projects:

    • Juvenile Tarpon Habitat Restoration – Tagging and monitoring juvenile tarpon and working to restore critical juvenile tarpon habitat
    • Florida Keys Initiative – Working with anglers/guides to protect and improve fisheries, assess water quality, locate and protect juvenile and spawning bonefish habitats
    • Project Permit – Tagging, population, and movement study in Florida, Mexico, Belize
    • Bahamas Initiative – Flats and mangrove habitat conservation
    • Project Belize – Protecting fish habitats from development and destruction
Please consider a special year end, tax-deductible donation to support Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.

Conservation Captain Of The Month: Capt. Carl Ball

CarlBall_tarpon2

Photo by Tim Pask

The Conservation Captain for the month of December is Biscayne Bay guide Capt. Carl Ball, owner of AWOL Fishing Charters. Capt. Carl has helped BTT on numerous bonefish and permit tagging projects in support of the Florida Keys Initiative as well as Project Permit. Recently, Carl was a featured panelist on the permit panel discussion at the 5th International BTT Symposium.

Click here to visit the AWOL Fishing Charters website.

Where do you guide?

I mainly guide out of Key Biscayne fishing South Biscayne Bay. It has been 17 years since I took my first customer fishing in Biscayne Bay.

How did you become a fishing guide?

I started working on private boats when I was 22 years old working as a fishing mate on sport fishing boats traveling to the Bahamas, Saint Thomas and Cozumel Mexico. After I got my college degree in Economics I returned to working on the big boats once again. That is when I bought my first flats boat, a Hewes Redfisher, and started flats and backcountry fishing in Biscayne Bay, and ENP out of Chokoloskee. After a couple years I realized I just wanted to fish everyday and was tired of yacht maintenance when the owners were not on board. As a licensed captain I figured all I needed was my guide fishing license and to get the word out and I would be on my way. All I could think about was flats and backcountry fishing.

How many days per year do you guide?

I am now guiding over 200 days per year.

What species do most of your clients want to fish for? Why?

I have managed to develop a pretty good customer base that really likes the tarpon fishing. My customers love the tarpon because of the opportunities to sight fish for them and the blind fishing for them is great because the less skilled anglers can can catch a really big tarpon without the challenge of depending on precision angling skills. Permit and bone fishing are the other species my customers enjoy because they like hunting for fish that are a real challenge requiring a proper presentation with both bait and fly.

Tell us about how the fishery used to be, compared to today.

In my years of guiding I think the tarpon fishery has remained relatively consistent over the years. The biggest factor I have found in the number of tarpon I see and catch seem to be due more to the weather we have during the season. In the years were we had early and cold winters I found I have the best tarpon fishing. The freeze of 2010 was the best year for tarpon fishing I have seen so far. During a warm winter I find not as many tarpon make it down to South Florida and they seem to leave sooner. As far as fishing pressure on tarpon, I have seen an increase over the years. However, I don’t think the fishing pressure affects the quantity of tarpon. I think it only affects the quality of tarpon fishing because anglers have to share more of the resource amongst each other. With proper education in fishing etiquette, fish handling and catch and release I think anglers can enjoy the resource for years to come.

Definitely there are less bonefish than when I started fishing Biscayne Bay back in the 90’s. If I had only known then what I know now I would have caught significantly more bonefish. I probably see about 1/3 of the bonefish now compared to in the 90’s and early 2000’s. However, in the last 2 -3 years I have been seeing more of the smaller 2-5 lb bonefish that seem to have replaced the larger 6-8 lb fish that Biscayne Bay averaged in the 90’s and early 2000’s. Around 2010 it seems the average sized bonefish was 5-7 lbs. Unfortunately, fewer anglers are targeting the bonefish due to the decrease in availability in the Keys, which puts additional fishing pressure on the more abundant species. Even though anglers have adopted good catch and release practices with these other species there will most likely be an increase in fish mortality for those species.

Permit fishing has remained pretty good for me however there definitely seem to be fewer fish than before. I still have a good variety in the size of the permit caught, but I don’t see the numbers I once saw. Specifically I don’t find the schools of permit in spots that were once very consistent.

As far as number of anglers on the water, I definitely see more. Flats and backcountry fishing has become very popular over the years. However, I find these anglers to be more educated and more conservation minded. I feel like more anglers are more concerned about how they catch their targeted species than how many they can bring home for the table.

In your opinion, what is the most important conservation issue facing the Keys fishery right now and what can be done to help fix it?

I think that habitat destruction and water quality are our biggest issues today. I think there needs to be more awareness and funding for habitat rehabilitation and development projects also. With the ever increasing population, especially in Florida, habitat destruction due to development should be the biggest concern. However, water quality needs to remain high on the list of concerns.

Despite some of the negative things happening to our fishery, why do you love it so much?

It is because to me it is what is real. It is not man made and it is unpredictable. Every day is a new challenge and it keeps you thinking.

Why do you support Bonefish and Tarpon Trust?

Because BTT provides funding for the research that is needed to understand the science behind how and where bonefish, permit and tarpon live. Weather I make a living from targeting these species or not they will always be my favorite species to target and I would only want to see the fishery become better for everyone to enjoy.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that BTT does and why? 

I would have to say that supporting the research and educating the public go hand in hand. Making the public aware of how valuable this resource is and using the science to show what can be done to protect and enhance it.

Why should a fisherman that doesn’t live in Florida or the Caribbean care about BTT?

Especially for people that don’t live in Florida or anywhere that bonefish, tarpon and permit swim it is important to get behind BTT so that when they sacrifice their valuable time and money to fish for these species the fishery is as healthy as possible to provide the best opportunity for a quality fishing experience.

You have the day off. What species are you going to fish for, where are you going to find them, and what are you going to use to catch them?

I am going to fish somewhere in the Florida Keys to try to get a bonefish, tarpon, permit slam on the fly. I like a good challenge!

Tell us one (or two) of your favorite fishing stories.

One of my favorite fishing stories is when a very good customer decided that he wanted to attempt to catch a world record tarpon on a fly rod using 6 lb tippet. So I purchased the tarpon tag and the 6 lb tournament mono to make leaders. Now this wasn’t just about using a 6 lb tippet since his weapon of choice was an old 9 wt bamboo Orvis Battenkill trout rod with a brand new 12 wt Loop Opti reel and a 10 wt fly line. I know! Impossible right! Well, myself and a few of his fishing buddies insisted he could not do it. But at 72 years old this gentleman was determined to try. As luck would have it, it turned out to be one of the best days of tarpon fishing I have ever witnessed. I poled him to six tarpon that were all well above the 82 lb record at the time. He made a great cast and presentation to all six getting each one to take his fly. To his surprise he broke each one off on the hook set. After a good laugh he promptly replaced the leader with one made with 30 lb tippet,which he was accustomed to, and on the very next cast hooked and landed a fish that easily bested 80 lbs. Lesson learned. It’s not always that you catch them, but instead, how you catch them that matters.

FIU Launches Study of Bonefish in Florida Keys

via the Miami Herald

fiulogoProminent South Florida fisheries scientists are taking the complaints of guides and anglers very seriously. At the fifth Bonefish Tarpon Symposium held Nov. 7-8 in Dania Beach, Jennifer Rehage, associate professor at the Southeast Environmental Research Center at Florida International University, announced the launch of a comprehensive, three-year study to examine in fine detail what’s going on with the Keys bonefish population, particularly in Florida Bay. The study is being funded by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.

“Catches reported by guides have decreased by half since 1980,” Rehage said.

“We’re going to link what we know about bonefish with things that have happened in the bay.”

Rehage said that when the study is completed, “we’ll know what happened and how it happened to bonefish in the bay.”

FWC Agrees to Cuda Workshops

On Thursday, November 20th, representatives from the Lower Keys Guides Association, Keys Keeper, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, and the Snook and Gamefish Foundation attended the FWC Commissioner’s meeting in Key Largo, FL to express their concern for the declining number of Great Barracuda in southern Florida. Although the state of Florida has a recreational bag limit of 100 pounds of barracuda or 2 fish per-day per-person, commercial fishing for barracuda is largely unregulated. That means that any fisherman with a basic commercial license can harvest an unlimited quantity of barracuda it they so choose.

Although the group’s request for a barracuda stock assessment and extended research and protection was denied, the Commissioners did agree that the issue is worthy of workshops in the future.

No dates have been given for those workshops.

Click here to read the full article on keysnews.com

Bonefish and Tarpon Trust hosts their 5th International Symposium

On November 7th and 8th, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust hosted their 5th International Symposium at the IGFA Hall of Fame and Museum in Dania Beach, Florida. Hundreds of conservation minded attendees turned out for the educational and event packed weekend, all with a focus on raising awareness about the conservation of bonefish, tarpon, and permit._MG_8156 - Version 2

Scientists from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Belize, the Bahamas, and Cuba were on hand to present their latest findings on a variety of topics concerning the three slam species. A number of fly and spin fishing clinics were held for the attendees to enjoy and there were also panel discussions with some of today’s most knowledgeable fishing guides and angling legends from around the world, sharing their insight and stories about bonefish, tarpon, and permit.

Friday evening saw the inaugural BTT Art and Film Festival, where some of the biggest names in saltwater art and photography displayed their work and helped raise funds for BTT. The festival also featured screenings of many excellent short films, all competing for a chance to win prizes from Orvis and Costa and the title of Viewer’s Choice. In the end, “Knockin’ On The Door” by WorldAngling took home the win. The winner of BTT’s Best Conservation Message went to Marc Montocchio for his trailer of the film “Origins Of The Sky.”

_MG_8202 - Version 2The highlight of the film screening was the world premier of “90 Miles“, in which filmmaker Will Benson of WorldAngling highlighted his recent trip to Cuba with BTT scientists and showed the world that although the US has had differences with its neighbor to the south, we also share many commonalities including a love for fishing and a passion for the conservation of our environment.

Capping off the two-day event was a Saturday evening silent auction followed by the “Passing The Torch” Banquet. The banquet celebrated some up and coming members of the saltwater fishing community in a short “Passing The Torch” film. The film highlighted Paul Puckett, Jorge Martinez, Captain C.A. Richardson, Captain Will Benson, Meredith McCord and Oliver White for their support of BTT and their efforts to promote conservation of bonefish, tarpon, and permit.

_91Q8508 - Version 2During the banquet, BTT awarded three Conservation Stewardship awards to deserving members of the fishing community. The Flats Stewardship Award went to former FWC commissioner Ken Wright for his tireless efforts in securing the catch and release status of bonefish and tarpon in Florida, as well as the banning of the “Boca Grande Jig”. The Lefty Kreh Sportsman of the Year Award was presented to Costa’s VP of Marketing, Al Perkinson, for his immense support of BTT through Project Permit, and the Curt Gowdy Media Memorial Award went to legendary author and Buccaneers and Bones star Tom McGuane.

_91Q8555 - Version 2The American Fisheries Society also presented Bonefish and Tarpon Trust with the prestigious Conservation Achievement Award for the Fisheries Management Section.  This annual award recognizes an organization’s outstanding contributions to fishery conservation or fishery science. Upon receiving the award, BTT’s Director of Operations Dr. Aaron Adams noted, “BTT is extremely flattered and proud to receive this award from the American Fisheries Society. This award confirms the validity of our approach to fisheries conservation, and provides encouragement moving forward.”

 

The two day event saw roughly 350 registered attendees come through the doors and went on to gross nearly $117,000 for Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. Symposium Chairman Chris Peterson of Hell’s Bay Boatworks commented, “The scientific presentations were astronomically enlightening, the instruction sessions legendary, and the fellowship among like minded anglers…priceless.” BTT President Matt Connolly added, “Like me, I suspect that nearly all 350 Symposium attendees left inspired by the “Legends”, encouraged by the exciting scientific breakthroughs, and energized knowing their investment in BTT has delivered such dynamic returns in but three years! The many inspiring discoveries shared with us at the Symposium made it apparent that we must transform this emerging scientific knowledge into enlightened management of flats ecosystems throughout the Caribbean. It is a challenge BTT is now, more than ever, well prepared to meet!”

Click here to view a photo gallery of the symposium events.

Click here to watch the BTT “Passing The Torch” video.

Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, KeysKeeper, and the Lower Keys Guides Association Urge the FWC to Make Barracuda a Top Priority

Recently there has been a slow but steady realization by many South Florida fisherman that the Keys barracuda population is in decline. As a result, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, KeysKeeper, and the Lower Keys Guides Association are teaming up to urge the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to make barracuda a top priority on their list.

A survey of fishermen, fishing guides, and scientists in the Florida Keys and South Florida indicates that the decline in the barracuda population may be due to the unregulated commercial fishery and unregulated recreational harvest for barracuda. Much like tarpon, bonefish, and permit, there is little known about the barracuda. But, the limited data on barracuda that the FWC does have actually supports this observation. Their data shows that commercial landings of barracuda actually increased by 65% in 2012.

In addition to the importance of barracuda to the recreational flats fishery of the Florida Keys, they are also critical to the entire flats ecosystem. Next to sharks, barracuda are likely the top predator on the flats, so they should receive the same protection that FWC recently provided to many shark species.

Finally, since barracuda are known carriers of ciguatoxins and the commercially harvested barracuda become part of the South Florida seafood market (although frequently marketed as another species), there is considerable and growing concern about the health risks posed to consumers.

Before there is an irreversible population decline of barracuda, we believe management action is needed. BTT, KeysKeeper, and LKGA need your help to convince the FWC to follow the same process they used to address the bonefish, tarpon, and permit fisheries by obtaining the necessary data to better regulate the barracuda fishery, and to take the responsible and precautionary approach to implementing regulations that will protect the barracuda population while the necessary information is being obtained. Please visit http://myfwc.com/contact/fwc-staff/senior-staff/contact-commissioners/  to send the commission a note supporting the call for improved barracuda regulations and for the FWC to conduct a barracuda stock assessment.

Conservation Captain Of The Month: Capt. Will Benson

WillBensonThis month’s Conservation Captain is Lower Keys guide Capt. Will Benson. Many of you know Will as the creator of award winning tarpon and permit films through his company WorldAngling. But, Will is also a extremely passionate conservationist with a willingness to support BTT and our causes at a moments notice. Keep reading below to learn more about Capt. Will and be sure to come out to the this year’s BTT Art & Film Festival to catch the world premier of WorldAngling’s newest film, “90 Miles“.

Click here to visit the WorldAngling website.

Where do you guide?

I guide in the Lower Florida Keys from Marathon to the Marquesas.

How did you become a fishing guide?

I went to school and got a degree in Philosophy and since there were no philosophy jobs available that I could find, I decided the next best thing was to be a fly fishing guide.

How many days per year do you guide?

About 250 days.

What species do most of your clients want to fish for? Why?

Most of my anglers are open to fish for whatever the day has to offer, whether that’s tarpon, permit, barracuda, sharks or even snapper.  The idea is to embrace what’s out there and have fun with it.

Tell us about how the fishery used to be, compared to today.

I don’t have a tremendous historical perspective so it’s hard to comment on numbers of fish, although overall I’ve seen a general downtrend in the numbers of tarpon, bonefish and permit.  What I do know is there are a lot more folks out on the water and there has been a huge increase in the numbers of fly fishermen.  When I was a kid it was mostly spin anglers and now it’s the opposite.  I attribute that to the inherent challenge of fly fishing and the attraction to a younger demographic.

In your opinion, what is the most important conservation issue facing the Keys fishery right now and what can be done to help fix it?

This is a really difficult question and I don’t believe it is any one thing but rather a combination of several that all interconnect.  I believe habitat loss (specifically mangrove shoreline in south Florida), water quality and quantity coming out of the Everglades, and the decline of the coral reef habitat are the 3 major ones.  Fixing the problem is one of the major environmental challenges in the world.  It’s as big as global climate change and as small as local building codes.  The first step to fixing these issues is to consider the value of intact healthy ecosystems and not just pay it lip service but actually do something about it, consider it politically, be conscious everyday of how we as humans depend on the health of our planet.

Despite some of the negative things happening to our fishery, why do you love it so much?

It’s the most elaborate, complicated puzzle imaginable.  It’s humbling!

Why do you support Bonefish and Tarpon Trust?

Because they care.  Because the mission is rooted in science and because, as a guide in South Florida, they are the organization that represents my interest and advocate on my behalf and they do so from the basis of real science.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that BTT does and why? 

I think it’s a combination of putting the pieces of the puzzle together to understand what the problems are and their tireless representation in governmental affairs.

You have the day off. What species are you going to fish for, where are you going to find them, and what are you going to use to catch them?

I obviously love the big three tarpon, bonefish, and permit, so that’s always part of my focus.  But if I did get a day off I would say that I’d go looking for those fish, but in spots I’ve never fished. I love the unexpected. I love unlocking the mystery and deepening my understanding. I will tell you though a perfect day for me also involves stopping to catch a large snapper for dinner or jumping in the water to dive for some lobster to throw on the grill.

Tell us one (or two) of your favorite fishing stories.

I have too many to pick just one.  What I will say is that many of them involve catching people their first permit on fly.  There is nothing better then watching the expression on an anglers face when they hold their first permit on fly.  It’s a real accomplishment and special moment in people’s lives.  I love being a part of that and it’s really the reason I think I’ll be a guide forever.

BTT / Deep Water Cay Tag and Recapture Rewards Program Comes To An End

DeepWaterCay_logoRecently BTT and our conservation partner Deep Water Cay Lodge (DWC) launched an experimental bonefish tag and recapture rewards program to help draw attention to the Bahamas bonefish tagging program. The program was designed to increase membership by providing anglers and guides at DWC with the opportunity to participate in the gathering of critical scientific data that will in turn be used to keep the nearly $150 million dollar per year Bahamas flats fishery healthy for years to come. In addition to preservation of the Bahamas fishery, the data collected is used to help formulate conservation guidelines in all areas where bonefish are present.

For this program, over one thousand bonefish were tagged in the waters surrounding DWC, with one tag being the “magic tag”. If an angler were to catch the bonefish with the magic tag, they would win the reward of $10,000 and the angler’s guide would win $2,000. This program was made possible by a donor who has an interest in increasing BTT membership and made the donation to cover the costs of this program.

In order to be eligible to win the rewards program, an angler must have been a BTT member, they needed to be staying at Deep Water Cay, and they were to be fishing with a Deep Water Cay guide when the fish was caught. Earlier this year, DWC guest Bailey Sory was the lucky angler that caught the bonefish with the magic tag with guide Michael Taylor. “The work Dr. Aaron Adams, BTT, and DWC are doing with their Rewards Tagging program provides vital data to ensure important habitat areas are protected. Importantly, the Rewards program engages and educates the fisherman shedding light on the need to conduct this valuable research,” said Mr. Sory. He added, “East End Grand Bahama is a diverse fishery and needs to be protected. Thankfully the science and research of BTT, combined with the resources and steadfast commitment of DWC, goes a long way to ensure the ecosystem is in good hands.”

Thanks to all who participated in the program. And although the Rewards program is now over, please report any tagged bonefish that you catch. The data are vital to the future of the fishery.

 

BTT Announces Nautilus Reels As Newest Corporate Partner

Bonefish and Tarpon Trust is proud to announce Nautilus Reels as their newest Corporate Sponsor at the Silver Partner level. As part of the sponsorship, Nautilus will donate five percent of all proceeds from the sales of their NV-Monster reel to BTT. Nautilus will also be offering a complimentary introductory membership to Bonefish and Tarpon Trust with every purchase of these reels. “We are proud to be partnering with Bonefish and Tarpon Trust,” said Nautilus owner Kristen Mustad. “We believe in the work they are doing to protect flats habitats, and feel a sense of responsibility to give back to this fishery and help preserve it for the next generation of anglers.”

Photo credit: Honson Lau

Photo credit: Honson Lau

In addition to their Silver Sponsorship, Nautilus is a sponsor of this year’s Bonefish and Tarpon Symposium in Dania Beach, and is donating a custom permit reel with an engraving by Miami artist Jorge Martinez to be auctioned off at the banquet on November 8th, with all proceeds going to support BTT’s efforts.

“We’re thrilled that a great company like Nautilus sees the importance of BTT’s work for the flats fishery, and that they have become such strong supporters,” said BTT Director of Operations, Dr. Aaron Adams. “It is collaborations like these that give the flats fishery a brighter future.”

About Nautilus Reels:

Nautilus Reels produces an award winning line of reels from their headquarters in Miami, Florida. Nautilus is on the forefront of reel innovation and maintains a tradition of experience and excellence while continuously redefining performance. For more information about Nautilus Reels, please visit their website and follow them on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.