2015 BTT Trip of a Lifetime to Belize River Lodge

In 2015, any new or renewing member will automatically be entered to win the trip of a lifetime to fish in Belize at the beautiful Belize River Lodge. Check out the video below and click here for more information on Belize River Lodge.

To make sure you are entered into this year’s Trip of a Lifetime drawing, click here to renew your membership or click here to become a new member.

Mangrove Die-off: We Need Your Help

Mangrove Die-off1As anyone who spends time chasing bonefish knows, mangroves are essential to flats fish. Mangroves help to hold together the flats and shorelines, provide shelter from predators, and they provide habitat for prey species. So, it is an item of high concern when we hear of mangrove die-offs. This is the report from the Marls of Abaco, where guides initially spotted small islands of mangroves dying a few years ago. Unfortunately, since those initial reports, it appears the die-off is spreading.

Although the cause remains unknown, a team from North Carolina State University is on the case, working with guides and lodges to figure this out. They need our help. They ask that people contact them to report areas in the Caribbean that show signs of die-off. The most reliable signs of this phenomenon is severe leaf loss and leaf damage. Any photographs, GPS coordinates, and local knowledge of sites will be used to further investigate what is causing mangrove die-off. Please reach out to the lead scientist Ryann Rossi (ryann.rossi@gmail.com) with any reports.

Mangrove Die-off2 Mangrove Die-off3

 

2014 Trip of A Lifetime Winner Announced

ElPescador_logoCongratulations to BTT member and Conservation Captain Derek Rust for winning the 2014 Trip of a Lifetime! Derek was randomly selected from the list of new and renewed members during 2014 for an amazing 5 day, 4 night trip to fish with BTT’s Bill Klyn at the beautiful El Pescador Resort. “I chose to join BTT because of the outstanding work they do trying to better understand permit, tarpon, and bonefish. These extraordinary inshore game fish play a vital role in how I make my living.” Rust said. “Winning a trip to El Pescador for simply supporting something I believe in is truly amazing and I am forever grateful.”

Belize’s El Pescador Resort on Ambergris Caye, located just north of the town of San Pedro, is an eco-friendly resort that has been serving the saltwater fishing community since the 1970’s. It has everything a traveling flats fisherman could possibly dream of, from relaxing accommodations, friendly staff, and of course the perfect location for targeting bonefish, tarpon, and permit. El Pescador has been a huge support to BTT by assisting in our tagging programs, participating in our Traveling Angler Program, and more recently, playing host to the 4th season of the TV show Buccaneers and Bones. BTT would like to thank El Pescador for their participation in the 2014 Trip of a Lifetime.

For more information on El Pescador, visit www.elpescador.com

 

 

Conservation Captain of the Month: Capt. Jamie Allen

gasparilla tarpon  015The Conservation Captain for January 2015 is Boca Grande guide Capt. Jamie Allen. Jamie’s love of fishing began when he was just a boy growing up in Vermont, a passion that would continue his entire life. Leaving New England he ventured out to San Diego and Colorado, before settling in Southwest Florida.  He’s been guiding out of Boca Grande, in Charlotte Harbor and Pine Island Sound since 2001, mainly for tarpon, snook and redfish. He is a Pro staffer for Scott Rods, Nautilus Reels, and he is also a FFF certified casting instructor.

For photos and some great videos, check out his website: www.jamiesoutfishin.com

Where do you guide and how long have you been guiding for?
I have been guiding out of Boca Grande Florida since 2001

How did you become a fishing guide?
I have always loved the water. But to be honest it was my wife’s idea. She wanted to move here from Colorado to live on the water.

How many days per year do you guide?
I am on the water over 200 days a year now.

What species do most of your clients want to fish for. Why?
Tarpon always draws the biggest crowd.Both large and small fish. The sight fishing for large silver kings is hard to forget. Popper fishing for smaller ones never gets old. You will never forget your 1st tarpon!!! The eat, the jumps and the size when the fish comes along boat side.

Tell us about how the fishery used to be, compared to today. (numbers of fish caught, seen, number of anglers on the water, etc.)
It must be true almost anywhere. If it’s a fishing destination that is easy to get to. The common quote is ” I remember when…..”The fishing has changed quite a bit. The largest factor that has caused fishing to get harder is without a doubt. MORE BOATS and people on the water. Many trying to figure things out on their own. Or just running around not realizing how they are effecting other anglers on the water.

In your opinion, what is the most important conservation issue facing the South Florida fishery right now and what can be done to help fix it?
The most important conservation issue in the Boca Grande area in my opinion would be 2 things. First designating areas of pole or troll in our back country. Allowing many different species places to feel safe and relax without being constantly run over by the many boats that can run in shallow water. Then educating anglers on what they should try to do.  What not to do when approaching other active anglers.

2nd We need more people both public and official to help slow down the harvesting of fish out of season or not in the allowed slot limit. This is a hard one. As anglers fish around the clock and fish many areas where it is hard to police. Snook get hit the hardest on this issue.We had a huge fish kill just 4 years ago and some people don’t seem to care.

Despite some of the negative things happening to our fishery, why do you love it so much?
Even with pending issues on or waters that threaten to potentially destroy or local fishery, I still love being on the water. It’s not just the fishing. It’s the peace and beauty that surrounds us while we fish. I’m always telling my anglers to watch the water and the land.

To often you get focused and miss whats happening in the water right next to you. I love the trips with children watching their reactions to a fish they have on. I will never forget a quote from a 9 year old boy.  I asked about the fight from the fish he was holding in his hands. His eyes followed the fish from right to left and than back to me. He said ” It pulled with the power of Thor”  I actually got that on video.

There is a simple quote that Loren Eisley wrote.    ” If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”

Why do you support Bonefish and Tarpon Trust?
I became involved with BTT (BTU back then) while I was volunteering with some of Aaron Adams grad students on snook research. Aaron was very involved with all aspects of our fishery. I knew I could learn a lot from him and I wanted to help our fishery stay strong. I love being a guide and getting to share my time with many different people on the water. I feel working with BTT is one way I can help keep our fishery alive to be shared in the future.

In your opinion, what is the most important work that BTT does and why?
I think the most important thing BTT does is trying to protect and clean up the areas where our juvenile fish live and grow. If we lose that habitat …we lose our future adult fish. We all lose!
Why should a fisherman that doesn’t live in Florida or the Caribbean care about BTT?
Even if you don’t live in Florida or the Caribbean. BTT is a great organization to support. Many people live here part time or visit friends and family that stay here. Helping BTT gives everyone a chance to help keep our fisheries alive and healthy for the next generations. Some may choose to live here, some just to visit. If you are lucky enough to see the reaction of any angler, young or old, catch his or her first special fish, then you will know ……. It’s very important to protect what we have.

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.
If I have a day off to fish what would I fish for????? Hmmm, that depends on time of year and conditions. My first choice is always tarpon, but that is not always the best choice. I prefer to sight fish for any species, but fly fishing with poppers always makes me laugh.

Tell us one of your favorite fishing stories.
One of my all time favorite tarpon memories was around 8 or 9 years ago. It was late September and I had just come back from guiding elk hunters in New Mexico. I decided to scout a large tidal creek to see if the red fish had started to move in. The tide had just started to fall and mullet were all over the surface. But in between the mullet I kept seeing something different break the surface. It looked like small tarpon. I had never seen tarpon in this area before. I picked up my 8 weight and made a couple of casts . Next thing I know tarpon in the air. I started to scan the surface a little more. There were tarpon everywhere following the falling tide and feeding. I changed over to a crease fly and started casting. It was insane!!!!! For the next 3 hours I stayed with these fish. I cast several different types of poppers, but it didn’t seem to matter. Some times they hit it when is was just sitting there doing nothing. The fish were from 3 to 15lbs. I have no idea how many fish ate the popper. It could easily have been 100. When they started to slow down I decided to leave them alone, planning to come back another day. I have been back to that area many times over the years.  But never have I seen the tarpon so aggressive. That day rates in my top 2 for best tarpon days.

Supporting Conservation Science through Fishing

IMG_5141-smallThanks to the support of numerous collaborators in Belize, including Yellowdog Fly Fishing, El Pescador Lodge, Belcampo Lodge, Garbutt’s Fishing Lodge, Belize River Lodge, and many independent fishing guides, we are making progress in our efforts to provide the scientific information needed for effective conservation of the Belize flats fishery.

On a recent trip to Belize, we brought the Belize fishery into the new Bonefish Population Genetics Program and the Tarpon Population Genetics Program. After a brief introduction to the programs and some basic instruction, sampling kits were distributed. Fin clips from bonefish and scales from tarpon are already coming in! Given the new energy toward flats fishing conservation in Belize, everyone sees the need for the information from these genetic studies – hopefully the study results will give us a better idea of how the fishery of Belize is linked to fisheries elsewhere, and the extent that fishing locations within Belize are related as well.

The fishing success was due to greatAAdams-3497 guides and very generous weather, with many bonefish, tarpon, and even some permit caught. It was also nice that the El Pescador portion of the visit coincided with the lodge’s 40th anniversary – Congratulations! and Thanks to El Pescador for hosting a great visit.

Time was also spent in the far south of Belize – Punta Gorda – with the fine folks at Belcampo Lodge and Garbutt’s Fishing Lodge. Not only did we chase permit on the flats, we also had a meeting with the flats fishing guides about ongoing and new conservation efforts. It’s refreshing to see the enthusiasm these guides have for the science that they see as essential for creating conservation strategies to conserve their fishery. These guys are quickly increasing the number of tagged permit, which will provide information essential to flats conservation.

AAdams-IMG_7511The trip ended with a gift from Belize River Lodge – an envelope full of bonefish and tarpon genetic samples and many completed bonefish tagging sheets. Although they would never say so, I am sure that Belize River Lodge is proud of their fantastic bonefish tagging efforts to date.

Catch the new season of Buccaneers and Bones NOW on the Outdoor Channel

Get ready for a another season of adventure, as the iconic cast of anglers – along with a few new friends – reconvene at Bair’s Lodge on South Andros Island to pursue the treasure of the flats. Bonefish!

Be sure to catch all of the action Fridays at 6:30AM and 9:00AM, and Saturdays at 6:30AM and 5:00PM on the Outdoor Channel.

Project Belize Report

The first Belize Flats Fishing Summit

The first Belize Flats Fishing Summit

Like most places where we fish the flats, the Belize flats fishery has challenges that must be addressed to ensure a healthy future for the flats fishery. The encouraging thing is that, like many other locations, the guides and lodges are organizing to address these challenges. This growing energy was recently reflected in the first Belize Flats Fishing Summit, which was held at the Radisson in Belize City, November 12, 2014, and hosted by Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and Yellowdog Fly Fishing Adventures.

The Summit brought together more than 40 guides and lodge owners from throughout coastal Belize, from Punta Gorda in the south to San Pedro in the north, and points in between. The guides came together to discuss the challenges they are facing in their home waters, and to find a common theme moving forward toward better national management of the flats resources.

The most amazing thing from my perspective was the quick agreement from participants on the top threats to the fishery: gillnets, lack of enforcement of existing laws, and habitat loss. Guides from throughout Belize related their experiences combating these threats and the real impacts they’d seen these activities have on the fishery. I think many were surprised to find that others shared their experiences, which helped the group to quickly reach a plan for moving forward.

IMG_5126-smallThe result of the Summit was that the guides and lodge owners began the process of creating a national-level association to represent their concerns with the government of Belize. Some of the attendees are currently working on formulating specific goals, objectives, and a strategy for the new association that will address threats to the fishery and propose solutions.

BTT will continue to work with guides and lodges to conduct the scientific research needed to support flats fishery conservation and provide advice as requested. I know that Jim Klug of Yellowdog and I were both impressed with the forward-thinking of the guide community, and have high hopes for the future of the Belize flats fishery.

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.