Catching bonefish and tarpon, for science

Originally posted on Hatch Magazine. Click to view the original article.

By Chad Shmukler

Catching a bonefish or a tarpon is reward enough in itself. Both fish are elusive. Both are amongst the angling world’s most impressive fighters. Both are beautiful specimens to behold. Should you, however, require additional motivation in order to land yourself on a sunny tropical flat or the bow of a skiff patrolling tarpon-friendly waters — then do it for the good of science.

The Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT) currently has underway two separate, but equally important research initiatives that require the collection of genetic samples from both bonefish an tarpon. And that’s where you, the angler comes in.

Bonefish are typically regarded as resident fish that traverse a relatively small range. For adult bonefish, this is mostly true. However, the fact that adult bonefish segregate into local populations doesn’t tell us much about where those bonefish come from, even though it seems intuitively like it would. The reason why is that bonefish spawn in deep water, after which the larvae that hatch from their eggs drift in the open water for an average of 53 days. Whether those larvae remain in the push and pull of local currents or transported to destinations far away is largely unknown. And knowing is important to conservation efforts underway in places like the keys, where bonefish populations are diminishing.

BTT is currently in the midst of a three year program to study the origins and relationships of bonefish populations throughout the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. Driving the study are genetic samples collected via fin clips of angler-caught bonefish.

In the case of tarpon, BTT is attempting to determine whether the Atlantic tarpon population is one large, intermixed population, or many distinct sub-populations. Understanding this is key to understanding how pressure, harvest and preservation efforts in one region affect tarpon populations as a whole and thus is crucial to the development of a strong, long-term tarpon conservation plan.

Like with the bonefish project, this study of tarpon populations is driven by genetic samples. But rather than retrieving those samples via fin clippings, they are gathered through tarpon scale collection.

Kits with detailed instructions and required tools are provided by BTT free-of-charge to anglers heading out in search of bonefish and tarpon.

We’ll also be providing these genetic sampling kits and collection instructions to all of the anglers on our hosted trip this February to fly fish Ascension Bay in Mexico (a few spots still available). Anglers will have the opportunity to collect samples from the seemingly countless bonefish that scour the bay’s flats, or from the juvenile tarpon that patrol the freshwater channels that course through the mangrove of the Sa’an Kian biosphere preserve. Permit that are caught on the trip will also be tagged as part of BTT’s “Project Permit”.

For more information on BTT’s bonefish, tarpon and permit research programs, visit

Mangrove Cay Club Guide Refresher

RIMG2276Since 2006, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust has been working with partners in the Bahamas — anglers, guides, lodges and outfitters, other conservation organizations and government agencies — to identify the threats that bonefish populations face and to protect them.

These relationships have been integral to the success that BTT has had in the Bahamas and has allowed us to better understand bonefish behaviour as well as identify juvenile bonefish habitat, spawning migration routes, and pre-spawning aggregation sites. Not only is it crucial to work directly with lodges and guides, it is equally as important to inform them of the findings from our studies and the importance of best handling practices.

BTT’s Bahamas Initiative Coordinator, Justin Lewis, was invited by Liz Bain to the Mangrove Cay Club in Andros to speak to the club’s guides and staff about bonefish ecology, findings from recent bonefish research, and best fish handling practices. From the get go all of those who were listening to the presentation were fully engaged. It took Justin close to two hours to complete his normally 30 minute presentation because there were so many questions being asked and topics discussed throughout. This kind of engagement shows how invested these guides and staff are in the industry. They want to see the industry, the bonefish populations, and their habitats thrive for generations to come.

Justin will be returning to Mangrove Cay early in the New Year to tag and collect genetic samples from bonefish. He will also be giving presentations to the local primary and high school on the island which the guides suggested and are enthusiastic about organizing.

License Will Likely Be Required To Fish In The Bahamas

Bahamas Bonefish“Fly Fishing Licences ‘Largely Determined’”

Originally posted on Click here to read the full story.


Tribune Business Reporter

The Department of Marine Resources’ director yesterday said it has been “pretty much determined” that persons will require licenses for fly fishing in the Bahamas, with the fee varying according to duration.

Michael Braynen told the Abaco Business Outlook conference that the fees collected from these licenses will go directly towards conservation, research and enforcement activities related to the habitats that support fly fishing in the Bahamas.

“Our Ministry recognizes, and I think the Government recognizes, that the flats fishing industry is an important part of the tourism product of the Bahamas, and the persons engaged in this fishing activity are almost exclusively visitors to the Bahamas who pursue their fishing passion in locations throughout the country,” he said.

“Most of these locations are outside New Providence. These persons use a variety of accommodations throughout the Bahamas – from fishing lodges, hotels, big hotels, small hotels and rental homes. Many of them engage the services of fishing guides but all of them do not do this.”

Mr Braynen added: “With respect to licenses, it has pretty much been determined that there will be licenses for people to engage in fly fishing in the Bahamas.

“At present, one does not need to have a personal license to engage in this type of activity, and this will in all likelihood change. Certainly my department is recommending that it change. Everyone engaged in fly fishing will have to get a license.”

“The license will be made available online, and persons arriving in the Bahamas and deciding they want one should be able to get it from border control officials,” he said.

“The fee would vary depending on the duration of the license. We would expect licenses to be issued for a day, a week, a month, six months or a year, whatever is applicable.”

“We would not expect children under 12 to have to pay for a license. We would expect that fees collected from the license will be used directly for conservation, research and enforcement activities that support fly fishing in the Bahamas.”

Click here to read the full story.

Article Highlights BTT’s Collaboration With FIT in Project Bay Bones

In a new article on, BTT is highlighted in our collaboration with FIT in Project Bay Bones. Read the article here.

We have partnered with researchers at Florida International University to create PROJECT BAY BONES to investigate changes in South Florida waters and how these changes may affect the quality of bonefishing. We need YOUR help to fill in critical knowledge gaps on how bonefishing has changed in south Florida over the years. In the absence of scientific data on the health of bonefish populations, angler knowledge is an invaluable source of information. Thus, your BayBone2participation is vital to the conservation of bonefish and to ensuring high quality fishing in the future!

You can help us by filling in a 10-15 minute survey and telling us about your fishing experiences. This survey is different than previous surveys on the bonefish fishery because it is tied into a larger study that is examining environmental changes in South Florida over time. Bringing all of these data sets together should help us better understand bonefish.

Click here to take the survey

For further information or if you have any questions, please contact

Cut and paste links:



Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Announces New Executive Director

MEDIA ADVISORY: For Immediate Release


Alex Lovett-Woodsum
Director of Development and Communications
Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Announces New Executive Director

jim profileBonefish & Tarpon Trust, a conservation organization focused on protecting bonefish, tarpon, permit and their habitats, has announced the selection of Jim McDuffie as its first Executive Director. The selection follows an extensive national search.

“The BTT leadership felt it was time to hire an Executive Director to lead us into our next chapter as an organization,” explained Tom Davidson, BTT Chairman. “We feel that Jim is the ideal person to fill the position with his experience in the non-profit conservation realm and his extensive fundraising and non-profit management skills, which will complement the abilities of Dr. Aaron Adams, Director of Science and Conservation and Alex Lovett-Woodsum, Director of Development and Communications.”

McDuffie has worked for more than 25 years in the non-profit sector, including the past two decades with The Nature Conservancy. During that time, he served on the executive management teams of the Florida, North Carolina and Maryland/DC chapters as well as led the organization’s fundraising programs in each state. His tenure also included conservation fellowships in Australia and Palau, where he worked with NGO partners to develop financially viable organizations.

“I am thrilled to be joining BTT as Executive Director,” McDuffie said. “The organization has a strong foundation and is recognized as a leader in the conservation of bonefish, tarpon and permit. It’s poised now to make even greater contributions through expanding research, stewardship and education programs.”

BTT’s Director of Science and Conservation, Dr. Aaron Adams states, “I am very pleased that Jim is joining BTT. His leadership and experience will help move BTT to the next level, which is essential to us fulfilling our mission. I am looking forward to being able to focus 100 percent on the science and conservation that are at the core of BTT.”

Bonefish & Tarpon Trust is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization working to conserve and enhance global bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries and their environments through stewardship, research, education and advocacy.

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BTT Announces YETI Coolers as Newest Corporate Sponsor

YETI_RGBBonefish and Tarpon Trust is pleased to announce YETI Coolers as its newest Corporate Sponsor. YETI Coolers will support Bonefish & Tarpon Trust for the remainder of 2015 and 2016 as a Gold Partner and title sponsor of BTT’s Bonefish and Tarpon Genetics Program.

YETI Coolers was founded by sportsmen who used their experience in the field to create a product that exudes simplicity, durability, and quality. Constructed with the same materials used to make whitewater kayaks, the coolers are rotational-molded and have a dramatic durability advantage. YETI coolers keep ice longer, with over twice the insulation compared to most ordinary coolers.

David Bullock, CFO of YETI, “YETI Coolers is excited to partner with Bonefish and Tarpon Trust on their continued efforts to conserve and protect flats habitat and fish species.  In addition to the genetics program, BTT is on the leading edge of these types of initiatives and it is with great pleasure that we are able to support them and ensure these fisheries and habitats are protected for future generations of anglers.”

“We’re thrilled that a vibrant and growing company like YETI Coolers recognizes the value of BTT’s work and has such a strong desire to partner, contribute, and help us make a difference,” said BTT Director of Operations, Dr. Aaron Adams. “Collaborations like these give the flats fishery a brighter future.”

The goal of BTT’s Bonefish and Tarpon Genetics Program is to analyse the population structure of bonefish and tarpon in Florida and throughout the Caribbean to determine the extent that bonefish and tarpon populations in these different locations are related. Genetic samples are easily collected by anglers and guides – a single scale from a tarpon and a single fin clip from a bonefish provide all the information necessary.

To learn more about BTT, become a member, or make a donation, please visit us at on the web at If you would like to request a genetics sampling kit for bonefish or tarpon, please send us an email at

About YETI Coolers

YETI Coolers is a premium manufacturer of the strongest and most durable outdoor coolers available. Their products are known for their innovative, virtually indestructible design and outstanding thermal qualities. They are considered the “must have” cooler for outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds and are great for hunting, fishing, tailgating, paddling, barbequing, and camping. They can be reached at or on the web at


FWC Announces New Barracuda Regulations

CaptSteveHancock_cudaBonefish & Tarpon Trust is pleased to announce that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted unanimously to institute new regulations for barracuda in south Florida. Prior to these new regulations, there were effectively no regulations for barracuda in Florida. The FWC Commissioners were impressed by the testimony of guides and anglers at numerous public workshops and a the FWC Commission meeting in Fort Lauderdale on September 3, testimony that painted a vivid picture of the decline in the barracuda population. The Commissioners voted to institute new regulations effective November 1, 2015, and to revisit the issue to consider additional regulations at their April 2016 Commission meeting. BTT is hopeful that the Commission will institute size restrictions on harvest at the April meeting to conserve the large adult spawners that are essential for the future of the fishery. There will be additional public hearings between now and the April 2016 Commission meeting. Stay tuned to the BTT Blog for workshop details. The FWC press release is here:

Bahamas Announces New Marine National Parks

_DSC4400We are pleased to share good news from the Bahamas. The Minister of the Environment, Kenred Dorsett, recently announced the creation of numerous new marine parks in the Bahamas. Among the new designations are parks on Grand Bahama and Abaco that have been the focus of efforts by BTT collaborators Bahamas National Trust, Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association, Friends of the Environment, The Nature Conservancy, and many guides and lodges. With a focus on protecting the habitats required by bonefish for feeding, spawning, and the juvenile life stage, these new parks will be important to the long term health of the bonefish fishery on these islands. The parks that will protect bonefish habitats on Grand Bahama: The Gap National Park (the north shore); East Grand Bahama National Park. The parks that will protect bonefish habitats on Abaco: The Marls of Abaco National Park; Cross Harbour National Park; East Abaco Creeks National Park.  Having the parks declared is an important first step. The next step is to designate rules and regulations for these parks. More details are available here:

BTT Announces New Project in South Carolina

Bonefish and Tarpon Trust is excited to announce the official launch of its juvenile tarpon habitat work in South Carolina on September 1, 2015 at the Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center. The goal of the project is to gain a better understanding of juvenile tarpon habitat use and what that means for the adult fishery in South Carolina and nearby coastal waters. At the end of this project, we will be able to determine the survivability of juveniles in South Carolina and what that entails for future projects and management efforts in that region. We need your support to make this project a success. Please visit to donate today.