Help Hawaiian Bonefish Achieve Gamefish Status

BTT Conservation Captain, Mike Hennessy, with a beautiful Hawaiian O'io.

BTT Conservation Captain Mike Hennessy with a nice Hawaiian O’io.

It is no longer a secret that the state of Hawaii supports a pretty good bonefish fishery. Catching a fish over 10 pounds is not uncommon to our friends in the Pacific. Just like the Keys, the Bahamas, and Belize, the bonefish in Hawaii face their own set of challenges and they need our help.

Unfortunately, gill-netting and commercial sale of bonefish in Hawaii are both commonplace and legal. A group of very concerned anglers and guides are currently petitioning Hawaii Governor, David Ige to designate bonefish as a “gamefish” in the state, thus prohibiting commercial sale. Please assist them with this effort by taking a moment to fill out their petition.

https://www.change.org/p/stop-gill-netting-hawaiian-bonefish

Bonefish and Tarpon Trust Announces ARC Fishing As Their Newest Corporate Sponsor

ARC_Fishing_logoBonefish and Tarpon Trust is pleased to announce ARC Fishing as their newest Corporate Sponsor at the Bronze Partner Level.

ARC Fishing is an emerging fly line, tippet and leader materials company whose philosophy embodies simplicity without sacrificing performance. As part of their sponsorship, ARC Fishing has donated fly lines and materials for use at BTT fundraising events and other special opportunities.

“ARC Fishing is excited to partner with Bonefish and Tarpon Trust on their continued efforts to conserve and protect habitat and fish species.  BTT is on the leading edge of these types of initiatives and it is with great pleasure that we are able to support them to ensure these habitats are protected for future generations of anglers.”

ARC fly line technology features a 6% low-stretch Response Core for superior line sensitivity and improved hook set and features a hard cover that will stand up to the harshest tropical conditions. A grooved line profile reduces guide friction and hang-up, resulting in longer more accurate casts.   All ARC Saltwater fly lines feature a durable, 100% polyurethane cover mixed with a super-slick, hydrophobic PTFE fluoropolymer for extended life and superior line floating. Saltwater lines are available in an ARC Bonefish/Redfish, ARC Tarpon, and the ARC99Salt, a multi-purpose saltwater taper.

“We’re thrilled that a new company like ARC Fishing recognizes the value of BTT’s work for the flats fishery and has such a strong desire to 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.”

About ARC Fishing

The Angling Research Company (ARC) is a company dedicated to innovation and angler-centric technology in pursuit of the highest performance fly lines, leaders and tippet material for fly fisherman of all skill levels. They can be reached at info@arcfishing.com or on the web at http://www.arcfishing.com/.

Conservation Captain of the Month: Capt. Richard Black

RichardBlackRedfishThe Conservation Captain for May 2015 is Florida Keys guide Capt. Richard Black. Capt. Richard has volunteered his time and boat to help with a number of BTT research initiatives. Recently, he has been constantly providing bonefish fin clip samples from the Upper Keys area to be included in our bonefish genetics program.

Click here for more info on about Capt. Richard Black.

Where do you guide and how long have you been guiding for?

I fish out of the Lorelei in Islamorada and I guide in the Upper Keys and Everglades National Park. I have been guiding for 7 years.

How did you become a fishing guide?

I grew up fishing the Everglades and Upper Keys. Somewhere along the way, taking friends fishing and watching their enjoyment catching fish became more rewarding than catching the fish myself. Passion turned career when I started guiding while earning an environmental science degree in college.

How many days per year do you guide?

About 300 days a year. Some years a little more, some a little less.

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

I’m lucky enough to live in Islamorada, really one of the only places in the world where you can target such a wide variety of inshore and offshore species in the same day. I would say the majority of my days spent on the water are targeting snook, reds, and/or bonefish.

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

Our fishery is ever changing. Like most fisheries we cycle; some years are better for one species than another. How it’s changed…I could write pages on this subject. But, in short, it’s changed by more boating pressure, changing climate, and decreased water flow from the everglades.

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

Freshwater flow. Restore freshwater inflow to appropriate seasonal volumes and timing from the glades.

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

It’s the only place in the world you can super slam (snook, redfish, tarpon, bonefish and permit) and be able to target them in so many different scenarios.

Why do you support Bonefish and Tarpon Trust?

I support BTT because it’s our life support to ensure we have a healthy fishery for years to come.

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

Continuing science on bonefish, the more we know the better we can protect our fishery.

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

Any person that is an angler should care about BTT. Anglers of bonefish and tarpon often live hundreds if not thousands of miles from their favorite target species. Anglers can follow BTT’s work to stay updated with the fishery. BTT is more than an organization that works with bonefish, tarpon, and permit. Their breakthrough fisheries science can be adapted and used in many different fisheries.

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?

Snook, redfish and bonefish. I like to call it the Islamorada slam, my preferred method is spin fishing with buck tail jigs. Ideally, I like to target the three inside the Everglades Park boundaries.

Tell us one of your favorite fishing stories.

Taking a family fishing trip with my wife, Brooke and our 13month old daughter. With a little one walking around the boat spinning the handles on all the reels, umbrella deployed, poling around looking for an afternoon bonefish. We were fortunate enough to catch 2 bonefish that day and show our little girl a “ish” as she call’s them. I’m very lucky to have such a beautiful family that enjoys the same passions I do.

Bonefish and Tarpon Trust Names Harold Brewer as New President

After 10 years of devoted service, Matt Connolly has decided to step down from his position as President of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. Connolly will remain a vital part of the BTT Board of Directors, serving as President Emeritus, and fellow BTT board member Harold Brewer will take over as the conservation organization’s new President.

Matt Connolly

Matt Connolly

Nearly a decade ago Matt Connolly identified himself to Bonefish and Tarpon Trust leaders as someone who believed in the cause and someone who was willing to help. And help he did.

Matt brought with him a lifetime (50 years) of experience including 19 years of leadership with the prestigious and effective Ducks Unlimited organization and directorships of numerous other conservation groups. Matt also brought his little black book of contacts and quickly attracted numerous other skilled and passionate directors to the cause. “Being President of BTT was an incredibly gratifying experience for me as the science based facts from of our research programs coupled with our membership growth enabled us, for the first time, to advocate and successfully bring about sound new public policies for flats fish. “ Connolly said.

“I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to work closely with Matt Connolly over the last few years. His experience and guidance has been invaluable to BTT as we have furthered our science and educational efforts to conserve and restore the fisheries we are interested in. “ Said BTT’s new President, Harold Brewer. “While I can never replace Matt, I am looking forward to working more closely with our dedicated group of members, supporters and active volunteers as well as the leadership and staff of BTT in the years ahead.”

Originally a Georgia native, Brewer moved to Florida in the late 70’s. His love for fishing in general, specifically fly fishing, began as a youngster fishing for trout in the North Georgia mountains.

Harold Brewer

Harold Brewer (photo: Pat Ford)

Since moving to Florida he has been a business executive and owner of several companies that provided services specializing in community bank software products and technology utilization. Retired for the second time, he and his wife Mona, also an accomplished angler, enjoy traveling and fishing together from Alaska to Argentina.

When asked about Brewer, BTT Chairman of the Board Tom Davidson said, “Harold Brewer has been a BTT director for over 10 years holding a number of board positions including VP of Membership and Managing Director of the Bahamas Initiative. He is an avid fisherman, birder, and a life-long conservationist. As such, he brings extensive experience and enthusiasm to the job and will be an excellent leader and president.”

The 4th Annual Belize River Lodge BTT Tagging Challenge

Casting for tarponThe Belize River Lodge BTT Tagging Challenge is an annual event where anglers and scientists work together, fishing for bonefish, permit, and Atlantic tarpon to collect important biological information while enjoying some of The Caribbean’s best fishing at Belize River Lodge.

Combining fishing and conservation, participants collect genetic samples from the fish they catch, as well as tag the fish with small identification tags, commonly termed ‘dart’ or ‘spaghetti’ tags. Collectively, these two methods provide essential information on fish movement, site fidelity, population connectivity, and population sizes of these iconic sport fish to help guide their management and conservation.

This years Tagging Challenge took place from March 26th to April 1st 2015, and was a great success. Anglers caught, tagged, and sampled dozens of tarpon and bonefish over the course of the week, but had no luck with the elusive permit. Anglers Chuck and Craig tagged the most bonefish, while Dennis tagged the largest, taking home new Sage 8 wt outfits, Costa Del Mar gear and Belize novelties. Nathan collected the most genetic samples from tarpon, while BTT Scientist Jake Brownscombe captured and sampled the largest fish during The Challenge, a 97 lb tarpon. It will be interesting to see how closely related this big tarpon is to others in Belize, as well as those in other regions of The Caribbean and Florida.

Belize River Lodge tarponThe Tagging Challenge also featured a talk by Jake on bonefish biology and conservation. Jake highlighted some of the exciting new scientific research findings on bonefish, including the fact that we are now aware of 12 different bonefish species worldwide, and many populations in The Caribbean and Western Atlantic move offshore to spawn around the new and full moons. Additionally, bonefish in some regions such as Puerto Rico have very high fidelity to isolated reef flats, while those in other regions, such as Eleuthera, The Bahamas, use much larger areas encompassing many sand flats and tidal creeks. With this information, we can better protect key habitats based on their scale and connectivity.

The tagging and genetics studies conducted during research angling trips are part of greater BTT programs operating throughout the Caribbean and Western Atlantic aimed at understanding the level of connectivity of various populations of bonefish, permit, and tarpon to better define the scale at which we must manage and conserve these species. These studies would not be possible without the support and enthusiasm of the anglers, guides, and outfitters that participate in events like the Belize River Lodge Tagging Challenge. A special thank you to Belize River Lodge, which kindly donated $4000 from the event to support BTT’s conservation initiatives!

Algae Blooms Threaten Florida Waters

Last month, news outlets across Florida reported a 300 yard, potentially toxic, algae bloom had been discovered in canals near Indian River and St. Lucie Estuaries.  Now, Mark Perry, of Florida Oceanographic Society, indicates the potentially toxic bloom has almost doubled in size.

In 2013, a toxic bloom in our estuaries led to beach closures, illnesses and fishing restrictions costing our local economies millions.  We need to put a stop to toxic algae blooms that wreak havoc on our health and economy.  And we can.

Last November, a constitutional amendment was passed requiring our government to fund land deals that will save our water supply.  We have a binding contract with US Sugar Corp to buy land to store and clean polluted waters, ultimately saving our drinking water and curtailing toxic blooms.  But, the legislature and Gov. Scott need to use Amendment 1 funds now, or the contract will expire.

Click here for more information and to sign the petition to make sure that Florida legislators keep up their end of the deal they made with Floridians in 2010.

BTT Provides Bonefish Conservation Update in Grand Bahama

DSC_0836Last March, Justin Lewis, BTT’s Bahamas Initiative Coordinator, gave a presentation about BTT’s bonefish conservation efforts in the Bahamas at the Rand Nature Center, the Grand Bahama Island headquarters of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT). BTT has been collaborating with BNT, The Fisheries Conservation Foundation, and the Cape Eleuthera Institute on bonefish conservation since 2009. Justin’s presentation was part of the Rand Nature Center’s monthly public lecture series that shares information about the Bahamian natural environment and the threats it faces. Thanks to great advertising by the BNT, there were over 40 people in attendance, including school teachers, bonefish guides, the general public, representatives from other conservation organizations, and a representative from the sustainable tourism section of the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism.

Justin kept the crowd engaged with descriptions of bonefish biology, the economic and cultural importance of the bonefish fishery, and the findings of the ongoing effort to identify the bonefish habitats most in need of conservation and protection. The highlights of the first portion of the presentation included:

  • The annual economic impact of the recreational bonefish fishery exceeds $141 million
  • Bonefish spawning behavior, and the fact that they spawn offshore
  • The unusual leptocephalus bonefish larvae that hatches from the fertilized egg and floats in the open ocean for almost 2 months.

DSC_0829Justin also brought the audience up to speed on the bonefish tagging project, which began in 2009, and is designed to identify the habitats and locations most in need of conservation and protection to ensure the health of the fishery. Audience members were interested to learn that most tagged bonefish were recaptured very close to where they were tagged, which suggests that bonefish have a small home range. But they were amazed to learn that these same fish undergo long migrations to spawning locations. Numerous fish tagged in the Abaco Marls, for example, were recaptured at a spawning location 70 miles away. And one fish may have migrated as far as 176 miles – from a home range location on Grand Bahama to a spawning location on Abaco.

The key message of Justin’s presentation was that the economically and culturally important recreational bonefish fishery in the Bahamas is susceptible to numerous threats and requires diligent conservation to ensure a healthy fishery. Their small home ranges means that bonefish are susceptible to illegal netting and habitat degradation from coastal development. They may be especially susceptible to illegal netting during their long distance spawning migrations, when they travel along shorelines in large schools. And since bonefish return to the same spawning site every year, any damage to the site from development, such as channel dredging or marina construction, could impact the entire local population.

IMG_3653BTT, FCF, and CEI are using this research to assist BNT in their efforts to create new National Parks on Grand Bahama and Abaco that will help protect important bonefish habitats. The BNT has an online petition where you can add your name to the list of people who support the creation of these important National Parks. Please go to http://bahamasparks.org/ to sign the petition.

Based on the number of questions Justin was asked by the audience, the energy is high to continue this conservation work to assist with conservation of bonefish and their habitats in the Bahamas.