BTT Supports IGFA’s Efforts to Protect Florida’s Forage Fish

FloridaForageFish_logo2Bonefish Tarpon Trust is joining our colleagues at the International Game Fish Association who are leading an effort that will help protect the future of Florida’s fisheries. It’s all about forage fish – in other words, the small fish that are eaten by tarpon, redfish, snook, barracuda and even bonefish that we care so much about. We want to make sure that our game fish have enough food to sustain them, and the habitats that support forage fish are protected. Our goal is to work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to make sure that forage fisheries are managed so that the food needs of Florida’s larger saltwater fish are taken into consideration during stock assessments for the species that eat them, and when setting fishing rules for forage fish and their habitats. This is an effort that BTT supports, and we urge you to support as well.

Here is how you can help. Visit the Florida Forage Fish website and sign the Forage Fish Pledge:

Cheeky March Madness: Road to the Final Fish Is Back!

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Cheeky March Madness: Road To the Final Fish is back again for 2015!
Since 2011, Cheeky Fly Fishing has hosted this unique tournament to benefit Casting for Recovery and the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust. With Cheeky’s March Madness, college basketball teams have been replaced with sport fish for the ultimate tournament pick-em challenge. Fill out the bracket by selecting the fish you prefer to target on the fly in each “matchup.” 64 species will battle for the title, but only one will be crowned champion based on your votes! The most accurate brackets will be in the running for thousands of dollars worth of prizes from fly fishing’s top brands. Bracket entry is $5 and 100% of the proceeds are donated to Casting for Recovery and the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust.
NEW FOR 2015!!: Want to donate more? Those who donate $50 or more will automatically receive $50 in Cheeky Reel Bucks by email, good for $50 off any Cheeky Reel purchased on the Cheeky website.

BTT Serves Up Two Successful Events in January and February

DSC_1710BTT would like to thank all of the attendees who came out to make both the Boca Grande Fundraiser and the George Hommell Jr. Florida Keys Habitat Fundraiser wildly successful.

On January 31st Bonefish and Tarpon Trust held their first fundraising event of 2015 at the Gasparilla Inn Beach Club in Boca Grande, Florida. Over 120 supporters came out to help raise money and to discuss current and future BTT initiatives involving tarpon in the Charlotte Harbor area. The evening saw a great silent auction and raffle, presentations on the latest tarpon research by BTT scientists, as well as a speech from legendary fishing guide Capt. Steve Huff. “I want to thank you all for turning out in a big way for this event.” Huff said. “This organization is certainly at the forefront of tarpon research and trying to save this wonderful animal that we have the privilege of trying to catch.”



DSC_2141Following the event in Boca Grande, BTT hosted the second annual George Hommell Jr. Florida Keys Habitat Fundraiser on February 12, 2015 at the Islander Resort in Islamorada, Florida. Nearly 100 attendees gathered to celebrate the life of the late George Hommell Jr., a founding member of BTT, and to support the fishery that he held so close to his heart. This year’s event kicked off with a lively cocktail hour and silent auction, followed by dinner and a panel discussion featuring BTT Director of Operations, Dr. Aaron Adams, and veteran Florida Keys fishing guides Bob Branham and Tim Klein. The trio discussed the current state of the Keys flats fishery and gave the audience thoughtful insight from both a scientific and an angling point of view.

For more information on upcoming BTT fundraising events, please visit or email

Conservation Captain of the Month: Capt. Dave Wyss


Capt. Dave and his granddaughter Phoebe.

The Conservation Captain for March 2015 is Key Largo, FL guide Capt. Dave Wyss. Dave has been a strong supporter of BTT since our inception and has currently been providing bonefish fin clip samples for BTT’s Bonefish Genetics Program.

For more information Capt. Dave, please visit :

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

I fish at the Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, FL from November thru May. Then, I fish on the AuSable River in MI all summer. I started guiding when I was 15-years old on the AuSable . I have been guiding at the ORC for 35-years.

How did you become a fishing guide?

My father and two of my uncles were fishing guides, so it was a family tradition! My father also guided on both the AuSable and at ORC.

How many days per year do you guide?

I average 150 days or 275 charters. Lots of two trip days.

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

Bonefish, tarpon and permit in the Keys. Brown trout and brookies in MI. They represent the most skill level.

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

We used to have more bonefish with large schools working the oceanside shoreline. It was not uncommon to see five or six very large schools on a half-day charter!

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?

Sea grass preservation. Mark all channels so boats will not run onto and damage the flats.

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

I take great pleasure in chasing a wily adversary and bonefish, tarpon, and permit personify that! You must be at the top of your game at all times to prevail!!

Why do you support Bonefish and Tarpon Trust?

I respect the work they do and appreciate the private sector involvement!

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

Genetics study and tracking of bonefish movement.

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

The more we know about our environment the better prepared we are to deal with all species.

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 just love to fish. Whatever is the best option on any given day is what I am going to concentrate on. I love to fly fish. It is always my first option!

Tell us one of your favorite fishing stories.

On a recent trip with a client I have fished with for over twenty-five years, we were tying to wait out a huge cloud bank so we could sight fish for some bonefish. After solving most of the problems of the world, boredom started to set in. Don cast out and instantly hooked up! After an hour and a half of constant action we totaled 17 Bonefish releases. I would much rather be lucky than good!!!


The Bahamas Initiative Update: South Andros Tagging Trip

IMGP2306In the Fall of 2013, Dr. Zack Jud, a BTT collaborating scientist, traveled to South Andros to lead the first large scale tagging effort on the island. Working together with the guides of Andros South Lodge, the team was able to tag 650 fish over a four day period.

Hoping to continue the success of the 2013 trip, a team consisting of Dr. Aaron Adams (BTT), Justin Lewis (BTT), and Fred Arnett (Bahamas Department of Marine Resources) journeyed to South Andros in January with the hopes of tagging even more bonefish. The team was not only looking to tag fish, but also gather fin clips for genetic analysis as part of the three year Bonefish Genetics Program focused on the genetic makeup of bonefish populations in the Caribbean and Western Atlantic. Determining the genetics of bonefish in the Bahamas is a vital piece of information that will help BTT and fisheries managers in conserving bonefish populations and their habitats in all geographical regions.

This years team was hosted by Bair’s Lodge and used the expertise of the lodge’s local guides to find a lot of fish. Even though the weather wasn’t perfect due to a strong cold front, the team was able to tag and fin clip over 1,000 bonefish. On the first day, due to bad weather, a fast rising tide, and some toothy critters patrolling the flats, over 400 bonefish had to be released from one of the nets before they could be tagged.

One exciting discovery from the trip was a likely pre-spawning aggregation of bonefish; the aggregation consisted of approximately 2,000 bonefish. The fish were observed milling about in a protected deep water bay, exhibiting similar behaviour to fish in other recorded pre-spawning aggregation sites in Abaco, Eleuthera, and Grand Bahama. Between day one and day two the team tagged over 600 fish near the newly discovered pre-spawning aggregation site. One of the fish tagged on the second day at the likely spawning site was recaptured the very next day, 15 miles south of where it was first tagged. Based on our research on Abaco and Grand Bahama, we think this fish likely spawned and then headed home, where we caught it the next day. If so, we’ve already started to connect the likely spawning site to bonefish home ranges, which is exactly the information we need for conservation.

What was odd about the pre-spawning aggregation we observed was its timing. Generally bonefish spawn during the full and new moon phases, but this aggregation occurred during the first quarter moon. This is similar to recent observations in Abaco and Grand Bahama, which suggests that something different is occurring this year. We’ve also received reports from Bahamian fishermen that the Nassau grouper have also been spawning at odd times this year.

Moving forward, we will continue to work with the guides to determine from how far away bonefish travel to get to this site and the migratory pathways that they use. With our continued tagging, genetic sampling, and reporting of recaptures by guides, we hope to answer these questions which will help to protect the fishery on South Andros.

BTT Participates in Everglades National Park’s Boater Education Program Workshop

An early morning boat ride through Everglades National Park.

An early morning boat ride through Everglades National Park.

In early 2015, several stakeholders were invited to a workshop on the Everglades National Park’s Boater Education Program. Individuals representing anglers, paddlers, law enforcement, scientists and more met to develop the program’s objectives and content.

Keeping in mind that Florida Bay makes up about 1/3 of Everglades National Park, stakeholders remained cognizant that visitors using the Park’s marine resources span the range of beginner to life-long expert. The mandatory program therefore aims to educate users on the essentials of resource protection, boater safety and on-the-water etiquette. Apart from the basics, the online version of the program allows the student to delve deeper by offering learn more opportunities, providing supplemental information on topics such as proper fish handling and additional equipment recommended for outings.

The Boater Education Program is one aspect of the revised General Management Plan for Everglades National Park. BTT is happy to take on the challenge, building on our mission of ecosystem-based science and conservation. The information BTT provides to Everglades National Park is targeted to reduce habitat damage and therefore increase habitat and fishery quality.

This workshop is a direct response to years of public comment that called for the education of park users to reduce resource damage and BTT is honored to represent the middle ground at the center of science and angling.

FWC Comes to Keys for Input on Barracuda Feb. 25th

BTT encourages all Keys guides and anglers to participate in the FWC barracuda work shop on February 25 at Key Colony Beach City Hall, 600 W Ocean Dr., Key Colony Beach, FL 33051.

Original post on

On Wednesday State fishery managers want to hear about barracuda numbers and commercial bully-netting at upcoming workshops in the Florida Keys.

Concern about perceived drops in the barracuda population, based on observations primarily from Keys fishing guides and divers, will be reviewed by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission staff at a 6 p.m. Feb. 25 session at Key Colony Beach City Hall.

“The loudest voices [on barracuda] with most concern are in the Florida Keys,” FWC fishery analyst Melissa Reeks told agency commissioners at a November meeting in Key Largo.

The FWC board dismissed the need for a costly and time-consuming population assessment of barracuda, but agreed to hold workshops to gather opinions on possible rule changes.

Barracuda now have few catch restrictions. Guides fear that a possible surge in the commercial harvest would sharply reduce the numbers of the silver fish that provide excitement for anglers.

Lower Keys Guides Association member Will Benson told the FWC of a “dramatic decline in size and numbers of great barracuda.”

“An unregulated harvest is a recipe for over harvesting,” Benson said.

Bridget McDonald, a Key West conservation advocate, said the FWC’s catch reports show “commercial catch of barracuda in the Florida Keys has increased fivefold in three years, from 10,000 pounds in 2011 to more than 50,000 in 2013.”

In 2013, she said, “Florida Keys waters accounted for 67 percent of the state’s commercial barracuda catch.”

“Barracuda is prized as a strong fighter in sport fishing and is a valuable catch-and-release fish,” said John O’Hearn, president of the Lower Keys Guides.

“The great barracuda is a predator fish, and though it rarely attacks humans, even a small one can provide an adrenaline rush when encountered for the first time by a novice snorkeler, diver or fisherman,” McDonald said.

Fish advocates say they have heard of barracuda being purchased at wholesale for $1 per pound, for resale at significantly higher prices to Caribbean natives accustomed to eating barracuda.

“Basically no regulation now will lead to problems in the future,” said Aaron Adams of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. “It’s better to be proactive.”

Three workshops to discuss the status of barracuda in the Florida Keys provide the public an opportunity to share with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation staff anecdotal information about their numbers and habitat.

The workshops, open to the public:

  • Feb. 25 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Key Colony Beach City Hall, 600 W. Ocean Drive.
  • March 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. at International Game Fish Association Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum, 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach.
  • March 5 from 6 to 8 p.m. in a statewide webinar and telephone conference call. For the webinar, go to For voice-only access, send an e-mail to or call (850) 487-0554.

Gone Fishin': Jimmy Kimmel, Jim Belushi, Huey Lewis & More Star In Outdoor Channel Fly Fishing TV Series, “Buccaneers & Bones”

Original release from the Outdoor Channel

WHO: Late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel and entertainer Jim Belushi join veteran cast members – venerable newsman Tom Brokaw (narrator), musician Huey Lewis, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, fly fishing legend Lefty Kreh, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust Board member Bill Klyn and award-winning author Tom McGuane – in season five of “Buccaneers & Bones,” a popular fly fishing TV series on Outdoor Channel.

WHAT: “Buccaneers & Bones” is an unscripted travelogue about the fly fishing pursuits of an all-star cast as they head to South Andros Island in the Out Islands of the Bahamas to explore the area’s famed saltwater flats. Produced by Orion Entertainment, the seven-episode series is equal parts casting and reeling action on the water and laughter-filled antics off the water.

The eclectic group from diverse walks of life and professions has one thing in common: a shared passion for the outdoors, especially the sport of fly fishing. While some are angling pros and others novices, the week-long journey inextricably connects them during the trial of the hunt for the perfect fishing spot, the thrill of the catch, and the battle with a worthy opponent – in this case, bonefish – that thrashes at the end of an angler’s line.

“If fishing is a religion, fly fishing is high church.” – Tom Brokaw

“Buccaneers & Bones” doesn’t just chronicle the tales of a band of anglers joined together on the riveting quest for bonefish and mesmeric adventure on the flats in the open seas, the series highlights the effort to preserve nature’s great coastal environments. The show is presented in partnership with the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, an organization made up of anglers and guides seeking to preserve global bonefish, tarpon and permit fisheries through stewardship, research, education and advocacy.

WHY: Join the intrepid “Buccaneers & Bones” anglers on their remarkable foray of discovery in the Bahamas. Prepare to be captivated by the tropical landscape. And watch the thrills of the buccaneers’ unique saltwater angling experience, after all, bonefish are giant, powerful fighters.

“Buccaneers & Bones” also captures the real sense of camaraderie among the group as they catch and cook wild crabs, learn how to open conch shells and visit a local Bahamian bar. Kimmel gets an expert casting lesson from Kreh. Kimmel and Belushi catch their very first bonefish. And, during his struggle reeling in his line, Belushi walks off the boat…backwards…straight into the water.

WHEN: The new season of “Buccaneers & Bones” premieres on Saturday, February 21 at 5:00 p.m. ET as part of Outdoor Channel’s winter/spring programming lineup.

WHERE: Exclusively on Outdoor Channel.

Check local listings or log on to for show schedules. To find out how to get the network in your area, go to or call (855) 44-OUTDOOR.

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