Welcome to The Bonefish Flat

There's a stiff wind in your face as you squint in the sun trying to see what the guide sees. "Bonefish at 12 o'clock about 90 feet, do you see it, mon?" You don't and keep squinting, your hat pulled low to keep the sun out of your eyes. "Bonefish at 11 o'clock 70 feet out. Come on man, do you see it?" As the guide is calmly shifting the skiff into position, this time you spot the fish, "I got, it," you reply.

"OK, Mon, Bonefish 50 feet at 10 o'clock. Cast when you're ready."

Cast when you're ready. And with that you drop your fly, roll out a cast, false cast once, and then...

Welcome to the bonefish flat.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Interview with Dr. Aaron Adams of Bonefish & Tarpon Trust

On Monday, I had a unique opportunity to interview a true leader in our sport.  Dr. Aaron Adams, Executive Director of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust talked with me for 40 minutes about the expansion of Project Permit, made possible through a generous donation from Costa, and about habitat and conservation efforts going on at BTT to preserve the great gamefish of the flats.

What follows is the first part of my interview.  Enjoy

1. Tell me about Project Permit and what the addition of Mexico will mean for the program?

We still don't know much about permit.  In 2010 with the introduction of Project Permit in Florida, we just started tagging the fish.  But for such an important gamefish, we still don’t know how big their movement is or whether they move from Mexico to Florida.

We also don’t know how many people fish for permit or how many they keep.  Project Permit is the first step to learning this.  While all this is true in Florida, the same things apply in Mexico.  We don’t know the locations of the fish and in Mexico, we don't know what conservation and protection efforts are underway and what effect it is having.  In the Sian Ka’an Preserve in Mexico, there is no commercial fishing, just recreational.  But tagging could determine 50 percent of the fish migrate to where commercial fishing is a problem.

2. How many permit have been tagged so far and how many captured?

440 have been tagged, only 2 have been recaptured. While this may seem like a lot of fish, we need         to tag thousands of fish in order to get an accurate sample.

3. Since permit typically live in deeper water and visit the flats on occasion, do you think it will be more difficult to recapture tagged fish?

Florida is tagging everywhere, not just the flats.  In Mexico, most of the efforts is on the flats.

4. What have you learned about permit migratory patterns so far from Project Permit?

The first fish caught with a tag was in Biscayne bay about a month after being tagged and it was only  about a ¼ mile away.  The second fish was 40 miles away from its location.

5. Do you have any early ideas or permit perception changes based on findings from project permit?

In order to get accurate samples, we need to do more tagging.

6. Of the big three fish of the flats, which one is the most endangered?

None of the fish are necessarily endangered, but the threats are different for each one.  Permit is lack of knowledge.  There has never been a stock assessment.  We don’t know what is going on, and if a decline does take place, it would most likely be too late to do anything about it.

Habitat loss is a key issue for both tarpon and bones as well as permit.  Juvenile permit, only an inch or two long require sandy beaches.  Beach re-nourishment projects can literally wipe out populations of small permit because they need more coarse sand and these "new" beaches tend to provide fine sand.  They also tend to make the water more murky which has a negative effect on the fish.

With tarpon, these fish migrate long distances, which mean that all of the locations they travel are connected.  Florida does a good job of protecting the species and few tarpon are killed.  But in Mexico, all the tournaments are kill tournaments and in other areas of the world they kill the big fish, which tend to be the females and that's not good. Louisiana still has kill tournaments.

7. What is the one thing most threatening to that species?

There are common denominators that are a threat to all the species.  Specifically, water flows and habitat destruction.  Florida has done a good job in preventing development and protecting areas whereas in other countries, Belize for example, the development is really bad.  Developers have purchased big areas of mangroves, drained the area, and turned them into private islands.  This habitat loss can be detrimental to fish.

So there you have, part two to be posted tomorrow.  But I do know that, Drs. orders, I need to do more Permit fishing and tagging!!  The wife is going to love that one, but do you think she will buy it?

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