What first comes to mind when you think of The Bahamas? Crystal clear waters and flats fishing on Andros or Grand Bahama? Or, the exclusive private cays scattered throughout the Exumas? It might be gorgeous yachts with impeccable crews cruising the pristine waters between Nassau and Staniel Cay. Or, it could simply be the perfect winter escape. What The Bahamas may not readily evoke are purpose-driven, passionate conservation endeavors.
Well, some 13 years ago a few anglers from the Ocean Reef Club, along with a group of fishing guides and scientists in the Florida Keys, did just that when they helped start the Bonefish Tarpon Trust (BTT). Since then a number of PlaneSense owners have joined their effort as the BTT continues to earn high levels of appreciation and support for its work.
BTT essentially advocates conservation, not just for bonefish, permit, tarpon and their environments, but also for the angling and flats fishing way of life. Aside from the research and education that one might expect from a conservation group, BTT has also succeeded in engaging a global community and motivating anglers and guides in The Bahamas to tag, clip fin samples and practice proper fish handling and release methods.
In March 2010, with the cooperation of the Bahamian government, plus tremendous help from the country’s many lodges, guides and anglers, BTT released the results of an in-depth study presenting the economic impact of bonefish, permit and tarpon fishing on the Bahamian economy. It changed how people viewed the flats fishing resource, mangroves and water quality. They began to truly appreciate the actual value of these natural wonders, which has opened the door to conservation strategies and resource management benefiting both fish and man. But to actually trigger positive behavior, the story had to become more than a rational argument.
By 2010, the BTT connected with Orion Entertainment, The Outdoor Channel, Orvis and other sponsors to create and film “Buccaneers and Bones” as another way to promote and support its mission. In December of 2011, just as Season 2 was about to air, Bucs & Bones received three nominations for a Golden Moose Award - the Academy Award of Outdoor TV. This coming April, hosts Tom Brokaw and Michael Keaton are back again to try their wits in the water surrounding Deep Water Cay Club on the eastern end of Grand Bahama Island. We hope for them and for BTT that the fish will be bountiful, healthy and as tough to catch as ever.
Hooks: Hook type and barb crimping reduces the time necessary to remove a hook and dramatically affects survival rates of released fish.
Fight Time: Shorter fight times normally increase survival rates. Fish fought to exhaustion are more vulnerable to predators, mainly sharks. Conversely, a bonefish reeled in too quickly may thrash about, striking the angler or boat and increasing its chance of injury.
Handling: Research has shown that if you have to handle a bonefish you should use clean, wet hands and gently support the fish from beneath the head and belly. Nets, lip-gripping devices and wet cloths can cause injury to the bonefish. Also, avoid exposing bonefish to the open air – even when taking a photo. If you must remove a bonefish from the water, limit this exposure to a maximum of 15 seconds.
Note: This article is displaying as it appeared in Volume 06 of our PlaneSense: Informational Quarterly newsletter.
Photo courtesy of Bonefish Tarpoon Trust
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