This is why I love BTT. They are just solid and they’ll continue to get my money for as long as I’m declared competent and able to make my own decisions.
As hard as it is to believe, I actually asked these questions of Justin Lewis from Bonefish & Tarpon Trust before all this Bahamas regulation stuff came up.
Justin works for BTT. He’s a Bahamian working in the Bahamas for BTT. Shows BTT’s commitment to protecting bonefish where bonefish live. I applaud that up and down and am only sorry I have but two hands to applaud with. See… BTT is awesome.
You are working with BTT out in the Bahamas. Can you give me an overview of what that work entails?
Working as the Bahamas Initiative Manager for the BTT, I travel around the Bahamas visiting lodges and working with local guides which has helped us identify bonefish home ranges, juvenile habitat, bonefish spawning sites, and bonefish spawning migration pathways. The Bahamas Initiative is a collaborative, multi-year program to conserve and protect the bonefish fishery and their habits in The Bahamas.
The work I do when I travel to the different islands ranges from giving presentations to guides, anglers and schools, to tagging, to snorkeling with thousands of bonefish in pre-spawning aggregations. The scientific information we collect is then applied to habitat conservation plans in conjunction with fishing guides, lodge owners, collaborating NGO’s, and the Bahamas Government.
What is one thing you wish anglers knew about conservation.
The one thing I wish anglers knew about conservation is how much they are capable and welcome of getting involved in conservation efforts. For the work we do at BTT, angler and guide participation is key to the success of many of our projects. For example, our tag-recapture study in the Bahamas involved a lot of angler and guide participation. From anglers and guides tagging bonefish and reporting recaptures we were able to figure out that bonefish have very small home ranges (<1km), and also travel long distances (>30km) for spawning purposes. By anglers participating in research like the tagging program, the information they help collect is vital to conservation efforts and planning for bonefish and their habitats. It is also a great way to give back to the resource we have such a passion for.
The BTT in collaboration with Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission has initiated a new genetics study looking at the connectivity of bonefish and tarpon populations in the Bahamas, Caribbean, and Western Atlantic. We collect fin clips from bonefish and scales from tarpon that are used for genetic analysis, and can help us determine whether different populations are related to one another. If anglers or guides who target bonefish or tarpon in those areas are interested in participating in this study, they can request a fin clip or scale sample kit by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s one unexpected thing you’ve see out there on the flats?
On a flat in Eleuthera, I saw a very large porcupine fish. I’ve seen them countless times out on the reef, but never thought I’d ever see one on the flats.
What do you think is the biggest threat to Bahamian bonefish?
We have identified habitat loss and degradation to be the greatest threat to bonefish populations in the Bahamas. Lots of areas that are prime feeding and spawning habitat for bonefish are also sought after by developers for sand mining or hotel and marina developments. Removing or altering habitat could negatively affect a local bonefish population that depends on habitats like mangroves and seagrass beds for food and cover.
How good is the Bahamian rugby team? And please explain how to play rugby. (I admit I asked this question to be funny, but Justin just went ahead and answered it anyway)
We are a good team and have a lot of talent, but we still have things we need to improve on. We had a good international season this year, beating both Bermuda and Turks & Caicos.
Rugby is a continuous game whereby two teams carry, pass, kick and ground the ball in order to score. In rugby there are 15 people playing at a time per side. The key to playing rugby is that you always have to pass the ball backwards, and to be in support of the man with ball in order to receive a pass or ruck in order to secure the ball. The purpose of the ruck or maul is so that the game can continue without any stoppage in play. The line-out and scrum are two key distinguishing factors to the game of Rugby Union. A scrum occurs when there is an accidental infringement and a line-out occurs when the ball goes out of bounds. A try is scored when a player places the ball in the opposition’s in-goal area, and is worth 5 points followed by a conversion kick which is worth 2.
On an average day of bonefishing, average conditions, what fly are you pulling out for your first cast?
Well that all depends on the area I am fishing. My go-to fly for most situations is a simple crab pattern, most of the time a merkin or bastard crab that will match the bottom I am fishing. The two keys to choosing the right crab pattern is weight and color. Match the weight of the fly to the depth of water you are fishing, and as I already mentioned match the color of the crab fly to the bottom. Most of the time crabs will take on the color of the bottom they are on. Crabs have a very high caloric value which bonefish love, so to heighten your chances of getting one to look and hopefully eat, I’d recommend a crab fly.
If you were writing the laws in the Bahamas and could enact one law to help the fishery stay healthy, what law would you enact?
If there was one law I could enact, it would be the protection of key bonefish habitat from unsustainable development. From the research BTT and our collaborators have done over the years on bonefish, we have come to the conclusion that degradation, blockage, and removal of bonefish habitat is the greatest threat to the species.
One other law I would enact is total ban of gill nets. They are a non-selective and extremely destructive type of fishing, and if they get lost and float at sea or get stuck in mangroves, they can cause even more destruction by entangling any marine organism that gets near it.
The MidCurrent story, both I & II are getting a lot of eyeballs. There are probably more comments on those two stories than all the stories I’ve written about the topic. It speaks to the authority MidCurrent has as a brand.
If you are still on the fence… I think these comments by our pal Prescott Smith about the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust really should help you pick a side. This is from the MidCurrent story:
BFFIA president Prescott Smith, who argues that BTT resists local input and is out of touch with ordinary Bahamians, says that BFFIA has no relationship with BTT now and no plans to work with the group on common cause conservation concerns in the future. Instead BFFIA works closely with Bahamas Sportfishing Conservation Association (BSCA), which Smith himself began in 1995 to address conservation issues he believed were of particular importance to Bahamians. According to Smith, BSCA has approximately 250 members; a request for the number of members with fisheries science backgrounds and/or advanced degrees in marine resources or natural resources management went unanswered. In any case, Smith asserts that locals know more about local fish behavior and patterns than do experts who visit the islands for a few months for programs like bonefish tagging.
Just to be clear… THIS is the organization Prescott won’t work with (and by the way, that is what actual conservation work looks like).
It is unclear if Prescott knew BTT has a Bahamian staff member, living in Grand Bahama, working every day on conservation issues (not weekends, really, working 5 days a week), getting in touch with ordinary Bahamians.
Instead of working with and supporting a world-class conservation organization like BTT, Prescott will only work with an organization he himself started and controls. This is the organization he’s talking about. Last news update on the website was from 2013. There is no list of staff. There is no list of partners or funders. Their facebook page was last updated in 2013. There is a Twitter account, started in 2008 with zero tweets. It is a ghost of an organization.
Incidently, this nearly non-existant entity is the only “Industry Partner” listed on the BFFIA’s website.
Which organization would a rational person choose to partner with I wonder?
I mean… is anyone still buying this stuff?
From BTT. If you fish Florida, please take the survey!
YOUR HELP IS NEEDED: Project Bay Bones Survey
Do you fish for bonefish in south Florida? If you do, then we need your help. Bonefish and Tarpon Trust has 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, public participation 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.
If the link above does not work, please copy and paste the following URL into your browser: https://fiu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_1GplxUPVHqt5xtz
We are looking for bonefish anglers of all levels and years of experience, including fishing guides. Your participation in this study is greatly appreciated and we thank you in advance!
For further information or if you have any questions, please contact email@example.com
Day 5 was ugly. The wind was up in a big way and ruled out most of what we would have wanted to do. I was fishing with Bill Horn, the guy who wrote the (or at least a) book about the Keys. He’s also on the Board for the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust. Also in the boat was Dan Dow, who works at BTT.
It is always good to be in the boat with Bill. He has his home waters dialed and managed a couple of wizard-like moments in conditions that were beyond rough. We were taking green rollers over the bow. The bottom was stirred up and visibility was sketchy. Bill still managed to put us in the path of some tarpon. How he did that… I can only suspect witchcraft of some kind.
We actually got a couple of shots, but the fish were so close to the boat by the time we could see them the shots were not high quality.
We were watching the weather form out beyond us and when it was clear we were in its way we made a run back toward Vaca Cut. The first squall line had moved beyond us by the time we got there and as we tried to make our way to his slip we ran smack into the second squall line. Pretty impressive weather to get stuck in. We hid under the bridge and when the storm passed we even got to try for some of the smaller tarpon rolling in the inexplicably placid waters before the wind came back up.
The day was over and I was fish-less again on Day 5. It was a good day though and it was great to share the water with Bill and Dan. I learned a lot from Bill, as I do every time I get on the water with him. Dan… I didn’t learn anything from Dan (kidding), but it was fun to fish with him anyway.
Maybe you don’t have a ton of scratch, maybe you just aren’t much of a giver. Maybe you’ve always thought about joining, but just have put it off.
Well, you can now join the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust for $25 and get the $50 bennies, including a new BTT hat.
This is the organization looking out for the fish we love and if you want these fish to be around for generations to come, this is the place to put that $25.
So, join now, if you haven’t already. It is a great promotion and a great organization doing important work on a shoestring.
Well… Forbes ran a story about fishing Cuba and that means I need to point you there. Could the bonefish decline in the Keys be partly put on Cuba?
While the scientific research is ongoing, there is much speculation that the Keys bonefish decline may be in part due to the overharvesting of the species in Cuba. Tagging by the BTT shows no evidence of adult migrations between the Keys and Cuba. “But once bonefish hatch from eggs after spawning, the bonefish larvae are certainly capable of flowing with ocean currents from Cuba to the Keys during their 53 day open-ocean phase,” says the BTT’s Director of Operations, Dr. Aaron Adams. “So netting of spawning bonefish in Cuba could have significant impacts on how many larvae are able to drift from Cuba bonefish spawning sites to the Florida Keys.” And that could very well be the problem.
Somehow the new season of Buccaneers and Bones (which supports the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust) started without my noticing. But I’ve noticed now and watched the last episode, which was on South Andros at Bair’s Lodge.
Oh, South Andros. I love that place. Only spend one week there, but it is etched in my memory forever. It was an important trip and the line separating one period in my life from another.
My trip there was FIBFest II, a thing that has gone by the wayside, an experiment of sorts.
The Buccaneers and Bones crew this year is pretty interesting with Jimmy Kimmel among the cast. South Andros is a special place. Glad to see it again, even if it is on TV.
The Bonefish & Tarpon Trust got a great ally recently in Nautilus Reels. Sounds like they’ll donate 5% to BTT for their award-winning NV-Monster reel and will sign the purchaser up for a year of BTT membership.
I interviewed Kristen Mustad a few years back and got a chance to fish a Nautilus reel back in 2010 on a trip to Belize. Loved it.
Great to see Nautilus partnering up with BTT.
If you like bonefish or tarpon or permit (and I’m guessing you would say yes to at least one of those), you may be interested in BTT’s 5th International Symposium on Nov. 7-8 (IGFA Hall of Fame and Museum, Dania Beach, FL).
Something new this year will be the Art & Film Festival attached to this event. Now… I KNOW there are some folks who should put something together for this. I’m looking at you Eric and Chris. Art. Videos. Bonefish and Tarpon and Permit?
Hope some of you guys put something together to celebrate the places, people or fish involved.
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