A cool article from Fly Life Magazine lays out some of the findings when the question gets asked about what removes bonefish slime, does sun screen deter fish from feeding and more.
There is a lot of superstition around questions like this and not all of it stands up to rigorous examination. Ah… science.
Here’s something I know… keep those bonefish wet. Don’t pick them up if you can help it. If you are catching a bunch of cookie-cutter bones, no need for the 12th photo. It is a violent place out there if you are a bonefish, and a fish that is lethargic will simply become a meal for a predator.
I’ve been thinking about Belize lately. I was talking to my 6 year old about Belize, thinking about how much he would dig on experiencing the place, getting him to tell his mom that’s a place he wants to go (smart). I was talking to a friend who wants to catch a bonefish about why Belize is a good option for a first timer.
Then, I see this come through my inbox. Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation has been keeping on keeping on in the fight to preserve the fishing and fly fishing economy of Belize. Good stuff. Below is their press release.
Permanent Ban on Gillnets in Belize
One Step Closer
August 21st, 2020
On August 20th, 2020, an agreement between the Government of Belize and the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries was signed by Dr. Hon. Omar Figueora, Minister of Fisheries, Forestry, the Environment, and Sustainable Development. This long-awaited agreement is a major step in the process of completely phasing out the use of gillnets in Belize, protecting important game species such as permit, tarpon, and bonefish along with other critical marine species such as sharks, turtles, and manatees. The Yellow Dog Community and Conservation Foundation (YDCCF) is proud to have been a part of this initiative from the beginning, as well as serving as a coalition partner. In addition, we would like to express gratitude and thank all of our donors who helped to make this possible.
With this agreement in place, we will begin the second phase addressing ‘alternative livelihoods’ for the gillnet fishermen in Belize. This next phase of the project will be overseen by a committee appointed by the Minister of Fisheries with support and guidance by the Government of Belize, the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries and support from Oceana, in order to have a long-lasting and sustainable option that keep gillnets from being used in the future.
The work to permanently ban gillnets in Belize is a great example of the angling community coming together to help local communities in the places we fish while also building support for and maintaining sustainable sport fishing resources.
YDCCF strives to identify local community needs and provide support to solve their concerns and to this end, we are pleased to be a part of the Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries. The Coalition for Sustainable Fisheries includes the Belize Tourism Industry Association, the Belize Game Fish Association, the National Sports Fishing Association, the Belize Federation of Fishers, Turneffe Atoll Trust, MAR Alliance, Yellow Dog Community, and Conservation Foundation.
If you would like more information about the project and how you can support the gillnet ban and alternative livelihoods project in Belize, or to order a Belize Gillnet Ban Sticker, please contact email@example.com
Saw this in an email from Yellow Dog, promoting the conservation efforts going on in Belize. Kudos to the folks at Yellow Dog for including that in their email marketing… a step they don’t have to take, but are.
The folks behind this could use a bit of a financial bump. Consider donating.
I love Belize and I’ll be clicking a few dollars their way for sure.
I think I’ve been pretty upfront with some of my own bonefish handling mistakes. The first bonefish I ever caught I had out of the water maybe a minute. Same goes for all the fish caught that day. The guide told me the fish would be fine and that they were hardy fish.
That was pretty much bullshit and the science shows just how wrong that is. Bonefish can and do die frequently post-release. It isn’t the exhaustion, like might kill a trout caught in water just a tad to warm. The bonefish will usually swim away just fine and you’ll think “A perfect release.” However, that fish may very well end up in the belly of of cuda or shark within the next few minutes (sometimes seconds).
I mean, yeah, there were a couple of podcast episodes on this very thing due to a fish I had eaten post-release in Grand Bahama.
The truth of the matter is, after a couple pictures, the fish pretty much look alike. You don’t need to photograph each and every one.
Abaco Lodge and Bair’s Lodge do a great job of showing good handling. Their fish pics are of fish in the water. That’s great. Modeling good handing really helps. The clients look to the guides for how things should be done.
One place you really might be more OK with a fish out of water pic is Hawaii, where natural predators have been greatly reduced. There are simply fewer things to eat those fish post-release.
So, let’s all try to be better. I know I still have work to do, but I’m up for trying to improve.
I’ve had it in salad. I’ve had it in fritters. I’ve had it deep fried. I’ve had it in chowder. My daughter has even had it raw.
When I think of the Bahamas, I think of conch. But… there was a time when you might think of the Keys when you thought of conch. I have a vague recollection of my dad having a conch salad when I made my first trip to Florida around… oh… 1984. But, you won’t find conch for sale in the Keys these days.
From what I gather the Keys conch fishery collapsed in the mid 70’s and all commercial and recreational harvesting of conch was banned in 1985. To this day… 33 years later, the fishery still hasn’t recovered.
The Bahamas has shown signs of stress and it keeps getting more and more pressure heaped on it as the out islands gather conch to eat locally and to send to all those tourists in Nassau and export markets.
Cool little video on the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust homepage at the moment which tells the story of bonefish spawning patterns, uncovered by science.
We’ve long suspected some of this stuff, but now we know. Populations are connected. Most bonefish DON’T travel from Andros to the Florida Keys, but their little, tiny, adorable bonefish babies don’t stay put. They travel on the currents from Andros to Cuba, around Cuba and up to the Keys. So, that monster West Side bonefish will beget that monster Keys bonefish, just in a few generations.
That means Bahamas conservation and Cuban conservation are really Florida bonefish conservation. That’s pretty key to know.
Consider joining BTT this holiday season. They do great work.
Here is Elliott’s second part of the Bahamas trip podcast. In this part you’ll here about conservation efforts in the Bahamas and you’ll learn a bit about the Bonefish & Tarpon Trust and you’ll also come along with me as we deal with the aftermath of a dead bonefish. Yup… I killed a bonefish. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I did. We’ll explore some of the ethics around that and where I may have, momentarily, fallen down.
It is possible to have a lot of thoughts about where the line is… but sometimes… sometimes is it a little hard to see.
Bonefishing is a blood sport (the picture below isn’t from this trip even… if you fish for bonefish, this is going to happen, sooner or later). Fish will die, even when you do everything right. That’s why it’s so important to get everything right that you CAN control.
Approximately 140-pound tarpon photographed by Capt. Tommy Locke outside Cayo Costa
Things are not going well in Southwest Florida… not well at all. Below is BTT’s press release about what they are seeing.
Red Tide is Causing Unprecedented Fish Kills in SW FL
Once again, Florida’s fisheries are suffering from the legacy of long-time mismanagement of Florida’s water resources. Southwest Florida is plagued by an unprecedented red tide that is causing kills of gamefish. Reports from those on the water estimate that tens of thousands of snook are dead – all of them adults in the peak of spawning season. Breeding-size redfish, as well as tarpon, which usually seem to avoid red tide, are also being reported dead. The ongoing red tide is a sign of the ‘new normal’ in Southwest Florida because too many nutrients are entering Florida’s estuaries and coasts due to water mismanagement. Here are the facts:
The organism that causes red tide, Karenia brevis, has been present in southwest Florida as far back as written records go – the Spanish wrote about it.
Karenia brevis does not benefit directly from the extra nutrients flowing down the Caloosahatchee from polluted Lake Okeechobee, or from the extra phosphorous entering Charlotte Harbor from phosphate mining. This is because other plankton organisms are better initial competitors for those new nutrients.
Karenia brevis DOES benefit secondarily from the extra nutrients – once the nutrients have been used by those other plankton species, and then are cycled back into the ecosystem when those organisms die and decay, Karenia brevis goes to work. Consider this the Legacy Effect of water mismanagement.
The ongoing red tide is unprecedented in modern times in intensity and duration.
Although red tide has always been in the region, the frequency and intensity of red tide events have increased, and red tide events last longer. This is becoming a new pattern, which means events like the ongoing red tide will become more common.
The excess nutrients in Southwest Florida waters are from two sources. First, they are from the high-nutrient water from Lake Okeechobee that is discharged into the Caloosahatchee River as part of water mismanagement in South Florida (the same mismanagement that is killing the Everglades and St. Lucie River). Second, the phosphate mining industry in the Charlotte Harbor watershed produces runoff high in phosphorous, which feeds red tide and other plankton organisms.
Southwest Florida is home to Boca Grande Pass, part of Charlotte Harbor, the Tarpon Capitol of the World. Tarpon gather in Boca Grande Pass and Charlotte Harbor during May and June in association with spawning. It is likely that this red tide will negatively impact tarpon spawning.
Charlotte Harbor is also home to an amazing snook and redfish fishery. During summer months, snook spawn in passes and along beaches. This red tide is impacting spawning snook directly, which will impact the region’s snook population.
This red tide event is the new normal unless the state’s water management policies are changed. This is about the future of Florida’s $8 billion saltwater recreational fishery.
We urge readers to contact their political representatives at the local, state, and federal levels and tell them that policy change is needed immediately.