May 14

Puerto Rican Nets

“Gill nets are all over the island,” says local angler and conservationist Ramon Ortiz. “They’re forbidden in interior waters, but there’s little to no enforcement.”

Gill nets are doing bad things in Puerto Rico. Here’s the story.

Damn shame.


Mar 10

Of Gill Nets and Turtle Eggs

I’m in Vallarta, Nuevo Vallarta to be specific.  Here for a few days with my daughter and my mother-in-law and her husband.

I’ve had some really enjoyable fishing the past few years from the beach.  This year, I have some glow-in-the-dark flies to try out, so I went out the first night.  No dice.  The flies held their glow for about three casts before needing to be recharged with the headlamp.

I was picking up exactly 0 fish, 0 hits, 0 anything.  As I was walking down the shore I noticed something bobbing just off the beach… a gill net, strung across the whole river mouth.  Well… that pretty much sorted that out.  Now I don’t know if the Chernobyl Flies would have worked or not. Bummer.

As I was walking back I noticed something in the foam line and a few steps further and I saw it was a sea turtle.  The turtle was struggling to get over a little sand berm that had been formed.  I watched as it finally struggled over the berm, made its way 20 or so feet up the beach and began digging a whole.

It occurred to me that this stretch of beach is just about the only bit of sand this turtle could have laid her eggs.  This is the most natural bit of beach for probably 15 miles in either direction with resort upon resort upon resort.  I watched her for a while as she started dropping her eggs and I left her in peace to finish her work.

Vallarta Sea Turtle

While I was bummed about the gill net and lack of fish, I felt pretty fortunate to see the sea turtle.

Today I went down to the river mouth to try my luck again.  Got skunked, which doesn’t happen often here.  On the walk back I looked for the spot the turtle had laid her eggs.

I found it… there was a hole and a couple dozen eaten turtle eggs.  Something had gotten to them and all her effort was wasted.

Well… that sucks.  C’est la vie.

Jan 10

Puerto Rico Caught in the Past

Did you know that Puerto Rico once boasted some of the best bonefish flats in the Caribbean?  Ted Williams used to fish there and one flat in particular, La Parguera, was renowned for its gray ghosts.

Times have changed.  Puerto Rico is no longer looking after its natural resources as it should… as California, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Georgia do, as the Bahamas does and as Belize has recently done.

The culprit is the gill net.  Unattended, indiscriminate killers of sea life.

Illegal net in Texas

In Florida the gill net ban has been credited with the revival of the snook fishery.  In California a gill net ban has been hailed as the key step to restoring White Sea Bass and Halibut.  Pretty much every place a ban has been put in place and enforced good things have happened for fisheries and anglers.

As long as the gill nets stay, the bonefish will suffer and the tourist dollars that should go to Puerto Rico will be spread around the Caribbean to other countries.

Darn shame.  Some lessons are harder to learn than others.  I’m hoping that Puerto Rico can let go of the gill net habit, which would only be a positive for the Puerto Rican fishery and economy.