Archive for the ‘Fishing’ Category

Jul 15, 2013

Trouble (& Solutions) in Paradise

While I was born and grew up in Jamaica, I took residence in the Cayman Islands in 1999 and have enjoyed living here ever since. The main island of Grand Cayman, where I live, has incredible scuba diving, outstanding fishing opportunities and is home to the world-renowned Stingray City. However, even paradise has its share of problems.

In 2012 we had a terrible year for wildlife: the lionfish invasion continued, the Turtle Farm and its inhabitants got a log of bad press, our beloved stingrays were being stolen from the sandbar, a rogue male dolphin ruined many dives for visitors, the grouper spawning sites came under increasing pressure and a proposal to expand marine parks had many objectors. When its difficult to manage the natural resources of a tiny island nation, it puts into perspective the challenges that we have trying to keep the planet healthy and sustainable. Here, as with the rest of the world, there are some easy solutions for some issues and complicated solutions for others. In Cayman, lionfish have become the target of dedicated hunting tournaments as weekly culling sweeps by divers and concerned individuals. We’re seeing these types of eradication methods being employed in Florida, the Gulf Coast, the Bahamas, and all over the Caribbean. The best part is that lionfish are very good to eat. I encourage restaurant owners to offer lionfish on the menu and advertise just how good they are to eat.

Guy Harvey after a Little Cayman Lionfish sweep

In Cayman, our marine park system has served us very well for the last 26 years. Compared to all other Caribbean countries we have some of the finest shallow snorkeling sites and wall dives anywhere. However, with double the population since then and more demand on marine resources, there is not going to be much left in the next 10 year at the current rate of fish extraction.Expansion of the park system and better enforcement will continue to conserve our best ecological asset. The issues of marine parks, better known worldwide as Marine Life Protection Areas (MLPAs), is as controversial in the Cayman Islands as it is in the United States.

SPAG - Cayman Islands

In Cayman, the distinction between commercial and recreational fishing is very fuzzy. There is no doubt that the need for NTZs is a must in our situation, and new studies will show the importance of SPAG sites not seasonally but all year round. One example in which the NTZs is a must is in the protection of the Nassau Grouper spawning (SPAG) site in Little Cayman. The Marine Conservation Board took appropriate action and extended the ban on fishing the SPAG sites for another eight years in December 2011. The protection of the brood stock, the “investment”, during spawning season is common sense here, as well as in the all corners of our oceans. Allowing any kind of harvest-be it recreational or commercial- at a spawning site is recipe for disaster and truly killing the golden goose.

Unfortunately, the proposed legislation to protect Nasssau Groupers throughout their range during the five-month spawning season still languishes in cyberspace. One of the biggest hurdles we all face is the education of lawmakers about the importance of the marine environment to this small island’s economy. As with any protection-here or in the rest of the world-its’s imperative for grassroots groups to keep the pressure on government so that our recreational resources will not be depleted by those seeking to make a profit. It is our collective responsibility to conserve the marine environment and maintain the biodiversity of this planet

Fish responsibly and dive safely wherever you live,

Guy Harvey,PhD

Jun 19, 2013

Atlantic Tuna Project – 5 Days in Panama

John LoGioco with a Panama Yellowfin

The Atlantic Tuna Project’s John LoGioco recently returned from a tuna tagging project out of Panama Sportfishing lodge. In a short time span of five days, John and his team of six Atlantic Tuna Project anglers were able to successfully tag over 75 Yellowfin tuna! The quality of fish ranged from smaller grade 20lb tuna all the way up to cow 200lb class tuna.

Described as the best fishing any of his team has ever experienced, they were able to surpass their goal total for tags placed by a tremendous amount. To put this accomplishment in perspective 12 anglers in 2011 tagged 56 Yellowfin tuna, and last year 12 anglers were able to tag 27 yellowfin tuna. Prior to this trip, the team already had 3 tags recovered from these previous Panama trips. The tuna originally tagged in Panama were found in Equador, Costa Rica, and Southern Panama. With the additional 75 deployed tags they are looking forward to more recaptures to come.

Taking measurements with tag in place

John and team experienced a bit of weather as it was the beginning of the rainy season. Everyday they experienced rain and at times torrential thunder storm cells passing over South American toward Panama. However, the cloud cover and stormy weather seemed to get the fish active and willing to bite as they experienced fast and furious fishing from the get go. The captains targeted porpose and bird schools that would bring with them maurading Yellowfin tuna. Once an active school was found busting on blue runners, they would run & gun with poppers and jigs that would get instantly hit by tuna. The fishing never slowed down the five days of their stay and they kept on getting bigger! The team would have doubles and triples of 75-100lb tuna going as they fought through rain squalls, thunderstorms, and spots of sunshine.

Scott Kozak Releases Tagged Fish

This being the third year that the Atlantic Tuna Project members have been to the Panama Sport Fishing Lodge, the captains and mates are thoroughly experienced with how to properly tag fish. Boats are tagging machines as anglers, mates, and captains work together as a team. Each fish was carefully fought, tagged, and released. The method found to work best is to bring the tuna close to the boat, tag the fish in the water, then lift into the tuna into the boat and cover it’s eyes with a wet towel that renders the fish motionless. While this is taking place, meticulous measurements and records of each fish are logged by a team member. At the end of the trip, the ATP accomplished many goals: beat personal bests, beat previous Panama tagging efforts, and exceed their original goal of 50 tags deployed.

May 23, 2013

Fishing Ain’t Just About Catching

Black Marlin - Panama
A few months ago I was looking up the current black marlin woman’s world record on 50 pound for a customer. I opened the “IGFA World Record Game Fishes” from the shelf on my desk. I opened the book to the marlin record pages, and Mike Levitt’s 737lb 7oz. Black Marlin world record on 12 pound in 1981 caught my eye. I knew exactly when that happened and memories flooded in.

That was the year of IGFA’s President’s, E.K. Harry’s big mistake, when he changed IGFA rules on the length of leaders to 30 feet on all classes. He was responding to a bunch of lazy charter boat captains who found it too hard to keep track of leaders of 15 and 30 feet in length.

Elwood shortened up the double line and leader combined length, but in so doing doubled the allowable leader length on light line. Mike Levitt and Capt. Paul Whelan had set a record that still stands and may not ever be beaten because the rules were changed again, after that one year.

Laurie Wright and the late Doug Haig were my crew. We made a deal with Al Hooper. We used his little trawler yacht, “Cheryl Ann” as a mother boat and fished double or nothing for a world record on 6 or 12 pound line. Al would pay nothing if we failed to get a record and double if we did. Laurie, Doug and I, and the boat owner, went all in for the deal.

With all that much leader we got our chances. We had several 700 pounders on the wire. We broke several leaders and had one jump through, and break the outrigger halyards. At one point Al offered to pay for the whole charter, but not double, if we would let him switch to 30 pound line.

We turned him down and lost the bet! He paid for all our fuel and gave us all a nice tip. None of us will ever forget those two weeks of crazy fishing! The next year the IGFA changed the leader length back for the lightest line classes.

It’s funny that a trip in which we were not successful was one of the best and most fun we ever had! I will never ever forget the details of that trip

Good Fishing,
Peter B

Mar 26, 2013

Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association (MBARA)

AFTCO is a proud supporter of the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association. The MBARA was formed in January of 1997 and has since deployed over 200 artificial reefs. The mission of the MBARA is the conservation and environmental improvement of natural and artificial marine reef systems in the Gulf of Mexico near Mexico Beach, Florida.

Reef Building

The MBARA works hard to construct artificial reef habitat to enhance sustainable fisheries in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The MBARA set a milestone of establishing 1000 patch reefs, or small artificial reef habitats in the waters off Mexico Beach, Florida. The MBARA works closely with the City of Mexico Beach, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commision, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers to achieve this goal.

Constructing Reef Habitat

Artificial Reef Deployment

Reef Education

Since its inception, the MBARA has worked hard to conduct and promote scientific research and evaluation of reef designs, biomass development, and fish productions. A focus for the MBARA has been the education of the public about the values of sustainable artificial reef fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, and the impact they have on the ecosystems and coastal communities where they are built. School children, members of the organization, and the general public need to know all about reefs and reef building in order to help promote conservation and environmental improvement of the marine reef systems.

MBARA Artificial Reef Underwater

Mar 13, 2013

Keep It Practical

Bendo on the Bow

It was a rough day with wind driven spray. Even at trolling speed the tower leg was coated with a film of salt water and my hands became wet while climbing back into the tower after fighting a marlin from the bridge control station.  As I picked up the VHF radio’s microphone to call in the tag and release to the committee boat the radio jumped back to channel 16. I spun the dial back to the tournament channel and tried again with the same result. Not until the third failed attempt to contact the committee boat did I realize what was going wrong.

The new radio I had recently had installed had a feature that seemed logical to some electronic tech-head but was a major hassle to me in the real world. The radio was designed to automatically switch back to emergency and stand-by channel #16 when placed into its metal holder. Unfortunately, I could not hold the radio in one wet hand without changing away from the channel I was supposed to use for tournament communications. We cut the wire which activated the unwanted feature and the radio worked just fine on whatever channel I chose. I do the same thing for microphones with key pads and buttons that switch channels up or down. They may work well on big yachts, but in rough water on fishing boats they are a nuisance.

That night over an evening cocktail we had a discussion of several ideas which had looked good on paper but were an inconvenience or even a real nuisance to boatmen who actually went to sea in less than perfect conditions. Here are a few…

I really dislike modern towers where form has interfered with function. (I almost always STAY in the tower to get the enhanced vision the extra height gives me.) To create a stylish look many towers have back legs/ladders so close to vertical it is dangerous to attempt to climb them in a choppy sea or at cruising speed.

Equally bad is the tendency to have supports for the Bimini top/sun shade that angle fashionably inboard to follow the line of the front tower leg supports. It is impossible to get comfortably wedged into a corner of the padded belly rail in rough weather without being beaten to a pulp by the un-padded aluminum of the sun shade supports (and the majority of new towers won’t allow you to get wedged in a corner and still reach both reach the steering wheel and the control levers.)

The seats with back rests that are common in today’s towers are a great spot for the owner’s kids to sit looking ahead and drinking a coke in calm water, but make watching trolling baits or seeing what is going on in the cockpit when fighting a fish almost impossible. I rarely see a tower these days I would allow on any boat that I had to run and fish competitively!

Badly designed flying bridges are also far too common on new boats. I was on a “sport fishing” boat that cost several million dollars, from a highly respected custom builder, with a helm station that did not only NOT allow me to see the angler in the fighting chair, I could not see any part of the fore deck while attempting to dock the boat. (When the mate stood as far forward as possible on the bow I could barely see the belt buckle at his waist!)

Yacht captains may be used to running back and forth across their flying bridge as they carefully approach dock but I find that unacceptable in a sport fishing boat. (“Wait a minute and hold still Mr. Marlin while I run over here and see where my angler is right now!” -Fat chance!)

I need to at least be able to see down to the angler’s waist to see what the spool of the reel is doing so I can properly maneuver the boat to help, rather than hinder, my angler.

Cockpit controls can help but should not be placed where an off balance guest can inadvertently pull or push them. (One big advantage of the new electronic controls is that they only function after being activated and assuming command at the designated station, thereby eliminating sudden changes when a control lever is used as a grab rail!)

The new fashionable look in modern sport fishing circles of vessels without a bow rail is also just plain dumb! You may not plan on anchoring (no bottom fishing?) but if you ever have to (especially in rough weather) the owner or designer or builder is ASKING for a law suit  if the passenger or crew setting the anchor falls overboard or gets hurt -and every boat that doesn’t spend ALL its time in dry dock or a marina will at some time have a problem requiring that an anchor be set!

Also, if you are ever going to live aboard or spend a weekend offshore forget about having all the towels exactly the same. Monograms are fine but let’s have several colors so everyone can know which towel is theirs and hang it up to dry and allow at least a couple of days use. (More towel racks please!!!)

Good Luck,

– Peter B

Feb 22, 2013

Yellowfin Tuna Tagging in Panama

Atlantic Tuna Project

Three tags deployed by members of the Atlantic Tuna Project in yellowfin tuna have been re-captured in the Pacific ocean.  The yellowfin tuna were tagged with conventional tags from The Billfish Foundation on dedicated catch, tag and release trips from the Panama Sportfishing Lodge in Chiriqui Panama.  The first recapture was originally tagged on April 9th, 2011 and recaptured on September 3rd, 2011 by a purse seiner off the coast of Costa Rica.   The second recapture was originally tagged on March 1st 2012 near Hannibal Bank and was recaptured in Southern Panama offshore of Los Santos on September 4th, 2012 by a recreational charter boat.  The third re-capture was originally tagged near Hannibal Bank in Panama on March 1st, 2012 and re-captured on May 18th, 2012 some 700 miles South off the coast of Equador by a private angler.  All three yellowfin were school size in the 40 inch range.

John LoGioco, founder of the Atlantic Tuna Project says “This is very exciting.  This represents a ~4% return rate for our efforts.  Personally I thought it would take a lot more tags to be deployed before we would see a return in this part of the Pacific ocean.  The benefits here are two fold, first it’s wonderful to see anglers enjoying a great fishing adventure on a catch, tag and release format, second the data retrieved from these returns is incredibly valuable to further understanding the habits of yellowfin tuna in this region.

Sportfishing is an important activity for Panama as a country, and yellowfin tuna are a main attraction.  This is one of largest directed efforts for recreational anglers directed at tagging yellowfin tuna in this region and it’s wonderful to see tags being returned.  The catch, tag and release culture for both billfish and tuna is critical for the long-term sustainability of the fishery.  The Billfish Foundation works with the Panamanian government as well as on the water efforts like the Atlantic Tuna Project to further protect this valuable fishery.

The anglers, who originally tag the tuna, also get notification of the re-capture and a certificate of their achievement. An Atlantic Tuna Project member who had one of his yellowfin recaptured says; “It’s incredibly rewarding to see a tag that I deployed come back.  It’s a great feeling to catch and release these tuna and to also know that my efforts could help better understand these great fish is amazing.  It’s a highlight of my angling career.”

Founded in 2009, The Atlantic Tuna Project is a community dedicated to facilitating catch, tag and release of offshore species such as Atlantic and Pacific tunas, billfish and sharks.  The web site, serves as the center of the project where captains and anglers can join and contribute to the conversation about catch, tag and release.

Measuring & Tagging Yellowfin Tuna

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Jan 15, 2013

A Tough Question with a Surprise Answer

When John Rafter asked me “Pete, if you knew tomorrow was going to be the last day you ever got to fish in your life, but you could be wherever you wanted to be, and in the prime time or season, where would you choose?” A thousand images flooded my brain. “That’s really tough. There are so many places.” I replied.  “What about St. Thomas?” Rafter queried. “We were talking about this at Oden’s Dock in Hatteras and someone said that was the best blue marlin fishing ever.”

St. Thomas is a lovely island and the Virgin Islands have great diving and snorkeling in crystal clear bays over sand so white it hurts the eyes- and some of the best reefs in the Caribbean. With 5 to 10 bites a day on blue marlin not guaranteed, but also not unusual, it conjured up fond memories.

“I’d have to think about that and Cape Verde would probably win if I was going after blue marlin. There are even more fish there, and lots of action would probably win out over someplace like Madeira which is such a gorgeous place just to BE that the fishing is almost a bonus. In Madeira even though the action is not as red hot when you do get a bite it is likely to be a real monster -but the biggest blue I ever saw was off Mindelo in Cape Verde so that’s a tough one.” I mused.

I make my living fishing for monster marlin and tuna and love that kind of fishing even though it can be hard work and is often stressful when we’re under pressure to produce. When I fish for the sheer fun of it I’m often targeting smaller fish.

“I haven’t had a chance to take my daughter, Bimini, after bonefish yet.” I told Rafter. “I can remember wading the flats east of the island she’s named after at sunrise and that’s pretty darn gorgeous. With a rising tide and those schools of fish pushing up onto the flats trying to pick out tails and get a bite out of those spooky devils, if I could only fish one more day I’m not sure I wouldn’t like to share that with my little girl.”

Then I thought about tarpon. Its cooler and yuppier to fish with fly rods on the flats and that is also great fun, but Boca Grande won for that scene. I remembered the sun setting in the west just as a full moon was rising in the east. Calm water shimmering in the light that never really quit with the big full moon spring tides carrying all that LIFE. Weed and crabs and minnows all going with the current and then the tarpon– thousands upon thousands of them rolling in huge packs of prehistoric predators eating every bait we put out. No records, no pressure to perform, just fish after fish jumping, fighting, and being released-healthy. I’d hate to think I’d never see that again.

“What about those days we had in Hatteras when the bluefins were THICK?” Rafter interrupted my silent thoughts. Boy could I see that in my mind’s eye. Enormous shapes zooming through the water eating chum before it could get really wet. Giant tuna eating chicken wings and squashed Pepsi cans if they were thrown in the cadence of the cut up baitfish chum. The line crackling off the reel. Using 100 pounds of drag on custom Cal Sheets 130 reels with a top shot of 300 pound line or sunny days off Cat Cay and Bimini with even bigger tuna running before the sea. Harder there to get a bite but even bigger fish!

“It has to be Australia,” I told Rafter. “The Great Barrier Reef is the ultimate. Not just lots of marlin but monsters over 1000 pounds and if they aren’t cooperating, the reef is still some of the best fishing anywhere. Deep jigging, throwing poppers for huge jacks. We caught 16 species in an hour one morning just playing around. Even in the off season fishing for reef species is better than the Florida Keys or anywhere in the Caribbean.” “And the diving there is truly wonderful. The dive industry is WAY bigger than fishing down under. We get to snorkel and dive in the best spots, ones that even the dive boats don’t go to – in fact the fishing guys found most of the dive spots when we were the only boats out there and that was only during our short black marlin season.”

Then Rafter stopped me cold. “You know what? Ernie Foster was in the crowd at Hatteras and here’s what he said. ‘Boys, you never know which day IS going to be the last one you do get to go fishing. You better enjoy each one as if it WAS the last.’”

Thinking about this has made me appreciate my time on the water even more and I’ve resolved to concentrate even more than I already do on two aspects of my fishing.

Share it with kids. There is no better way to enjoy a day on the water than taking a kid fishing. Someday I’m going to finish a book I’ve started called “Mentors”, partly about men who took me fishing. In the meantime, I’m going to do more of what my grandmother called “Paying for my raising.”

I have always been a conservationist and I will continue to help out the fish populations. Only strong resources and good management can ensure that what I have loved will be here for future generations to enjoy.

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Nov 29, 2012

Whale Sharks Galore!

Isla Mujeres whale shark expedition.

A recent filming expedition to Isla Mujeres, Mexico was aimed at getting as much footage of the whale shark aggregations for which Isla Mujeres and the NE corner of the Yucatan is famous, during the calm balmy summer months. The predictable aggregation of large numbers of whale sharks was right on cue.

For the last couple of years Captain Anthony Mendillo, owner of Keen M Charters ( has been telling me to get to Isla over the whale shark period. As many as 400 animals can form the aggregations over a couple of square miles of sea surface, criss-crossing, this way and that, mouths open feeding on fish spawn and plankton.

Our big group was composed of film maker and producer George Schellenger, my daughter Jessica and GHI staffers Greg Jacoski and Michele Grey plus Andi Marcher and his son James from Grand Cayman.

We hit Ballyhoo’s Bar on arrival for some fish and shrimp tacos and cold Dos XX while we waited on the whale shark tour boats to return from sea. When they did, our good friend Jim Abernethy was with the group and recounted how exciting the day had been. The same afternoon, I met with Al Dove from the Georgia Aquarium who was conducting a photographic census and tagging of whale sharks.

Day one was slow, with lots of other pangas in the zone jockeying for position with only a dozen animals. It was amazing how the situation changed every day depending on current and food availability, but Anthony said the sharks will be in a general area and can pop up anywhere. His typical day started with an early departure, spend a couple hours with the whale shark group before the mosquito fleet got there, sit out while they were there and after they left around 12 p.m., you had another couple hours with the sharks if they stayed up at the surface.

That’s exactly what happened on day two. The captain of Anthony’s other boat, Rogelio, found the aggregation early and we enjoyed two hours with them on our own. It is hard to describe the sight. Jessica and I went up on the cabin roof, the boat bobbing on the calm swell, engines off. Everywhere we looked, great sharks were cutting the surface with snouts out, mouth wide open, spotted backs awash, dragging foaming water behind them, dorsal fins standing high and tails swishing back and forth as the sharks moved forward at a couple of knots. A third of the team went in, the rest waited and took shots topside.

A group of two dozen mobula rays came by winding their way through the whale sharks. The plankton was thick, reducing visibility to about 30 feet. The viz did not matter, having spent time with one shark and stopped to rest, the next was a few seconds behind. We quickly learned to put our heads up and look for a shark that was swimming towards us then, get in position for the shot. You could either let it go beside you or you could dive under it and get the silhouette shot. Often, you were beside one and another would sneak up on you. You spin around to find a four foot wide mouth agape just inches away! Jessica said if they did not have spots they would appear menacing. True. They would amble past, turn around and come back for another pass. I tried to shoot every one that came by, often ducking down to confirm the sex, the young males had stubby claspers. They came in all sizes from twenty feet up to forty feet long.

George, a veteran of these encounters said you had to view these long creatures in zip codes; mouth section, mid-section and tail section. Many whale sharks had their own entourage of shark suckers, remoras, jacks and the occasional cobia. Some had bits of fins or tail missing from encounters with boats and fishing gear.

Which reminds me about the rules of engagement. This area is now so popular and so many pangas visit the sharks daily during the season of June, July and August that there is a cooperative that administers licenses and regulations for both operators and clients. We have to wear a dive suit (we all did) or a life jacket. Only three people from a boat in the water, at once, with a guide. No SCUBA diving. No touching, hanging on for a ride, etc. We had to leave the site by 2 p.m. We did. What a great day. On the way in we enjoyed some ceviche and took the inside route behind Isla Contoy, home to thousands of frigate birds.

On the third day, the whale sharks were hard to find and the fleet spread out. It was local fisherman who found a group about five miles east of where we were yesterday out in the blue water. What a difference the water clarity made. There were still lots of plankton, but we were out in 200 feet instead of 90 feet. The whale sharks seemed to mill, going around and around, so were easy to follow, jump off one go to the next as they came by in a procession of twos and threes. We used Go-Pros on poles to get the shot from in front of their open mouths as they swam along at the surface filtering food. Every so often, a clump of sargassum weed would go in a mouth and the whale shark would just blow it back out.

I also learned what the large remoras did for food. Whenever a whale shark defecated the remoras bunched up around its cloaca and consumed the thick yellow offerings. Occasionally, we were engulfed in a cloud of yellow custard as we tailed the big sharks.

That ended our wonderful bucket list experience with the bucket mouths. Each evening when we returned dockside, we had some cervezas, fish tacos and checked our footage and watched the sun go down over the mainland to the west. The boats, people and hospitality in Isla Mujeres are the best! There are some great hotels nearby and lots of good restaurants plus a superb public beach if you just want to chill for the day. I can’t wait to get back.

I was excited about the prospect of returning next season and doing some collaborative work with the Georgia Aquarium staff, tagging whale sharks perhaps. I also wanted to bring more friends and family. This was an experience everyone would enjoy.

On our last day, we went deep dropping for swordfish. Jessica caught a huge swordfish over 600 pounds, the largest ever caught by a lady angler in the Atlantic Ocean.

—Guy Harvey 


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Nov 20, 2012

You CAN Fish in Rough Water

The weather forecast was for 25 to 30 knot winds as a strong high pressure system south of the Australian continent built a strengthening ridge along Australia’s Queensland coast. Yesterday had dawned calm, but as the wind increased from a gentle breeze to a 15 to 20 knot trade wind a sea had started to build. Late in the afternoon, we saw the first of several black marlin surfing down the growing chop and rising swell. By evening, we had tagged and released 3 marlin, breaking a week long spell of slow fishing which had seen only an occasional marlin rising to our baits in the hot, calm, November weather.

Over breakfast that morning, our charter guest looked at the white caps on the sheltered water behind number 5 ribbon reef and watched the booming ocean swell outside the reef crash onto the reef front. “I don’t think I want to fish today.” he said. “I’d rather just lie around the mother boat and read.” “You don’t mind if we go, do you?” was my reply. “The boys and I have been waiting for this. Those tailers we saw yesterday should be just the start of it. Every black marlin in the Coral Sea will have tailed in against the reef overnight, and if they eat like the ones did yesterday it’ll be the best day all year!”

Our charter’s friend and fishing companion/guest said he would like to join us if we didn’t mind. After a relaxing morning on “mom” we set out just before noon. “As rough as it is, we won’t be in any hurry.” I told the crew. “If it’s as good as I think we’ll have all we need. If it’s slow, we’ll have more than we want—even with a late start.”

A "Good" Day on the GBR, Australia!

Overnight, the swell had built, but had time to get farther apart than the uncomfortable, short, steep, chop of the late afternoon of the day before. Duyfken could rise with the large (12 foot plus) seas instead of crashing against the steep faces of yesterday’s smaller, but far more nasty chop. By 1:30 PM, we were back at the motherboat having released 3 marlin and boated one well over 1,000 pounds. My mate had to lean out over our transom and knock vigorously on the motherboat’s wooden hull to roust the sleepers inside to weigh our guest’s fish of a lifetime. His richer, but less adventuresome, friend has still never caught a really big marlin, even though we went back out and released several more nice ones later that day.

If the fishing grounds are close enough to a safe harbor or anchorage, we can fish in some truly rough water. In areas where we have to travel long distances to and from the grounds, we usually stay in on days we would relish in a spot like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, where yards, rather than miles, measure the distance to the fishing grounds.

Even so, on rough days, special tactics are often required. On really rough days, with heaving decks, stand up fishing is a BAD idea. Trying to maintain balance with both hands occupied is difficult and dangerous. It can be safe to fish even the heaviest tackle from a well-built fighting chair, but foolish to try to stand up against the transom of a wave-tossed sport fishing boat. Even with expert professional crew, it is the question of their safety while trying to stand up and handle a fish on the leader—that is often the main reason for my canceling a trip due to rough weather.

Trolling tactics also have to be modified to suit the conditions. Forget all the hokus pocus about trolling lures on exact positions on the wake. Climbing the face of big seas trolling speeds will drop and rise with the waves. Downsea speeds can jump from 6 or 7 to up to 12 or 14 knots as we surf down the wave fronts. Our wake is changing all over the place and complicated calm water lure shapes are useless in the rapidly changing conditions. (Don’t tell me to only quarter the sea – I AM going to get in front of that tailing marlin or tuna regardless of whether it is upsea, downsea or directly in the trough!!)

Forget staggered trolling patterns. On high wind days troll paired baits or lures of equal weight, equidistant behind the transom. They will be less prone to tangle each other when blown sideways. Trolling fewer baits in rough weather makes life easier and raises overall efficiency.

I always fight fish by chasing them in forward gear rather than reverse. This is especially important in big seas when backing up into breaking waves is down right dangerous — and STUPID. By motoring forward upsea and passing the fish, you reach a position where you can back up downsea in the final manuever of the fight.

In the end it is the safety of the boat and her crew that dictates whether we go or not and it is always better to err on the side of caution.

— Peter B Wright

For a complete list of our other featured blog posts and to see the full line of Guy Harvey Sportswear, please visit:





Oct 31, 2012

Tiger Beach October Shoot

It has been exactly two years since my last expedition to Tiger Beach. The goal then was to make the (award winning) documentary “This is your ocean; Sharks” with Jim Abernethy and Wyland. The timing was important as the documentary became a useful educational tool for the people of the Bahamas and specifically the Bahamas National Trust in helping have sharks in the Bahamas protected from commercial exploitation.

The main reason why the Bahamas has so many sharks compared to anywhere else in the western Atlantic is because long line fishing was banned from the Bahamas 200 mile EEZ twenty years ago.

Shark interactive programmes or shark ecotourism in the Bahamas currently generate eighty million dollars per year in revenue. This is a sustainable use of the resource that does not kill a single shark.

The dive team on this expedition was made up of Kent Ullberg NA, America’s most famous wildlife sculptor, my close friend and mentor. Jessica, my daughter, Chris Peterson owner of Hell’s Bay Boat Works and GHOF board member, 15 year old Madeleine Ryan and Andi Marcher, restauranteur from Grand Cayman. Shooting this follow up documentary was George Schellenger.

Jim Abernethy’s crew was captain Matt Heath, with Michele Heller and Chad Shagren. Michele had worked with us before on a bluefin tuna shoot in Nova Scotia last year where she was the assistant to Dr. Molly Lutcavage in tagging giant bluefin tuna.

Jessica Harvey about to release young green turtles as part of an FAU study

The first three days were very windy, with rough conditions and poor visibility generally over the area. The first morning we released several dozen juvenile green and ridley turtle for a study being conducted by Florida Atlantic University (FAU). We were limited to a couple of dives on an incoming tide with lots of reef sharks, lemon sharks and a few nurse sharks coming to the bait crates. It seemed the tiger sharks were not comfortable in the adverse conditions. By the afternoon of the third day, the wind switched to the east and the remaining four days were under ideal conditions, so we could go to work.

Kent has had limited exposure to large sharks, only completing one monumental piece, the mako shark at the Nova South Eastern University’s Taft Building. This expedition was important for him to get close to tiger sharks in their natural environment to better understand form and function, ecology and life history.

After a couple days of 25 knot winds which stirred up the water and limited our diving we got into the rhythm of multiple dives per day. We spent two days at a 60 foot deep site called “Hammertime”. Bait crates were deployed at the surface and on the sand near the reef. The results were good attracting several dozen Caribbean reef sharks, a dozen big lemon sharks and then the tiger sharks started coming in, one, then two, four and five. The well trained crew kept the tigers off the bait crates and we were afforded many great photographic opportunities. Jim or Matt would set up shots so Jessica could shoot the sharks with beautifully coloured sponges and corals in the fore ground and different species of sharks in the middle distance and the background.

One of the tiger sharks had a SPOT tag on its dorsal fin. Unfortunately, the tag was fouled by algae and it had rotated 90 degrees to the aft so the antenna was pointing at the tail. Jim was able to clean off the tag. He took a bunch of photos of the tag placement and we later identified this shark as Christina which we tagged at tiger beach on our December 2010 expedition. The close ups show that the fin had been damaged (in mating when the male holds on to the dorsal fin) and the healing process had caused the tag to rotate so it was no longer performing according to Dr. Mahmood Shivji of the GHRI.

The last two days were flat calm and we stayed at a site Jim calls “Crystal Beach”. This is the closest part of tiger beach to the drop off, so the water is clearest here particularly on an incoming tide. We left the crates soaking overnight and got going early, before breakfast with the first of five dive dives for the day. A couple of tigers were already on site. One had three long line hooks and leaders in its jaw. Jim hatched a plan to catch this shark and remove the hooks. Unfortunately the shark was too shy to come in as close as this project required.

The chum line attracted a large number of baitfish including yellowtail snappers, blue runners, horseye jacks, groupers, and ballyhoo. These species added lots of colour to the shots we were taking. Jim was coaching Jessica in her photography while Kent and Maddy were absorbing all the shapes, anatomy and postures of successive tiger sharks as they came and went. Their subtle skin colours and vivid stripes separate this species from all other large sharks. Andi and Chris got used to having tiger sharks all over them and took hours of great footage in pristine conditions. George kept all the cameras going and we loaded up on new footage.

Leave it to Guy Harvey to guide the crew to catch and release a blue marlin on the return trip from a shark filming expedition

For me it was particularly gratifying sitting on the bottom in 20 feet of water for hours and hours with unlimited visibility surrounded by four species of sharks now protected in law by the Bahamian government.

Matt Heath, our captain said it was wheels up at 4.30pm on the last day. We enjoyed the last dive, got squared away and you know me…. if the boat is going forward I am going to put out a couple of lines.

Andi and I put out a spread of four marlin lures, two short, one medium and one long. We were crossing the Gulf Stream with 82 degrees water temperature so there was chance of seeing a marlin or a wahoo.

Not 20 minutes later, a fine blue marlin crashed the stinger lure but did not hook up. It made two more attempts and I dropped the lure back as it ate. Hook up! From the bill thickness and height of the dorsal, I could see this was marlin around 250#. I passed the rod down to the main deck and under Andi’s critical eye Chad took the job of working on the fish. The marlin did not jump and the line kept peeling out and down until there was very little left on the reel. Oops! Finally the marlin stopped and there was 500 yards of line out and down. Chad had the daunting task of working the marlin back up from great depth, but he is young and strong and in the next 45 minutes did a great job.

Andi wired the marlin and we all took photos of it at the boat side, its vivid neon fins glowed in the dark evening conditions, before it was released. A good expedition just became a great expedition.

Thanks Jim and crew. Another great adventure! The close encounters were very inspirational for Kent and myself to say nothing of the thousands of images captured by all the photographers.

—Guy Harvey PhD.


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