Posts Tagged ‘tagging’

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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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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May 16, 2012

Satellite-Tagged Striped Marlin


Pulling Hard

The line snapped out of the Roller-Troller outrigger clip and the rod just barely bent, but no line was coming off the reel like you would expect with a typical striped marlin strike.  My son, Zane, looked at me and we both said the same thing…“Mako shark on the marlin lure”! 

Zane scrambled down the bridge ladder and grabbed the rod and started winding, but the fish just kept tracking along at the same speed as the boat.  Outdoor writer and good friend, Rich Holland, started clearing the other 3 trolling lines as Zane worked the fish closer to the boat.  Rich just got the last troller out of the water, when Zane said the double line was coming out of the water.  I looked over just in time to see the “mako shark” had grown a bill, as 150lbs of angry Catalina Island striped marlin exploded into the air just outside the port outrigger!

Rich, my son Zane (13) and I were off the east end of Catalina Island in Southern California trying to put a couple of the first Pop-up Satellite Archival Tags “PSATs” in our local stripers.  

At the ready

 A PSAT is an archival tag that is equipped to transmit the data via direct satellite upload when it “pops” to the surface. The PSAT’s major advantage is that it does not have to be physically retrieved like an archival tag for the data to be available. They have been used to track movements of ocean sunfish, marlin, sharks, tuna, swordfish and sea turtles. Location, depth, and temperature data are used to answer questions about migratory patterns, seasonal feeding movements, daily habits, and survival after catch and release. The sophisticated – and very expensive – $4000 PSAT tags had been supplied to us through the joint efforts of the Avalon Tuna Club, Paxon Offield and The Pfleger Institute of Technology (P.I.E.R).

We had been having a very successful marlin season on our boat “Kawakawa,” and were excited to be selected to place the tags.  But, with an outdoor writer and two expensive PSATs aboard, the pressure was on to get the job done!

Zane’s marlin gave us a good scrap, but on the 30lb tackle he was soon boat-side and ready to be leadered and PSAT tagged.  We were very careful to keep the marlin away from the props and also to keep him from hitting the side of the boat during the leadering and hook removal process.  Luckily the fish was hooked right in the corner of the jaw and cooperated well once I was able to grab his bill in preparation for tagging.  We removed the little magnet which was taped to the tag, and this turned on the PSAT transmitter.  We then carefully placed the tag at the base of the dorsal and gently released the striper.

Satellite Ready

After high-fives and victory shouts we put the lures back in and continued trolling up the famous Catalina Island east end ridge looking for another striper.  It didn’t take long before we were “wired” again on our second striper of the day in only 300 feet of water.  Rich graciously insisted young Zane take the second fish so he could shoot photos.  Twenty minutes later we had the fish to leader and were able to place our second PSAT in a perfectly healthy Catalina Island striped marlin!

We learned several months later from PIER scientist Dr. Michael Domeier, that one of our stripers immediately left Catalina water after we placed the PSAT and charged straight south 400 miles, where the tag stopped transmitting off Cedros Island in Baja, Mexico.  Domeier theorized that the marlin had possibly been eaten by a predator, due to the data profile he received from the PSAT.

We were stunned and disappointed to learn that our second PSAT tagged marlin was re-caught the same afternoon after we placed the tag!  It turns out the fish was re-caught by a boat fishing in a tournament which was held the same day we were out.  Sadly, the fish was killed and the PSAT was removed by the boat that caught the fish.  Dr. Domeier later recovered the PSAT and was able to upload the few hours of data from the overly-hungry striped marlin.

We were thrilled and honored to be one of the first boats in California to place a PSAT in a striped marlin.  Since that day back in 2004 there have been many stripers PSAT tagged off Mexico, and a few more have even been tagged in Southern California.  The data gleaned from the PSATs has greatly increased the knowledge base of the striped marlin’s habits at this northern limit of their usual range.  

 — Greg Stotesbury

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Feb 10, 2012

Sailfish Mecca; Isla Mujeres Tagging Project

The sailfishing around Isla Mujeres attracts anglers from around the world

“Hold it, hold it….steady…OK… GO! GO! GO NOW!” Captain Anthony Mendillo gave us our marching orders and we dropped into the big blue swells of the western Caribbean swimming hard and looking up at the surface to check my position occasionally with the signature flock of frigate birds overhead. There they were….flashes of silver against the blue, large silhouettes moving rapidly, changing direction and in the middle of all these bodies, a large glinting shadow. Bait fish on the move. Sailfish and sardines…the ultimate open ocean diving experience and I was right in the middle of them shooting the amazing interaction of predator and prey.

The bait school was quickly consumed and the sailfish all went into cruise mode, dorsal fins tucked down, pastel colors and they looked like javelins, propelled by their large forked tails and headed off into the blue toward the main bait school invisible to me, but they knew where to go.

Back on the boat for a much needed rest and change of air tanks we, were elated and discussed the feeding behavior, the coloration changes of the sailfish and effectiveness of the feeding method by the group of sailfish. We rejoined the group of fifty or so sailfish and bait for more footage before going into catching mode.

The main goal of the expedition was to catch and tag twelve healthy sailfish and deploy Pop-up Archival Tags on these fish so researchers could get some information about where the sailfish go after leaving this area of the Yucatan. The Guy Harvey Research Institute was working with Dr. Molly Lutcavage of the Large Pelagics Research Centre of Massachusetts Amherst). The GHRI purchased twelve mini-PATs for the study. Molly is best known for her research work on bluefin tuna in the northeast USA and Canada. The mission statement of the LPRC is to “work closely with fishermen using state of the art technology in conducting biological and ecological research on pelagic species including tunas, billfish sharks and sea turtles. LPRC endeavors to develop scientific understanding that supports effective ecosystem-based management strategies for these highly migratory Atlantic marine species.” Our ride for the expedition was the beautiful 48 foot Cabo “Chachalaca” owned by Lawrence Berry of Texas, and run by well-known local Captain Anthony Mendillo, who were very kind in supporting the GHRI/LPRC research efforts.

Isla Mujeres is a famous location for large numbers of sailfish attracting anglers from around the world from January to May each year. This is a catch and release fishery, circle hooks and dead bait are mandatory and anglers can expect 30 to 50 bites per day with many multiple hook ups. However no-one knows where the sailfish spend their time for the rest of the year. The attraction to the area is clearly the abundance of bait. The dominant species is the common sardine sardinella aurita, a round bodied fish attaining ten inches. Typically, these fish school near the bottom in 80 – 100 feet of water on the continental shelf. Just to the east of the shelf is the deep water and the strong north flowing current of the Gulf Stream.

For Mexico, the sailfish is a sustainable source of income for local business as anglers travel great distances, stay in hotels, eat in local restaurants, use taxis, shop and generally spend money. The socio-economic value of the living sailfish is very high throughout its range in the western north Atlantic. Current Mexican laws allow for one sailfish to be taken per day, but catch and release is the main appeal. Local fishermen target food species such as tuna, bonitos, mackerel and bottom fish rather than sailfish.

PSAT tag in the shoulder of a Sailfish

Over the years a great many conventional spaghetti tags have been placed in sailfish caught here by recreational anglers. The system depends on the tag card being returned to the tagging agency (here it is The Billfish Foundation, TBF) but it depends on the sailfish being recaptured and the tag cut out and sent back to TBF. The result is a straight line displacement that shows where it was tagged, where it was recaptured but cannot provide information about where the fish spent that time or how it used the habitat.

Using 20 pound test, trolled dead ballyhoo bait rigged with a 7/0 circle hook and chin weight, Anthony pulled two dredges (imitation bait schools as teasers) and we fished an area 6 to 12 miles north of the island looking for telltale vortices of frigate birds to show us where the concentrations of sailfish were located. When the sailfish were hooked, fought and brought to the boat, our mate Ruben Garrido grabbed the bill of the sailfish and flipped it into the boat onto a plastic covered foam mat. The fish eyes were covered with a wet cloth and the deck hose placed in its mouth. The sailfish was measured by Molly and assistant Eric Jacquard, the mini-PAT was placed carefully in the right shoulder and the fish was jetted back into the water in less than 50 seconds. We have much more control over the tag placement when the sailfish is in the boat as opposed to trying to tag the fish in the water. They move around a lot, are hard to control on a light leader, so correct placement of these expensive tags was a priority.

Now we wait for 6 months to hear from these tags. Each one costs about $4,000 so we are taking a gamble as anything can happen between release and the tag detaching from the sailfish and floating to the surface. No news is good news, as to hear from a tag early would mean the fish did not survive or was eaten by a predator. Large mako sharks frequent the area as well and have the gear and speed to take on a sailfish.

If you would like to have an awesome experience sailfishing, swimming with sailfish schools or with whale sharks then please visit and stay in the Mendillo’s well appointed hotel, just walking distance from the dock

Fish responsibly, dive safely, have fun….the adventure continues.

— Guy Harvey

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Feb 2, 2012

San Juan IGFA Great Marlin Race: All Tags Report and a Record is Broken






FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 1, 2012 Contact: Jason Schratwieser, Conservation Director 954-924-4320

The blue marlin from the IGFA Great Marlin Race traveled 4,776 nautical miles in 120 days

During the inaugural IGFA Great Marlin Race (IGMR) six satellite tags were deployed at the Club Nautico de San Juan’s 58th Annual International Billfish Tournament (IBT) that was held in San Juan, Puerto Rico on September 5-11, 2011. Since that time anglers have waited patiently to see when and where the tags would pop up and start reporting information.

The first tag to pop up and report was from a fish caught by Norman Pichardo on IGFA Trustee Pepe Anton’s boat Amirita. Pichardo’s tag popped up October 23, 2011, 419 nautical miles (nm) from where it was tagged near the island of Aruba. Although the tag popped up early, this fish demonstrated an important lesson in the importance of proper revival techniques. Pichardo’s marlin had become tail-wrapped during the fight and was reeled in tail first. Because marlin must continually swim in a forward direction to properly have water flow over their gills so that they can breathe, the fish came up browned-out and in bad shape. First mate David Hernandez and IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser spent close to 10 minutes reviving the fish by holding on to it as the boat slowly idled forward to get water flowing over its gills. In time the fish’s color came back and it began to beat its tail, after which the fish was quickly tagged and swam off on its own, recording data with its satellite tag as it went.

The next four tags popped up over the course of the next month. Tag number two belonged to a 150 lb blue marlin caught by Charles Donato on the Islamar and popped up on November 20th, 178 nm southeast of where it was caught. December 7th saw two more tags report. Father and son team Antonio and Jaime Fullana landed a blue marlin on September 8th aboard the Bolita. When the tag popped up and reported, the Fullana’s fish had traveled east 589 nm from where it was tagged, putting them solidly in first place. The day after Fullana’s fish was tagged, lady angler Mariana Fuster hooked and landed a blue, which she dubbed “Vic,” on the Lucky Dog that was tagged by Jorge Rivera. Vic traveled 497 nm from where it was tagged which, at the time, placed Mariana in second place for the race. Rounding out 2011 on December 20th, the tag placed by Gerald Torres in the 80 lb marlin caught by Moises Torrent aboard the Batichica popped up 206 nm from its point of deployment – a fourth place finish at the time.

After Torrent’s tag reported, things were quiet and 2011 came to a close. At this point the only tag that had yet to report belonged to a sizeable 575 lb blue that was caught by Mike Benitez on the Sea Born and tagged by Eneau Agusta on September 7, 2011. Then it happened. On January 5, 2012 – exactly 120 days after it was deployed—Benitez’s fish’s tag popped off and began transmitting information. Dr. Randy Kochevar at Stanford University codirects the IGMR with IGFA and was stunned when he began reviewing the data. Benitez’s fish had traveled southeast some 4,776 nm from where it was tagged and crossed the equator to have its tag pop off near the coast of Angola, Africa.

“These are the kind of results we dreamed about when we first launched the Great Marlin Race program back in 2009,” said Kochevar. “This may be one of the longest, if not the longest, marlin tracks ever recorded on an electronic tag. To have a marlin swim from the Caribbean all the way across the Atlantic and across the Equator to Africa reminds us how remarkable these animals are and how much we still have to learn from them.”

Travelling more than eight times farther than any other fish, Benitez’s fish became the clear winner of the San Juan IBT race. Unfortunately, Mike Benitez never got to hear the news. A beloved captain in Puerto Rico and the first tournament recipient of the IGFA-Chester H. Wolfe Outstanding Sportsmanship Award, Mike passed away in Boston just two days before his tag reported; he was 79 years old.

Anglers worldwide can view all the results of the IGMR on the interactive map at  The next tournament in the IGMR will begin in February of 2012 in South Africa at the South African Deep Sea Angling Association Classic. For more details and sponsorship information, contact Jason Schratwieser at or 954-924-4320.

For further information, contact the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum, 300 Gulf Stream Way, Dania Beach, Florida 33004; phone 954-927-2628, fax: 954-924-4299, website:


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Aug 4, 2011

Fish Story 2

All of us, who have spent any amount of time on the water, have seen or at least heard some awesome fishing stories.  One of the features we will now add to this blogsite is to utilize it in sharing some of our stories with you and to provide a forum for you to share your stories with us and the many readers of this blogsite.    

My best fishing story is one that I was lucky enough to be a part of. It took place in Panama in 2009 when Guy swam down with my line and connected it to an already hooked up 1200 plus pound black marlin so we could get the fish tagged with a satellite tag.  To read about this “Ultimate Fish Story” click here  , and to see it on video click here.  While this adventure with Guy will likely remain my most memorable fishing story, prior to this amazing event, the best fishing story I had ever heard was told to me by my father.

The story was about longtime family friend, Bobby Tidwell, catching his first marlin in Cabo San Lucas Mexico in 1956.  Herb Bell of Packard Bell fame, owned the 100 foot Five Bells, named after the five Bell brothers, including the boat’s captain/ brother, Willard.   As one of the very first boats to fish the waters of Cabo, the Five Bells played an important role in discovering this fishing paradise.  Herb would invite friends to join him on fishing trips to waters of the East Cape and Cabo San Lucas.  He needed talent on the boat to help ensure fishing success for his friends, and invited my dad Milt Shedd to join him in that role. During the trip to Cabo in 1956, Bobby Tidwell joined the group.  An accomplished diver and expert angler, Bobby had yet to catch a marlin and was determined to do so.  While trolling, Bobby hooked up to a striped marlin and when a second rod went off, dad grabbed the rod thinking they had a double.   As both lines quickly came together, dad realized it was not a double hookup, but that one hungry marlin had eaten both baits.  With the Five Bells now stopped, the fish ran towards the bow.  Both dad and Bobby followed the fish and, when about the middle of the boat, the fish turned and ran directly under the boat and came up jumping on the other side.

Knowing there was no way to get to the bow to clear the line to the other side, dad  tightened down the drag to break the fish off.  To his amazement, he turned to Bobby just as he was diving overboard shouting “I am going to catch this fish.”   Bobby is one of the most determined men I have ever known, but this was crazy.  He dove overboard with rod and reel in hand, swam down to clear the considerable draft of the large boat and came up on the other side.  Luckily, the marlin did not sound and was jumping toward the horizon.  Bobby was being pulled behind the marlin, much like a water skier as the ski boat slowly moves away before accelerating to pop the skier out of the water.  The other guys on deck looked down in amazement as Bobby yelled back to launch the skiff, which dad was already in the process of doing.  The skiff was launched and Bobby Tidwell caught his first marlin.  When asked later why he did it, Bobby simply replied “It was the only thing I could do to make sure I caught that fish.”   

Bobby Tidwell passed away last year.  While many people in Orange County, CA will remember him as the guy who gave the Children’s Hospital of Orange County  (CHOC) $30 million dollars in his will, I will remember him for the amazing fishing story witnessed and told to me by my dad when I was just a young kid.

If you have an unusual fishing story send it to me, Bill Shedd, at so we can share it here on this blogsite for others to enjoy.

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May 24, 2011

Dr. Guy Harvey PSAT Tags a Blue Marlin Underwater

A fully-clothed and SCUBA-equipped Dr. Guy Harvey dives down 40 feet to PSAT tag a blue marlin

Dr. Guy Harvey recently placed a Pop-Up Satellite Archival Tag (PSAT) in a blue marlin by diving in the water with scuba gear, and placing the PSAT in the hooked fish as it swam 50 feet underwater.  This was an impromptu move by Guy in an effort to tag the fish before it could escape or be fatigued on the light tackle on which it was being fought.  When the fish was close to the boat, Guy quickly donned his scuba equipment and dove in fully clothed with tag stick and PSAT in hand!

This was similar to the episode back in January of 2005 in Panama, where Guy was able to dive in and attach a second leader to the swivel of the estimated 1200lb female black marlin being fought by Neil Patrick and me.  This allowed us to leader the fish quickly and place a PSAT in the huge black.  The photos and video of this monster marlin were later seen by millions on Discovery, National Geographic, You Tube and in every major saltwater magazine and website around the world. She was tracked by PSAT for 8 weeks as she traveled over 1200 miles in her journey out into the Pacific and back to the tagging location just south of Tropic Star Lodge in Pinas Bay, Panama

The estimated 175lb blue marlin in the photos below was hooked while fishing off the 12-Mile Bank in Grand Cayman back in April of 2011.  The fish bit a tuna chunk fished on 80lb leader with a light-wire size 7/0 circle hook.  Guy was afraid the leader would break or the hook would straighten if they tried to leader the fish in close for the shot with the PSAT.  Rather than risk losing the opportunity to place one of the valuable PSATs in the blue marlin, Guy thought the best tag placement could be made with the marlin still swimming on the leader.  This would also prevent the marlin from possibly sustaining an injury while being leadered alongside the boat.  The marlin was still very active, and was rapidly swimming 40 feet below the surface after being fought on 80lb tackle for 50 minutes by angler Alex Harvey.  Remarkably, Guy was able to swim far enough and fast enough to catch up with the still very-alive blue marlin, and perfectly place the PSAT in the dorsal area of the fish.

Dr. Guy Harvey inspects the PSAT before taking the plunge

Well known film maker George Schellenger was aboard with his underwater camera gear and took these phenomenal photos of Guy tagging the blue with the PSAT.  This may be the only time a hooked marlin has ever been PSAT tagged by a diver while still swimming on the line!

This is a classic example of Dr. Guy Harvey’s intense desire to do all he can to place these PSATs in billfish so that information can be gathered at a later date for the benefit of billfish research.  To date, Guy has placed 60 of the $4000 PSATs in pelagic gamefish, in cooperation with the Pfleger Institute of Environmental Research (PIER) in Oceanside, CA and other research institutions such as The Billfish Foundation, The Offield Center, Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) and others .Designed for use in learning more about the movements of pelagic gamefish in the world’s oceans, the PSAT’s sophisticated transmitter records data on depth, water temperature and location.  Following a programmed length of time, the tag pops to the surface and uploads the data to a satellite, and then down to the scientists at PIER.


May 13, 2011

Blue Marlin Fishing After Filming Grouper Documentary- Part II

Day 3 had calmer weather and we went out wide of the island and soon found a circling frigate bird. Under this was a big female dolphin, but she looked at a couple of lures and went away. Shortly afterwards, the first blue for day showed up and took a couple of bites on the long right before fading off.

We trolled west to the 12 mile bank and as we got to the NE corner, Derrin spotted a pair of fins stationary at the surface. I raced up the ladder to have a look…swordfish! No doubt. It was sunning in the middle of the day on the flat calm surface. As we trolled closer, the fish stirred, swam and then went under. We circled the area, and not three minutes later, the sword came up on the long right lure, bill out and took a slash at the lure, before going about its business. Derrin nearly fell off the flybridge in his excitement.

A little later, Derrin got a radio call from a local fisherman, Ferris Ebanks Cayman’s “old man”. He was drifting chunks for yellowfin and had just hooked a marlin so was going to pass it over to us to catch and tag. In Cayman, the local fishermen generally release the marlin they hook while fishing for tuna.

Alex Harvey waiting for the bite

Alex took the rod, and settled down for a fight. The local anglers use 80# line straight to the hook so there was no leader, and Alex had to use a light drag. After ten minutes the marlin jumped about three hundred yards away and we backed down on the belly in the line recovering it all and got over the marlin. It was beautiful swimming about thirty feet down, face and bill lit up neon blue as was its tail. I used my underwater video on the swim platform to get shots. The surface was so calm you could see the fish clearly. Time to go in!

I did a couple of passes on the marlin and realized I could overtake the fish and deploy the PSAT underwater without ever having to wire the fish and risk breaking the light leader. So said…so done. George got the necessary footage and just then the thin leader broke at the circle hook and the 175# blue marlin swam off carrying a PSAT. I had not more tags on board.

We headed east again up the north side of the bank, saw a marlin free jumping and headed over to the spot…kaboom! An agitated 150# blue took to the air, and it was Andi’s turn again on the 30# tackle. The marlin made some awesome jumps coming at the boat, and going across the stern before sounding. George was excited. All good, Andi pumped the marlin to the boat, and I went for the usual swim to get the release on film. Glenn and Alex did the honors and the marlin swam off hastily.

We immediately started trolling again and as Andi was letting out his line, a marlin ate the lure and started thrashing around behind the boat. We all looked at each other in amazement. How often does that happen? Alex was up and fought the fish to a standstill without any jumps in short order, and we called the marlin 300# and cut her off quickly, a very green fish.

This was the first time George had been marlin fishing. He certainly was thrown in at the deep end and was able to shoot a lot of great footage. No more bites for the day, and we ended up 3 for 4 on marlin for the day, 4 for 7 on the shoot. I was very proud of the crew, Captain Derrin and Glenn, who did a great job and I would recommend them to anyone visiting Grand Cayman who wants to do some big game fishing, or charter them for a tournament.

On day 4 George and I went to the sandbar early before any of the tour boats arrived and we had the stingrays to ourselves. They exhibit schooling behavior which is unusual for a typically solitary predator, and I wanted to capture some of this behavior on film. We then had another great wall dive accompanied by eagle rays and turtles, jacks and groupers, as well as the odd lionfish.

Next on the agenda were interviews with the Director of the Department of Environment Gina Ebanks-Petri and the Deputy Director Timothy Austin. Each gave solid interviews about the value of the scientific work being done by REEF and collaborating scientists and how valuable this last remaining Nassau grouper SPAG(Spawning Aggregation) site was to the Cayman Islands and the Caribbean as a whole.

It’s a wrap. We did more shooting around town and in the Guy Harvey Gallery and Shoppe and across the road at the original Guy Harvey Island Grill. George Town is a popular destination for cruise ship visitors and stay –over visitors and they enjoy the tranquility and cleanliness of these islands while browsing the shops, restaurants and beaches.

I am confident that this documentary will tell the success story of how the research effort and conservation of the last remaining Nassau grouper spawning site in the central and western Caribbean may see the beginning of a recovery of this overexploited species. Indeed, it is a success story with which the people and government of the Cayman Island should be very proud.

The Marine Conservation Board will meet within the next month to determine whether protection for the spawning sites should be extended. It seems to be common sense to protect any species at times of spawning but, particularly the Nassau grouper, which has been brought to the very edge of extinction throughout its geographic range by lack of proper management and just sheer human greed.

Enough already! Let’s get this done.

Dive safely fish responsibly. 

—Guy Harvey

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May 6, 2011

Blue Marlin Fishing After Filming Grouper Documentary- Part I

Following the incredible Cayman Islands Squash tournament April 3 – 9, I got going on finishing the Grouper Moon documentary which I started in mid- February. By way of a recap, producer/cameraman George Schellenger and I spent 6 days in Little Cayman shooting the research work being done by the REEF personnel (please visit and volunteers along with staff from the Department of Environment, Cayman Island Government.

The timing was such that we experienced the dusk spawn of about 2500 Nassau groupers a few days after the full moon in February. We shot all the daytime census-taking and measuring of adults (using lasers mounted on underwater cameras) gathered for the spawn. We conducted many interviews with the different interest and user groups. It was a very comprehensive shoot.

So… on to Grand Cayman. In order to show all the marine conservation interests at work, I scheduled a four day shoot around Grand Cayman. I wanted to show what Grand Cayman has to offer on and under the water. We started out with an hour long helicopter tour with Jerome and Natalie of Cayman Helicopters, who run a superb heli-experience which can be customized, depending on what you want to see and achieve. That afternoon we dived the Kittiwake and were lucky as a huge school of horse-eye jacks enveloped the superstructure making an awesome scene in the 100 foot viz water.

Andi is hooked up

In addition, there were bar jacks, rainbow runner, squid, tons of juvenile squirrelfish, copper sweepers, blue tangs and other grazing reef fish taking advantage of the new growth of algae up and down the steel hull. An 80 pound goliath grouper has also adopted the wreck. George and I then went to the sandbar to get some stingray footage before heading out to Hammerhead Hill, one of my favorite north wall dives. We encountered groups of spotted eagle rays, a hawksbill turtle, six different species of groupers, and a big hogfish being cleaned by some mini wrasses. Just too cool! Enough for one day of action packed diving.

Day 2 and 3, we were aboard the “Hit ‘n’ Run”, a well maintained 40 foot Luhrs, owned and captained by Derrin Ebanks. I coerced, friend and restaurant owner, Andi Marcher (of “Ragazzi” and “Luca” fame) to come along with my son Alex to be anglers. In two days they each caught two fine blue marlin. The weather was just perfect…it never gets too calm for me, particularly when you are blue marlin fishing.

Day 2 started early. While we waited for the charter boat to arrive, we were amazed at the eagle rays, big sting rays, tarpon and bonefish that were rooting around in the sand by the dock. We left Morgan’s Harbour at the crack of 8 a.m. and trolled about a mile off the coast heading west toward the 12 mile bank all the time looking for frigate birds that would signal the presence of dolphin or marlin. We missed a couple of them, one was a cheap shot but the second was a ripper that had captain Derrin doing a dance on the flybridge.

Blue Marlin, just prior to release

I saw her come in fast from the right side as she crashed the short right lure, then came back around in a swirl for the bite with dorsal and bill out. The big marlin did not come tight and again came in on the same lure. The hair on the back of my neck was standing up when I saw the height of her dorsal fin. She ate this time, was hooked and started jumping straight away going off to the right and then (as a blue marlin can) turned around and headed off to the left like a jetski on steroids. Unfortunately, she crossed the left rigger line and that reel also started howling. Somehow…. the hook came out and after a series of fabulous grey-hounding jumps ….she said goodbye. Lots of great action but no results… and it was only 11 a.m.

We trolled down to 12 mile Bank, and worked the NE tip of this seamount before heading to the SW tip as the current was coming from the NW. This three mile long seamount comes up from 3,500 feet to 90 feet from the surface. You need to fish on that end when the current is coming from the west. A yellowfin tuna popped up chasing flying fish, then a couple more. Cool. This was the place to be. Where there are tuna frolicking, a marlin will be nearby. Sure enough, the right rigger went down, but no hook-up. The marlin blazed over to the left rigger and we were tight. Andi was the angler on 30# test which is ideal tackle for a marlin of 125#. After lots of jumps far away, Andi got the marlin to the boat and I deployed the PSAT(Pop-up Satellite Archival Tag) in the marlin’s left shoulder. I got my gear on and jumped in to film the release. Very good. It was carrying a 3-month PSAT, and headed into the blue. No more bites for the day as we trolled home in perfect weather. That evening, we had a couple of beers at the little restaurant on the Morgan’s Harbour dock. A perfect end to the day.

See our next week’s blog for Part II

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Apr 8, 2011

Tagging Tiger Sharks in Bimini

Mahmood Shivji and Brad Wetherbee attach SPOT tag to tiger while Dr. Sam Gruber secures the shark

I recently joined Dr. Sam Gruber and his staff with the Shark Lab in Bimini to tag tiger sharks. We attached a satellite tag (SPOT -Smart Position or Temperature Transmitting) to the dorsal fin of a 9 foot male tiger shark caught off Bimini. This shark was named after a High School in Nassau called CV Bethel— As I follow up on my address to their assembly and to the ministers of the Bahamian Government. We named this shark after the school so the school children would be able to follow the migrations of “their” shark on a weekly basis. Shortly after we left, Dr. Steven Kessel and the shark Lab crew caught a 10 foot female tiger shark. She, also, had a SPOT attached and is named St. Mary, after another Nassau school. Mahmood Shivji and Brad Wetherbee will shortly be making these tracks available to the respective schools.

In addition, I was accompanied by film producer George Schellenger.  We shot, for the tiger documentary, some amazing sequences with a great hammerhead and some interactions with Caribbean Reef sharks. No authoritative documentary on tiger sharks could be complete without a visit to the Bimini Shark Lab and some wise words from Dr. Gruber, who has worked in Bimini for more than two decades. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation is collaborating with the Bimini Shark Lab on a number of new projects.

By the way,the Bimini Big Game Club is looking great and is gearing up for a busy summer. Some mooring balls were being deployed while I was there, and the new restaurant expansion and deck was in full swing. Clients will be able to dine overlooking the crystal clear water below teaming with jacks, tarpon, eagle rays and bonefish.

The big game is definitely ON!

Guy Harvey

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