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Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

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The Roosterfish Foundation . . .
Tagging, the next step

On my very first trip down Mex 1 with friends in the early 1970s, we camped on deserted beaches, awaking before dawn and savoring that first hot cup of coffee, we paused for enough light to begin fishing. I realized that this was a special time and place. Since that first trip, a huge part of my Baja Experience has always been fishing from the shore.

Times changed and my wife and I settled in at East Cape where the beach became the cornerstone of our fishing; one of our prime targets became roosterfish … dark shadows that would cruise slowly along the surf line searching for food – their tantalizing combs (dorsal fins) high in the air.

Many afternoons, while sitting on our long porch overlooking the Sea of Cortez after an exciting day of pursuing these exotic creatures, someone would speculate about where they go when they disappear in the fall.

lancepeterson
LANCE PETERSON, BAJA flyfishing guide living at East Cape, prepares to place the first "Roosterfish Foundation" tag #79 in a Baja Sur roosterfish.

We all had theories. But the bottom line was that no one had a clue. Inevitably, the idea was tossed out that tagging the fish to find out more about their behavior was the answer.

Eventually, that discussion was followed up by the action of many interested anglers. Now, roosterfish tagging has become a reality. Ed Kunze, International Game Fish Association Representative living in Zihuatanejo, and a fishing guide who has long been interested in the roosterfish, has invested his own time and money to establish The Roosterfish Foundation, an ambitious undertaking that will encourage both the tagging and releasing of roosterfish to provide more research and information about these magnificent fish.

Early last week while in Southern California, Ed and I spent nearly an hour on a conference call with Jason Schratwieser, Conservation Director at International Game Fish Association, regarding advice and direction for the foundation. Jason was equally excited about the prospects of developing a far reaching program that would stretch from Baja to Panama and perhaps deploying a few satellite tags as time goes on.

Then, a few days later, on March 18, Lance Peterson, Baja flyfishing guide and longtime friend living at East Cape, posted the following message on his Facebook page: "I'm excited to announce that I placed my first Roosterfish Foundation tag in a solid 35-pound specimen of Baja grande." This was the first tag for the foundation deployed in Baja Sur.

To be sure, there have been a few other roosters tagged. Steven Perna in 2010 south of Puerto Vallarta tagged several; Russell Weaver and Keith Paul in late 2013 with Kunze in Zihuatanejo and I'm sure there have been a few others as well.

Judging by Peterson’s post that had several hundred responses, I think the genie is out of the bottle and roosterfish tagging will grow exponentially.

Of course, there are many moving parts to a project of this nature, just as there were in the early days of billfish tagging which was initially met with skepticism by many, yet now billfish with satellite tags are frequently being tracked thousands of miles. Tagging techniques, tag recovery and reporting and then assessing the information compiled for roosterfish will all take fine-tuning for optimum results.

As Peterson commented in his report, "The entire tagging process took just under a minute. The fish swam away – strong, albeit a bit tired – and sporting Roosterfish Foundation tag #79. Our objective with the tagging project is to gather information on this poorly understood species: lifespan, migration patterns, growth rates...very little if anything is known about the life and habits of these amazing gamefish. Hopefully, gathering this data will lead to a better understanding of the species and ultimately to a greater appreciation of the importance of roosterfish to sport fisheries throughout the Eastern Pacific."

While our home, Rancho Deluxe and its wonderful porch, is long gone, victim to a failed development, it is exciting to imagine that what we thought was an idle discussion then has become a reality now. To learn more about the Roosterfish Foundation visit www.roosterfish.org

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