|This year, just prior to the WON Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot, Tracy and Marco Ehrenberg of Cabo’s Pisces Sport Fishing, invited me, as one of their Advisory Panel Members to join the Gray Fishtag Research, Inc. (GFTR) group which included, Bill Dobbelaer, general manager of Gray Taxidermy, Pompano Beach, Fla.; Travis Moore, Gray FishTag Research Scientist; Dave Bulthuis from Costa Sunglasses, aboard the Tag Team, a 61-foot Viking with Captain Nayo Winkler; 1st Mate Mario, 2nd mate Dan Lewis along with Rogelio Gonzalez Armas, Ph.D., from Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR).
THE STRIPED MARLIN named Tracy was outfitted with a prototype satellite tag on November 1 while fishing the Finger Bank offshore of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. In addition, the Red Rum fleet owned by John Donovan, and Captain Franky Abaroa of the Go Deep fleet, both from Cabo, have also agreed to be part of the program.
The group gathered at Captain Tony’s restaurant next to the Pisces Office on the Malecón at 5 a.m. before walking to the Tag Team. Our destination was the world famous Finger Bank, known for the extraordinary striped marlin pileup that happens this time of year. Tales of double-digit releases for the several weeks preceding were enough to convince Captain Nayo that was the place to be.
After introductions, we idled out the channel as Moore explained the purpose of our early morning adventure. Wildlife Computers, specializing in marine animal behavioral research through the development of tag and telemetry technology, had contacted him several days before his departure to Cabo San Lucas. They wanted to donate two of their satellite tags for deployment in striped marlin in the waters surrounding Baja’s tip.
Basically, before Moore’s departures several days later, Tracy had arranged for the Tag Team trip; the two $5,000 specialized satellite tags were delivered and we were headed for the bank – just a click over 50-miles north of Lands’ End.
As we turned the corner and went up on plane, heading up-swell into a building sea didn’t faze the 61-foot Viking; Moore showed the group the specialized tags explaining that each fish would have a small green Gray Fishtag Research tag as well as the Wildlife Computers specialized tag.
By 10 a.m., Captain Nayo had eased the throttles back as the spacious Viking settled into its ideal trolling speed and the crew set the trolling pattern as high flying frigates confirmed we had reached the southern end of the bank.
On the horizon, those high flying frigates became heat seeking missiles as they dived toward the telltale white water and the commotion caused by hapless baitfish fleeing the slashing bills of the predators beneath them.
Timing is everything! Suddenly the frigates, bait and predators met, with the Viking being one of the predators. First the stripers’ bills and then their dorsals, followed by their powerful tails, propelled them toward the lures bubbling in the wake behind the boat.
The captain’s screams of “drop back” reverberated in the cockpit as two live baits slipped into the water and slid back beyond the pursued lures. A visual “chomp” confirmed by the cry of “fish-on” was heard and the rest of the crew hastily cleared the lines. Bultheis settled into the fighting chair as he and the striper attached to his line become the center of attention.
Less than 30 minutes after we arrived at the bank, the historic first pop-up satellite archival tag (PSAT) was deployed on a striped marlin in Cabo waters. The tagged and released fish was named “Bill Gray” in honor of the founder of Gray Taxidermy. The bite was on and there was no time to waste!
Tag Team resumed trolling speed and the crew once again set the pattern. Heads spun as everyone searched for the high flying frigates and baitballs on the surface.
The second fish of the day was soon grey-hounding across the wake. Bultheis returned to the fighting chair where he began the pump-and-wind rhythm that served him well with the first fish. Before long, Moore has skillfully placed tags in fish number two. In less than an hour, their task was completed and Captain Nayo steered Tag Team back toward the IGY Marina. This striped marlin was christened “Tracy” in appreciation of all of the Ehrenberg’s support of Gray Fishtag Research, Inc. Outfitted with a prototype satellite tag on Nov.1 while fishing the Finger Bank offshore of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, itwas estimated at 79 inches (lower jaw fork length) and in excellent condition at the time of release.
As a footnote: Tracy, that same striped marlin, was recovered 72 hours later on Nov. 4, by the charter boat Mucho Bueno, captained by Ernie Cosìo Mijares and first mate Ernie, Junior. The recapture location was Golden Gate Bank, approximately 30 miles away from the original tag deployment location. The marlin put up a short fight and once Captain Ernie saw and realized that the marlin had a satellite tag attached to it, he promptly recorded the contact information and fish length, and then he released the fish in healthy condition.
Dobbelaer and his team’s two-year collaborative effort are already making a difference in the International Sportfishing Community. Less than one year old in Baja, the organization has assembled an impressive advisory panel of industry leaders – all game-changers in their own right – who recognize potential international possibilities that would combine recreational angling, sportfishing operations, scientists and researchers globally; as well as local fleets, Red Rum, owned by John Donovan, and Go Deep fleet, with Captain Franky Abaroa, both from Cabo, who have also agreed to join the program.
This information will provide data that could assist world leaders in making the best possible decisions in order to preserve world-wide resources for generations to come. In the first year, over 3,400 different species of fish were released in the Baja Sur region alone.
For more information visit http://grayfishtagresearch.org/