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Gary Graham – ROAD TREKKER

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Tuesday, October 31, 2017
Feeding Cabo Kids

Team Gray Tagged ‘Misha’ another striped marlin off Cabo
While attending the ICast Tackle Manufacturers Show in Orlando, Fla. last summer, Bill Dobbelaer, General Manager of Gray Taxidermy, extended an invitation for me to be part of the team deploying a special PSAT Satellite tag in Cabo San Lucas.


The Striped Marlin “Tracy” was caught by angler Dave Bulthuis of Costa Sunglasses, and tagged with a satellite tag (PSAT) on Nov. 1st, 2016. The PSAT stayed on the fish and collected data for 38 days.

• Fish length at capture: 79 inches, LJFK

• At its closest point, the fish was 9.05 km (5.6 mi) from the beaches of Los Cabo. The striped marlin in total traveled an approximate distance of 1488 km (924 mi) in a southeast direction. During that time period, the fish traveled over the Mazatlán Basin and went on to spend 10 days around the Rivera Fracture Zone.

• The striped marlin exhibited a large vertical movement pattern, which varied depending on daylight or darkness.

• At nighttime, the average depth was surface to 3 m with occasional dives to 50 m.

During the daytime, the fish had extensive vertical movements with an average depth of 55 m, and rapid dives to 70 m, followed by rapid ascents to 30 m.

• Both striped marlin, “Bill Gray” and “Tracy,” were tagged on the same day; however, one fish went north to the Sea of Cortez and the other fish went south. They both also demonstrated a vertical movement pattern similar in profile to swordfish, with nighttime hours spent at the surface and daytime hours spent at depths 40 to 80 m.

Track of Striped Marlin Named “Bill Gray”

Track of Striped Marlin Named “Tracy”

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The Gray Fishtag Research, Inc. (GFTR) group included: Dobbelaer and his wife Pamela from Pompano Beach, Fla.; Travis Moore, Gray FishTag, Research Scientist; Tracy Ehrenberg of Cabo’s Pisces Group; Dave Bulthuis from Costa Sunglasses; Bill Pino, Squidnation; and Ray Gardner, Yo-zuri, along with Captain Nayo Winkler; 1st Mate Mario, 2nd mate Dan Lewis plus Rogelio Gonzalez Armas, Ph.D., from Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR) and I, a Gray FishTag Advisory Panel Member.

We all gathered at Captain Tony’s restaurant at 5 a.m. Oct. 31 before boarding the Tag Team, a 61-foot Viking at the Pisces Marina.

Last year our destination had been the world-famous Finger Bank, known for the extraordinary striped marlin pileup that happens this time of year. Tales of double-digit releases recently were enough to convince Captain Nayo to return.

As we idled out the channel, Moore explained the purpose of our early morning adventure. Last year’s Wildlife Computers, specializing in marine animal behavioral research through the development of tag and telemetry technology, contributed two of their satellite tags for deployment in striped marlin in the waters surrounding Baja’s tip.

The success and the data it provided persuaded Tracy Ehrenberg of the importance of continuing the program. So, along with the owners of the vessel Tag Team, she agreed for the team to return to the Finger Bank – just a click over 50 miles north of Lands’ End, and she also volunteered to fund a tag herself.

The game plan was to deploy the one satellite tag and as many spaghetti tags as possible; plus, this would allow several team members to catch their first striped marlin ever. Both Travis Moore and Pamela Dobbelaer were candidates to check striped marlin off their bucket list.

The weather was our friend and the ride uphill was noticeably smoother as the team prepared for the day’s fishing. Bill Pino had brought a vast selection of some of his Squidnation’s remarkable dredges and daisy chains to tease up the billfish.

While Moore and Dobbelaer loaded the tag sticks and double-checked the video cameras to make certain the team’s efforts were recorded, the boat crew brought out the tackle and also made sure everything was in order.

After several hours, Captain Nayo pulled the throttles back and the boat slid alongside a school of feeding porpoise and the mate dropped back a couple of tuna feathers. Minutes later, the familiar clatter of the drag announced the hookup to a small yellowfin tuna. Dobbelaer snatched the rod from the covering board holder and soon the small fish was on ice in the fish box.

Back up to cruising speed, soon we spotted a handful of sportfishers on the horizon, along with high-circling frigate birds … a sure sign of both bait and striped marlin.

Out went the Squidnation dredges and daisy chains as the high-flying frigates plunged toward the tell-tale white water and the commotion caused by hapless baitfish fleeing the slashing bills of the predators.

Live mackerel were pinned onto circle hooks before being placed back in the bait tanks. Soon Pino roared, “Portside dredge!” Before his words were covered up by the steady rumble of the engines, both baits silently slid back in the wake.

“Fish on!” he yelled, as Tracy, the designated angler, hopped into the fighting chair. Rhythmically, she pumped and wound. The small, leaping striper was soon close to the transom.

Moore shouted, “Spaghetti tag only!” indicating the fish wasn’t frisky enough to gamble with the $5,000 tag.

During the next several hours, Ehrenberg, Bulthuis, Moore, Pamela Dobbelaer and Pino managed to deploy seven spaghetti tags and one satellite tag. Following each tagging session, Armas, the marine biologist, gathered plankton and larvae samples with a large net with small mesh.

The striped marlin was successfully satellite tagged and named “Mischa” after Ehrenberg’s young grandson on Oct. 31.

This is Gray FishTag Research’s third year of collaborative research in Cabo and the Baja region. The major boats collaborating are from local fleets in Cabo, including Pisces Sportfishing, Red Rum, along with a few others.

Over the past three years, six different species of fish have been tagged and released in the Baja Sur region. For the entire GFR program, over 80 different fish species have been tagged worldwide. Over 22,000 conventional tags have been distributed to anglers via charter boats.

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