Thursday, February 15, 2007

All Duke TAG Team Scores

After most of the TAG team has gone home, the tagging continues off the coast of North Carolina with the generous assistance of Duke, NC State and University of North Carolina researchers. After tagging a nice 80 inch fish on Friday with the help of CMAST/NC State students Chris Butler and Christine, the TAG team was excited to head into the weekend when several other boats were also planning on heading out.

On Saturday, Jeff Moore and Ben Best, both of Duke University joined the crew of the Sensation in an effort to tag the mighty bluefin tuna. It was a cold day on the water as we headed out towards the area where we had tagged the fish the day before, about a half a mile off Atlantic Beach. We found the same school of bait that we had fished in the day before and trolled around there for a few hours. With nothing much going on and several other boats in the area, we decided to move and try our luck somewhere else. We picked up and moved East, near the shoals. We found a nice temperature front and the area was alive with marks of bait, diving gannets and dolphins. We were also excited to see a couple of large basking sharks feeding on the cold side of the temperature front but, unfortunately, no bluefin to be had. The lack of fish and the cold weather combined to induce a strong bite in the cabin of the Sensation, with several sausage egg muffins, a can of Pringles, a bag of pretzels, several microwavable entrees, a PB and J or two and assorted fruits all being consumed.

On Sunday, we headed back to the same area near the shoals with Mary Turnipseed and Lesley Thorne of Duke and Amy Waggener of IMS/UNC. Again, the bluefin got the better of us and we didn't get a single bluefin strike. We did catch a small shark as we trolled along the shoals but we decided let it go without an archival tag in it.

Lesley joined us again on Monday along with Caroline Good and Danielle Waples for an all Duke tagging team. We trolled in several places throughout the day with nothing too promising anywhere. We finally settled on fishing near the "Little 10" and ran over there and set our lines in the water. We were trolling for about 10 minutes when the starboard outrigger popped out of the clip. No line ran off the reel and there was no pressure on the rod so we all figured it was a false albacore strike. C.R. started to reel the line in when all of a sudden he felt something more than a false albacore on the other end of the line. With a cry of "That's him!" C.R. knew we had found what we were looking for and the line screamed off the reel. Lesley jumped in the chair and the battle began. Thirty minutes later, a nice fish was at the back of the deck and C.R. began the wiring clinic. The fish was brought on deck and the surgery team, a mixture of veterans and rookies, sprang into action. In what was likely the greatest surgery ever performed on a fish in the history of mankind, Dr. Boustany implanted the archival tag into the peritoneal cavity of the tuna. In addition, a short term pop-up tag was attached to the back of the 76 inch fish. A DNA sample was taken and the fish was released out the tuna door. Godspeed, Mr. Tuna!

The weather looks like it will be bad for the rest of the week but we hope to get out again as soon as possible. Stay tuned!

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