The TAG team had some fresh faces on the water these past two days. Nathan Taylor, a post-doc from the University of British Columbia, and myself, Gareth Lawson a post-doc out at Stanford, arrived on Sunday night to help out with the tagging. Both of us have been working on the TAG dataset for some time, and were eager to meet our study species face-to-face.
After waiting out some bad weather on Monday, come Tuesday we were out on the Sensation with Captain Dale Britt, mate Will Johnson, and veteran TAGgers Andre Boustany and Gaelin Rosenwaks. Things got exciting quickly, when at 7:30 we hooked three fish within seconds of one another – a triple header! One fish shook off its hook after just a minute. I hopped into the fighting chair and we started battling the second one. This was my first time reeling one in, and it felt big. After a half hour of fighting we had got it up to the boat on a couple of occasions, but it was just too strong and kept pulling back away from us, until finally it broke the leader. Will got a good look at it and reckoned it was over 90 inches. Not a bad size for my first experience in the chair! Like the TAG team has seen on previous days, this is the trade-off in using light leaders – the lighter line is harder for the fish to see making it easier to catch them, but also easier for them to break off.
Nathan then got in the chair to bring in the third fish, but that one unfortunately pulled off its hook after only another few minutes. So sadly all three fish got away, and we didn’t deploy any tags.
On Wednesday the weather was again favorable and we were back on the water. Veteran TAG vessel the Leslie Anne had arrived in Beaufort the day before and was out fishing with us, led by Captain Gary Stuve along with seasoned TAG members Doug Roberts and John Rafter, and newcomer Flash. Neither TAG vessel caught any fish, although the Leslie Anne did have one fish show some interest in their bait.
Mid-morning on the Sensation, we got word on the radio that one of the boats in the commercial fleet had caught a fish that was ‘short’ (ie smaller than the legal minimum size of 73 inches) that they therefore wanted to transfer to us. It’s a very reasonable exchange, since we get a fish to tag and they get a $200 fuel voucher. The transfer involved us throwing over a tennis ball attached to the end of a line. They then clipped their leader (with the fish at its end) to the line and we got to work on reeling it in. For a small fish it certainly put up a big fight. They caught it on a long and light leader, so Will had to be particularly careful wiring it in and it took a few tries. We got it onto the boat though and after a successful tag surgery the fish swam away strongly. It measured out at 69 inches, small by some standards, but still the biggest (and only) bluefin that Nathan and I have ever seen!