Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Barb Block Interviewed on North Carolina Talk Radio

In addition to providing some amazing tagging opportunities, the TAG trip to North Carolina yielded some fantastic outreach work as well! The TAG team was joined by natural history videographer Bill Hitchcock, who got some fantastic footage of the tagging operation. And right after she returned to California, Barb got to do a live, in-depth radio interview with radio talk show host Lockwood Phillips on WTKF 107.1 out of Morehead City.

You can listen to a recording of the interview here.

Friday, January 9, 2009

El Tejano


Monday, January 5th the fishing luck at Morehead City was with the TAG-A-Giant team aboard the Tagging Boat Sensation. Our vessel was joined by a new member of the TAG team- the El Tejano (The Texan)- a beautiful Bertram from South Carolina owned By Mr. John Hill. John is board member of the Tag A Giant Foundation and a great champion of bluefin tuna. John’s team had never caught a giant bluefin aboard El Tejano, and came up Sunday after a 9 hour journey to join us in our efforts to place archival and pop up satellite tags on giant bluefin. We went out on a very nice Monday, after a slow Sunday for the TAG team but good bite for Morehead commercial fishers, and in the early morning dark it was clear, with a glance at the radar screen- we were not alone- 50-60 boats were right there, with us, angling to catch a bluefin to sell to Japan. The market prices had hit new highs over the holiday weekend. Fish in Morehead were going for big dollars and the fleet was focused on catching fish. In the pitch black of early am night- we got the call- “fish on” from the El Tejano team. It was almost as if we were hearing things. We were shocked- again- perhaps beginner’s luck or maybe the El Tejano team was just kidding when they said they had never caught a giant. So we quickly took in our gear- we had just put out- and plotted a course for the vessel. It was the still dark as we slowly moved toward the our team mates- I went over all the scenarios in my head of how we would do this- given it was dark and asked our mate Alan, if we had deck lights- we had Bill Hitchcock the camera man aboard too and it would be hard to capture the moment, let alone do surgery, without light- we did not have deck lights! Surgery in the dark is never easy. Luckily, dawn broke, and as we moved the 2 nautical miles or so over- to the vessel we politely nicknamed “El Taco”- finally we could see the action. Once we arrived it was amazing to see John Hill guiding the vessel and Dave his Captain in the chair. We had gone over with Charlie the mate- how to do a transfer less than 12h before and there he was with a wind on leader- trying his first transfer in the early dawn. After a few trying moments Charlie successfully transferred the fish and than it was ours and we were psyched because long time friend of TAG, former leader man- and Merchant Marine- Joey Smith was our angler. Joey brought the fish to leader- a strong fish – and Alan began his campaign to bring the fish in on 220# leader. It took about 15’ but sure enough we put the fish in the boat. The bluefin was lit up- you can see its bars above- as Andre irrigated the gills. I placed an archival tag into the fish- and within minutes we turned the fish around and sent him swimming amongst the fleet- It was a nice fish about 86 inches long. What a moment, all on film, our great supporter- John Hill and his team- Congrads to all for a fine TAG A Giant moment! There were only 3 bites this day- and it was great letting a big fish go- Barb

Thursday, January 8, 2009

TAG 2009 North Carolina

TAG 2009

January 3

The New Year brought us to North Carolina where we’ve been tagging bluefin since 1996. We arrived and found numerous commercial fishers reporting a very good New Year’s eve bite after some spotty commercial fishing for several weeks. Sure enough the TAG team went out with a flotilla of vessels helping tag fish inclusive of the TAG Boat (Sensation) captained by Dale Britt, the Annie C, the Gracious, and a beautiful sport fisher captained by Golf pro Curtis Strange. The team moved out to where the fleet had been fishing just west of the Cape Lookout Shoals. After a slow morning Captain Dale made a strategic decision and moved the team to a new spot. The Annie C reported they had fish on and the “mate” aboard was our former skipper of the TAG boat Calcutta, Mr. John Jenkins. We were very excited knowing John, knew the drill well having led the transfer effort throughout the 1990s and early part of this decade. We pulled up, he smoothly transferred the fish like a pro. Once at our vessel- the veteran crew relied on the sure leader handling by Sensation mate Alan of the Sensation to carefully work the fish- into the position so Dr. Andre Boustany could lip hook the fish. Once aboard the fish received an internally implanted Lotek archival tag. We put out our trolling lines once we settled back in- and the Bill Collector reported hooking up. As we trolled slowly towards the Bill Collector we saw an explosion of water on the surface. We headed in that directly and sure enough we hooked up on our down bait. It was our first fish of the year- and quite a story. Franklin, a Duke University 2007 graduate and strong angler, hopped in the chair and before long had the fish close to the boat- but the fish had other plans and took the line out several times prior to finally settling in for a long stand at the boat. Given we had to pull this fish into the boat- we needed this very strong fish to settle down a bit. After an almost 30’ Wait period of trying to pull the fish in and than relaxing and waiting- we were able to get the fish in position, put a lip hook in and drag fish into the boat. This fish was enormous for Carolina, 258 cm- over 100 inches! It turned out this was the second largest fish ever in the 800 plus fish we had tagged. We quickly put a pop up satellite tag in the fish with a 270 day deployment period- as we’re interested the exact timing of the migration into the Gulf of Mexico. We proceeded to move the fish off the vessel- had some issues trying to turn the fish around- as it was quite large specimen. Finally after some challenges we put the bluefin back in the ocean to swim again. It was remarkable first day of the year for tagging. We have it all on film as videographer and good luck charm- Bill Hitchcock put it all on tape for broadcast. Barb