Saturday, October 31, 2009

Giants Return for our Last Day of Canada Tagging 2009

TAG A Giant fishers from Nova Scotia and PEI- teamed up to produce 4 hook- ups and while one fish pulled hook, three giant bluefin made it to the back of the tagging vessel. Angel Brailyn hooked up first- made the transfer and than we lost the fish just at the lip hook point when the leader touched the hull. It's happenned before for sure (ask TAG wiremen CP Perry & Daryl Brower). Neptuna hooked up in the late afternoon. This fish was brought aboard and measured 261 cm and was estimated at about 750 lbs. and received a tag. Next was Angel Brailyn who had hooked up earlier. They passed the rod again and fought for about 1 hour into the night. The fish was brought aboard in excellent condition and measured 268 cm and was girthy- so estimated about 800 lbs. The ocean was very lively today. Birds everywhere diving on bait. Hundreds of dolphins with us all day. Bluefin were mixed in with them and often seen breaking surface in the middle of groups of dolphins. Some were jumping clear of water- 800 lb fish jumping completely out of the water about 100 feet from the boat.

We're so pleased to have put two more long-term satellite tags in true Canadian giants. We've got at least 10 PATs out all in very big fish- some estimated at 1200 to 1300 lbs. The pop up satellite tags will give us the long distance movements (we can estimate position approximately on a daily schedule or at least get positions several times a week) to help better understand the movements and migrations of the giants that visit the Gulf of St. Lawrence. We'll get a window into their breeding schedules in the Gulf of Mexico and potentially teh Mediterranean Sea. We'll be "listening" for the acoustic tagged fish that with their new pinger tags that will deliver a coded data set that says the number of the tag, sort of "here I am tuna 42034". We can track them within about 300-400m of a listening post- or "receiver" line - one is now located in Cabot Straight and potentially they may acoustically hit another Halifax line off the Nova Scotian shelf. These tags have the potential for long-term monitoring. We hope to "hear" them next season come into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Lines are maintained by the Ocean Tracking Network of which Dr. Mike Stokesbury from our team has a leading role. The acoustic tags were supplied for this very first experiment of external tags (Last year we did internal acoustics) from TAG A GIANT- another first!

Special thanks to our super tag team from Nova Scotia (Dennis, Steve, Bernie and Peter and their mates) and PEI (Bruce Kues et al.) led by Dr. Steve Wilson and students Aaron S. and Naiomi P.. We had challenging weather this season over the 18 days we were camped there, but we're very pleased to have put out satellite and acoustic tags on so many big fish. The water temperature is cooling so we know the bluefin will be heading south shortly. Great fishing here in Canada and some fine fishermen helping garner new knowledge on bluefin tuna.

Monday, October 26, 2009

TUNA = 3. TAG = 2

Here's another take on Saturday's tagging from Aaron Spares, one of the field scientists tagging in Port Hood...

Sunrise was a pink sky highlighted with gold-rimmed stratus clouds, the kinda morning sky that turns to satin streams as the day goes on. Gannets soared everywhere as they and tuna boats fished for ‘pig-sized’ mackerel. Steaming offshore brought more birds, gulls and guillemots, but no tuna. Off the Mull River, the first few gannets started pluggin’ surface bait. A tuna ripped a white streak through the surface under them, followed soon after by ½ a dozen more. We set up and reset numerous times near events inshore, but only had our first marks o’the day by 11:18. We headed outside to a hotspot termed ‘The Sharkfin’, markin’ bait as we steamed.
The radio cracks with the voice of Captain Bruce Keus of the ‘S/V North Lake Breeze’ outside of us, “Fish up! Gotta go!”

Other TAG vessels report similar activity. We waited with baited breath, feeding our building excitement with early Halloween treats. Birds began to gather around the ‘S/V Bay Queen’. ‘Were we the startin’ line?’ What little wind there was had us lulled into believin’ we were headed towards what Capers call “a flat-ass cam” day. By noon, the sounder showed two solid green bands of bait, one shallow, one deep. Kites were deployed, dropped and redeployed, desperately trying to take advantage of the light breeze. A lone Sei whale surfaced off our stern.
“On there Dennis?” the radio sounded at 12:13 with Capt’n Bernie Chisholm of the ‘S/V Nicole Brandy’, “We’re hooked up here.”

The game, and our taggin’ day, began. By 13:13, #1 tagged tuna was back in the water with tags attached. An hour later, we marked a fish deep and soon after our ‘Huey’ surface bait screamed off the reel. The fish remained high, makin’ our line chaffer, a soother to shield the leader line from a tuna’s sharp teeth, useless. The line snapped after a 27-minute battle. ‘Catcha later tuna #2.’ With the wind pickin’ up, Capt’n Steve MacInnis of the ‘S/V Carrie Anne’ hooked up tuna #3 at 15:33. After comin’ aboard the ‘Bay Queen’ with his hooked up rod, he fought the fish for 2 hours, bringing the giant to the surface only once before it dove deep beside the boat doubling over the rod like it had been kicked in the groin. With a sharp crack, it snapped off at the base of shaft. The reel with a baseball bat thick stub left became the TAG team’s only weapon against this monster. With Capt’n Steve MacInnis and Dennis Cameron hand-linin’, Dr. Steve Wilson reelin’ in slack and PhD student Aaron Spares protecting the monofilament from sharp edges of the gunwale with a mat, the monster was brought to the surface once more. Its powerful tail, as thick as a Husky sled dog’s shoulders are wide, still pumped water over the crew fighting it from the stern. The line tightened and released. The fish swam away. The crew was left with two more fish hooked up by other vessels. In the increasing wind, gusting to 20 knots, with waves floodin’ the back deck of the ‘Bay Queen’ through the transom door, the TAG team tagged tuna #4 in the gathering dark and stomached the message tuna #5 broke off. TUNA = 3. TAG = 2. May these giants bite again when the wind lets the TAG team out another day.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Granders Getting Tagged & Breaking Rods

The TAG A Giant team let by scientists Steve Wilson of Stanford University, Aaron Spares of Dalhousie once again aboard the TAG vessel Bay Queen IV owned by Captain Dennis Cameron have had a busy day in Canada. Giant bluefins were hooked again by many of the TAG teams vessels fishing together from the ports of Nova Scotia and PEI. Three of these fish were taken to the tagging vessel. Two received a complementary set of TAG jewlry: double tagging with 1 pop up satellite tag and one acoustic tag. You can see the tags in the middle photo above. Captain Steve McGinnis who has fished and tagged with the team for four seasons came aboard on a transfer with a monster on his rod. He fought it for over 2 hours, then it snapped his rod at the base. The team recovered quicky and handlined the big fish to the door where it broke off just before being lip hooked. Well over 1000lbs but free to get a tag another day. The wind picked up late in the day just as three fish were simultaneously hooked. The TAG team has had some difficult weather this season- but what can you expect its Late October in the northern waters of the Canadian Maritimes. Congrads to everyone working hard on behalf of bluefin tuna!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Giant Leaves and Giants Return

You know it must be fishing when the celebrity angler leaves just in time for the big fish to start showing up! Yesterday the bite was on, with three big ones tagged and a fourth that broke off.

Steve Wilson tags a 950 pound tuna

Steve Wilson reports:

Like Tuesday, the day started off slow and then exploded in the late afternoon. Bait was on the surface with birds and white-sided dolphins foraging. Lots of tuna being marked deep (beneath the bait). Dolphins were right alongside our boat eating bait that was trying hide beneath the boat. Bruce handed us the rod with fish #3 on it, and had hooked up again within 5 minutes. Broke off half an hour after sunset.
Awesome out there today.

Here's a 1,200 lb. giant getting tagged.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another Giant Tagged in Canada

The weather kept us on land in the morning, but we decided to take our chances and were on the fishing grounds by lunchtime. The decision paid off, and it turned out to be a beautiful afternoon. There were fish busting everywhere, but they weren't biting. We tagged one bluefin, hooked by Capt. Bruce Keus aboard the F/V North Lake Breeze. At 84-inches long, the fish was small (at least by Canadian standards) and was estimated at ~400lbs. Celebrity tagger Chris Mihm did the honors, expertly affixing the satellite tag near the base of the second dorsal under the guidance of veteran TAG scientists Dr. Steve Wilson (in the white Stanford hat) and Robbie Schallert (sampling skin mucous in the photo below).

The water temperature was 11.7C today - down from 12.5C two days ago. Everyone in the fleet was commenting that it was strange that there were lots of fish but they just weren't biting. Hopefully we will have a few more productive tagging days before the season ends.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Battle Between Giants in Canada

The TAG team got on the board in Canada yesterday, releasing two giant bluefin tuna with satellite and acoustic tags thanks to the help of a giant that remained safely onboard. Even at 7 ft tall, angler Chris Mihm, center for the Los Angeles Lakers, was nearly dwarfed by the 98-inch and 107-inch fish he brought to the tagging vessel, Bay Queen IV, which was captained by Dennis Cameron.

TAG Angler Chris Mihm

After several days stuck onshore due to weather (during which time Chris stayed busy hanging out at the dock learning how to wield a saw to sample bluefin tuna earbones, called otoliths, and taking pictures with fans eager to guess who was taller - Chris or their fish!), the TAG team was thrilled to be out on the water yesterday. Three other vessels were fishing with the F/V Bay Queen IV - the F/V Pete's Pair-A-Dice, F/V Nicole Brandy, and F/V Carrie Anne. After a quick stop to catch mackerel on the way out of the harbor to use as bait, the fishing began. The ocean was alive. The team marked lots of fish under the boat, and they were surrounded by porpoises, pilot whales and minkes.

Capt Bernie aboard the F/V Nicole Brandy before transfer to the tagging vessel, F/V Bay Queen IV in the background

The first to hook up was the Nicole Brandy, and after a 72 min fight the ~750-lb fish was tagged and released under the direction of TAG scientists Dr. Steve Wilson and Robbie Schallert. Next to hook up was Pete's Pair-A-Dice, and after a 43 min fight, the ~950-lb fish was released with its brand new tag accessories.

Chris vs. Fish

Although the Carrie Anne hooked up and successfully passed their rod to the tagging boat, the fish pulled the hook after a half hour fight and the team had to go home content with two fish tagged.

It was good to break our duck, and hopefully the upcoming good weather will be productive. Stay tuned!

Success in Japan!

Chuck Farwell reports 11 Pacific bluefin tuna released with archival tags in Japan. All fish were 1-2 years old - the hope is to tag a fish that will soon migrate to the California Current in the eastern Pacific and record a detailed track of the trans-oceanic journey. Congratulations to the team!

Friday, October 16, 2009

TAG team returns to Cape Breton

TAG scientists Steve Wilson and Robbie Shallert returned to Cape Breton, Nova Scotia a week ago, hoping to tag more giant bluefin. This is the same area where last year they placed the 1,000th tag in a true giant - estimated to weigh over 1,250 lbs. Reports leading up to their departure suggest that there are lots of fish in the area, although the granders have yet to show.

The weather has been challenging, but on Tuesday Steve was able to get out for a few hours of fishing, while Robbie collected samples from fish coming in to Port Hood. Although they didn't catch any fish, they observed some feeding activity late in the day.

They are on the water again this morning, hoping to get some tags out before the wind picks up. I'll keep you posted as I hear more from them!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

TAG in Japan

This morning Chuck Farwell, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Curator of Pelagic Fishes and long-time TAG collaborator, departed on a unique opportunity to tag Pacific bluefin tuna off the coast of Japan. Chuck will be working with colleagues from Tokyo University's Ocean Research Institute. Their operation will be based in the port of Nagai, on the Miura Peninsula - at the northeast end of Sagami Bay.
We'll look forward to hearing more from Chuck in the days ahead!