Skip to main content

Against Odds, Tags Help Anglers Recapture Bonefish

Against Odds, Tags Help Anglers Recapture Bonefish
Against Odds, Tags Help Anglers Recapture Bonefish

MIAMI (MCT) - Our seven-member Bahamas bonefish tagging group anxiously waits for news that someone in South Florida has recaptured one of the 71 fish we tagged in a week-long expedition last June.

Some scoff that there's no way a little bonefish could make it all the way across the predator-infested Straits of Florida from Grand Bahama Island to the Keys or Biscayne Bay. But it happened once before in December 2005, when Brian Harris caught a bonefish near Andros Island that had been tagged 10 months earlier off Key Biscayne by captain Joe Gonzalez. So hope springs eternal.

Meanwhile, the South Florida tagging program, run by University of Miami scientists with financial support from Bonefish & Tarpon Unlimited, continues apace with more than 5,500 bonefish tagged and 200 recaptures since 1998.

Gunsite School Drill fired with the SR45

MEET THE TAGGERS


Besides injecting small streamer tags behind the bonefish's dorsal fin, Miami researchers Jerry Ault and Mike Larkin also implant acoustic telemetry transmitters inside the body cavity so that the fish can be tracked like tiny submarines when they pass through an array of listening stations.


Captain Bob Branham is one of a host of local fishing guides who volunteers to tag bonefish that his customers catch. He tagged a 4-pound bone that I caught using one of his epoxy shrimp flies recently in Biscayne Bay. Branham also tagged a slightly smaller fish caught by Jupiter guide Cliff Budd, who was out with us on a busman's holiday.

"I like it because it's so interesting to see what the hell they do," Branham said of his bonefish tagging efforts. "My customers love doing it."

FISH TALE

The captain told me a bonefish tagging story that should serve to silence the few critics of the program. The story is backed up by Larkin's records:


In March 2005, Branham was on a casual fishing/wake-boarding outing with his teenage daughters Jennifer and Stacey in Biscayne Bay. They encountered Larkin and a colleague angling for some bonefish in which to insert acoustic transmitters.

"We're not really bonefishing, but if we see one, we'll catch it," Branham told Larkin.

Sure enough, father and daughters managed to chum in some hungry bones at Sands Cut. Stacey used one of her own epoxy fly patterns to catch a 26-inch, 6-pound fish.


"Her bonefish flies are a little too out there, but this one was to my specs," Branham noted wryly.

He radioed Larkin, who arrived promptly and got ready to perform surgery on the fish. Jennifer, an aspiring veterinarian, wanted to observe the entire process.

"They gave it magic dust," Branham said of the powdery anesthetic used to immobilize the bonefish. 'I thought to myself, 'That's a dead bonefish.' Mike pulled some scales off its [anal] vent and sliced it open."

The scientist quickly implanted the tag, sewed up the incision and revived the fish. It swam off smartly.

The girls decided to name it Bertha. Larkin duly recorded the name in his records.

Fast-forward three months to the same waters. One of Branham's charter customers caught a tagged bonefish. The guide recorded the tag numbers and called them into Larkin.

"He said, 'You should have recognized that fish; it's Bertha!' " Branham said. "But when I let Bertha go that second time, I'm not sure she made it because there were sharks everywhere."

He hasn't recaptured Bertha a second time, but says he has caught probably a half-dozen bonefish that were tagged by other South Florida guides.

Maybe we taggers will get lucky and Branham will run into a migrant from the Bahamas.<

(c) 2007, The Miami Herald.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Humminbird CoastMaster - A Closer Look

Humminbird CoastMaster - A Closer Look

Patterned after Humminbird's LakeMaster charts for freshwater anglers, CoastMaster charts bring the same features for salt anglers. CoastMaster delivers unrivaled nearshore and offshore fishing performance.

New G. Loomis IMX Pro Rod Series

New G. Loomis IMX Pro Rod Series

David Brinkerhoff of G. Loomis shares his knowledge of the new IMX Pro rod series. The IMX Pro rod series comes in 10 new models and will cover five technique-specific categories. Available Fall 2020. MSRP $345-355.

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

Tackle Test 2020: Eagle Claw EC2.5 Spinning Reel

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies can be profound, even when fishing the same lake or river.How to Catch Catfish Day and Night Fishing How-To

How to Catch Catfish Day and Night

Terry Madewell

While catfish are still catfish, the difference between day and night tactics and strategies...

Now's the time to finalize plans for the perfect deer season opener.10 Expert Deer Hunting Preparation Tips for Opening Day Whitetail

10 Expert Deer Hunting Preparation Tips for Opening Day

M.D. Johnson - August 26, 2020

Now's the time to finalize plans for the perfect deer season opener.

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some great bass pond fishing.Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You Bass

Bass Pond Fishing: Catch Lunkers at Small Lakes Near You

Dan Anderson

If you haven't looked at the smaller urban lakes in your area, you are missing out on some...

Sight Savvy: Different styles of bow sights each have their strengths—and weaknesses.How to Pick the Right Bow Sight for You Bows

How to Pick the Right Bow Sight for You

Tony Hansen - August 25, 2020

Sight Savvy: Different styles of bow sights each have their strengths—and weaknesses.

See More Trending Articles

More Stories

All sides must have something to offer to make it work.Fishing Buddies: It Has to Be Give-and-Take Stories

Fishing Buddies: It Has to Be Give-and-Take

Jeff Johnston - June 18, 2020

All sides must have something to offer to make it work.

Learn from your electronics by understanding SONAR frequency strengths and weaknesses.Secrets Your Fishfinder is Trying to Reveal Stories

Secrets Your Fishfinder is Trying to Reveal

Dr. Jason Halfen - May 13, 2020

Learn from your electronics by understanding SONAR frequency strengths and weaknesses.

'Entering a fishing tournament is like gambling. If you can afford it, go for it, but I'm not bankrolling you.'Money Fish: Things Change When Cash is on the Line Stories

Money Fish: Things Change When Cash is on the Line

Jeff Johnston - August 05, 2020

'Entering a fishing tournament is like gambling. If you can afford it, go for it, but I'm not...

Bow fisherman arrows fish of a lifetime on South Texas trip.240 Pounds! Massive Alligator Gar Taken on Father's Day Other Freshwater

240 Pounds! Massive Alligator Gar Taken on Father's Day

Lynn Burkhead - June 22, 2020

Bow fisherman arrows fish of a lifetime on South Texas trip.

See More Stories

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Game & Fish subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now