by Dani Escontrela, RJD Intern
It was another wonderful day of shark tagging. I was so excited to head out again I could hardly sleep and ended up waking up extra early. I rode down to the keys with Jake and soon enough we were at captain Curt’s house.
We loaded the boat with the drums, yo-yos, platform and the rest of the gear we would need for a day of shark tagging; we also added extension lines to our drumlines because we were planning on going to a deeper site.
When the students from Westminster Christian School along with one of Neil’s students and a donor group got there, we were on our way. On the ride out Catherine did the usual briefing about sharks and the drumline deployment process. In the meantime, the rest of the crew waited to hear if we were going to the deep site or not.
Since it was a little windy, we decided to stay close to shore and in the end we decided to go to a shallower site (40-50 feet). We wrapped up the extensions and within about forty minutes from leaving the dock we were deploying our drumlines. The process went smoothly and only took us about ten minutes.
We had an hour to wait while the drumlines soaked, so in the meantime I gave the shark work up talk and after that the students went into the ocean to cool off and swim around. Soon enough, an hour had gone by and we were going back to pick up the drumlines.
Within the first couple of lines we had some challenges as some of the gear was getting stuck on the bottom, but we managed to pull up the gear and kept checking the rest of our fishing equipment.
Soon enough, we had a feisty nurse shark on the line. We swiftly pulled it up to the platform and secured it while the students did a great job of working up the shark. The rest of the day proved to be successful. We caught a gorgeous reef shark and three other nurse sharks, although one of the nurse sharks popped off the hook at the last moment so we didn’t get to work it up. We even managed to catch a barracuda that day which will be used for bait on later trips. In addition, we also saw as a small hawksbill turtle as it popped it’s head out of the surface and stayed by us for a couple of minutes.
The highlight of the day was when we had a magnificent great hammerhead on the line. This beauty was swimming along the surface with his huge dorsal fin popping out of the water. After pulling the hammerhead to the back of the back and securing it along the back of the platform, we took some data. We measured it, a whopping nine and a half feet. We also took a fin clip, which will be used for genetic studies by one of the lab’s PhD students. We could even see the nictitating membrane fire, which was a sign the shark wasn’t too stressed.
It was an incredible trip and once again I couldn’t believe I was lucky enough to see these incredible animals up close. Now I definitely can’t wait for my next trip out with RJD!