Wednesday, July 13th 2011
Driving down to the keys on a Wednesday morning was strange. Normally the long single road through the Florida Keys is quiet; the only signs of life are the fishermen on their way to their boats. On our drive down on Wednesday morning however, the road was bursting with people driving to their places of work; I doubt none of which were as exciting as ours!
Even at 8:30 am the temperature down in Islamorada was already in the high 90’s, which made loading the drumlines and other gear onto the boat a hot, sweaty task. Luckily, the wind out at sea made the heat more bearable for the remainder of the day. We had the pleasure of having a group from Santa Monica High School in California join us on our trip. The kids that had traveled all the way from California to come on this trip were all very excited and couldn’t wait to see their first shark! Unfortunately, even with all the sharky vibes, our first 10 lines at the reef yielded nothing. Fortunately, just as the moral of the group was turning for the worse, round two brought us a beautiful 301cm hammerhead on the first line!
This male was named Siorcan from the word Siorc, which is Gaelic for shark, in appreciation of the donation to RJD by Goldman Sachs. After attaching a satellite tag, and performing the other necessary tasks, we released Siorcan and followed him for a couple of minutes while he cruised along the surface. What an amazing experience!
On line five we picked up a large amberjack, which somehow managed to swallow the large barracuda head baited on the line. Wild. Later on in the day we reeled in another gorgeous hammerhead. This one was a bit smaller than the previous shark, at 270 cm. The female was named Laura in honor of Laura Bracken (RJD science and education specialist) and Laura Rock (devoted RJD intern for over 4 years). After fitting her dorsal fin with a satellite tag, and giving the students time to touch the shark, Laura was released in great condition. On the next line we found a 160 cm goliath grouper on the hook. Captain Curt successfully managed to release some air from its swollen air bladder and push it back below the surface in the hopes it was able to swim back to the depths to live another day.
The only other sharky excitement for the day was an 110 cm blacknose. The blacknose was measured, biopsied, tagged with both roto and spaghetti tags, and blood sampled. The group from Santa Monica High School was able to get a great photo-op with the blacknose before it was released in great condition.
Although it was a relatively slow day, it was my first trip of the summer so it was great to be back on the water with the RJD crew.
In the hopes of tagging more sharks next time!
Josh Levy, RJD Intern