By James Keegan, RJD Intern
Saturday’s trip looked like it would be a gloomy one with overcast and rain. I was excited for the catered trip, but I left for Crandon Marina with a sense of dread. The prospect of tagging sharks in choppy waters and cold rain did not thrill me. However, once the RJD team loaded the Diver’s Paradise, the skies cleared up a little. After Captain Eric and Neil went over safety and gear deployment, members of the Alumni Association and the RJD team introduced themselves. As we left for Soldier Key, the skies completely cleared, and I breathed a sigh of relief. The day was absolutely gorgeous.
With help from the Alumni Association, we deployed our gear quickly and took environmentals. We went for a brief swim, and afterwards Neil gave a great talk explaining our shark workup and the value of our research. With everyone now prepared, we returned to check our lines.
On our first line of the day we caught a nurse shark, and luckily for us, it was a fairly calm one. With help from members of the Alumni Association, we quickly performed the workup and released the nurse shark. We also caught nurse sharks on lines four and seven, but unfortunately, the nurse shark on four unhooked itself and swam away before we could get it on the platform. The shark on line seven had the largest head on a nurse shark that I have ever seen, and it was so feisty we did not bother trying to take blood. With three nurse sharks in the first set of lines, I was prepared for a long day filled with bruising battles. Nevertheless, I was content as the delicious catered lunch would sooth any pain.
However, my prediction was not correct as we only caught one more shark during the trip. A large lemon shark, about nine feet long, waited for us on the last line of the second round. Again, we quickly performed our workup and got the shark back into the water. I was glad members of the Alumni Association got a chance to feel the real roughness of sharkskin, because nurse sharks have comparatively smooth skin.
Although we did not catch any more sharks, our last catch of the day happened to be a barracuda in the third round of drumlines. We reeled it in and saved it to use as bait for the following day’s trip. Overall, we had a great day on the water, and I was glad alumni were able to come on board and participate in our research.