By Captain Kevin Deerman
It’s always been amazing to me to see what kind of creatures show up in the lights around the boat at night when tuna fishing off the Texas coast. Over the years we’ve encountered many different types of fish. These nocturnal visitors are welcome entertainment for the crew on the long nights in the Gulf of Mexico. We are always on the lookout for flying fish to use for live bait.
Over the years, we have also scooped up our share of juvenile dorado, wahoo and even different billfish species. Hanging around a lit-up spar rig in 5,000 feet of water is not a very safe environment for these smaller fish when the tuna start feeding at night.
A few years back, Captain Kirk Elliott told me about a juvenile sail that his mate had dipped up in his net and had swimming around in a five-gallon bucket on deck. After watching the little sailfish swim around the bucket for a few minutes, Kirk asked his mate if he would dump the baby sail back overboard and let it free before they hurt the little thing. The mate had no sooner complied with Kirk’s request, than the sailfish was gobbled up by a big tuna as it slowly swam away from the boat.
As we tuna fished for a few hours on a July night a few years ago, we netted and released a couple of juvenile sails and spotted around a half dozen more swimming around in the lights. I’m sure most of the boats that frequent the deepwater spar rigs have experienced similar sightings of juveniles while tuna fishing also. The Billfish Foundation recently announced a pretty cool new program called the Juvenile Billfish Project. TBF is asking for help from all of us to get more information on these young billfish to get a better understanding of their habitats and distribution.
This information not only helps provide data on juvenile billfish, but is useful in determining where the big ones spawn. To help out, all anglers need to do is email a photo of a juvenile billfish that they have caught with as much information as they can provide. Pertinent facts include the approximate location, date, time of day, weather conditions, size of fish, and the like. Snap the picture, jot down the details and email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While it might not seem like a few photos with information would accomplish too much, widespread participation in the program can provide scientists with a wealth of data through time. Not only could this help to more understand the habits of juvenile billfish (and the species as a whole), but it makes netting up all the small marlin and sailfish that swim into your lights even that much more fun… Just try not to feed them to the tuna!
– That’s the report from Texas!