Back in the Game

Sunday, October 23rd 2011

Today RJ Dunlap teamed up with Palmer Trinity for a day of shark tagging.  Everyone aboard the Coral Princess IV already knew it was going to be a good day- and today we were headed out to a new site.  This was particularly exciting considering the past few weeks of nasty, uncooperative weather and the fact that since the end of summer, there had been a paucity of sharks.

We steamed towards the new site, a massive artificial reef and very popular diving spot in Florida.  It is home to large amounts of fish- a great spot to find a hungry shark.  The team dropped 10 drumlines into the waters surrounding the spot- not on top of it, mind you we didn’t want to damage the reef or disturb the several dive boats close by.

Intern Leann Winn discusses the day’s activities with her students. Leann is a veteran RJD intern, but also a teacher at Palmer Trinity. Click to enlarge.

It was a quick lunch break and then we made our first round.  We managed to pull up a large female nurse shark! She was a beautiful bronze color.  The team worked quickly to secure her and tag her with the help of our Palmer Trinitians.  The 3 aboard were particularly experienced, having been on shark trips for several years, and thus worked quickly.  She swam off sporting new tags and to hide somewhere in the reef.

Palmer Trinity students pose for a quick shot after helping the RJD team measure and tag the nurse shark. Click to enlarge.

We caught one more nurse shark and then a surprise came!  A goliath grouper decided to take our bait! It was really neat to see such a beautiful fish, also a large marine predator undoubtedly hunting on the reef.  The goliath was quickly dehooked and vented, and with the help of intern Evan Byrnes, he swam off towards the depths in great shape.

Two awesome marine predators decided to play ball, would anyone else step up to the plate? A swing and a HAMMERHEAD! Score!   A beautiful 9-foot female appeared, her characteristic tall dorsal pierced the surface and everyone was excited.  Finally, we were back in the game.  The team worked quickly to secure her and tag her.  She was outfitted with a satellite tag and released.  She swam off perfectly, with her tag in tow.

The hammerhead was quickly secured and tagged. Here is a perfect shot of the safe placement of the circle hook. Click to enlarge.

The next drumline brought about another exciting shark, a bull shark! It was a young male who was full of energy!  We brought him aboard and secured him.  He was also satellite tagged and returned to the water successfully.

Intern Evan Byrnes secures the bull shark while Capt. Curt and Austin work to secure the satellite tag on his dorsal. Click to enlarge.

Wow! Two satellite tags in one day, we were definitely back in the game. I myself can’t wait to see where these two sharks go.  Do they call this artificial reef site their home? I guess only time will tell! Follow them at:

RJD’s satellite tagged bull shark swims away perfectly, leaving only a trail of bubbles. Click to enlarge.

Stay Sharky Florida,

Laura E. Rock, RJD Intern



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