Friday, January 24, 2014

Fishing with the Holland Lab

 I did a fare amount of fishing in my home state of Colorado.  My largest catch prior to 2014 was a cutthroat trout with a total length of about 14 to 16 inches.  Reeling the trout in on a broken pole gave the catch that feeling of awesomeness you get when UH wins a football game: disbelief, euphoria, and glory (just kidding).  Not only was that the largest fish I had caught, I went on to catch more fish in those few hours than I have on any other day.  This past week a moment I have awaited for over a year finally came to fruition; fishing with the Holland Lab. So, how is this story relevant to fishing with the Holland lab?  That cutthroat trout was manini by comparison to what we caught last Tuesday.

L. Weaver
One of the major differences between the two fishing adventures is the equipment.  I had been using a repalla lure on 10 lbs test line.  This week, we were using halved tuna heads on line rated for 1,000 lbs.  I had been using a hand-held reel.  The Holland Lab uses a large metal spool which requires three people to safely load it onto the boat.  Luckily for us, the spool has an electric motor that does the reeling for us.  The members of the lab who just got back from tagging tiger sharks off Maui didn't have that modern convenience, and had to draw their lines by hand.
For our adventure, we motored out past the breakers that mark the barrier reef at the mouth of Kaneohe bay.  It was a calm day, which made finding the line easy.  We hadn't been reeling in the line for more than a minute or two when James announced, "We've got a big tiger!"

She was indeed a big one at a total length of 433 cm (14.2 feet), and a feisty one at that.  The 60 or more meters of line that she had tangled into a knot less that two meters long was evidence that she wasn't going quietly.  The knot couldn't be reeled in, so the remaining distance had to be taken in by hand.  After a few dashes, splashing, flailing, and at least one good slap from the tail, we were finally able to secure her along the side of the boat with ropes around her mid-section and tail.  Even after being rolled over into the belly-up position, it still took a while for her to settle down to the point that Jeff and James could attach the satellite tag.

Once we secured the shark alongside the boat, the whole process of measuring, tagging, removing the hooks (she had taken the bait of two separate hooks), and releasing her probably took around five minutes, which is good because at rapid release decreases the amount of stress on the animal.  James and Kim bid the fish farewell and off swam the largest fish I have ever seen.  In time we will be able to see where she travels on the PacIOOS website.  

To find out about other HIMB Shark & Reef Fish Research projects follow the link:

Video credit L. Weaver.

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