From late summer into early autumn, the flats of the Florida Keys are prime territory for scoring an inshore super grand slam of bonefish, tarpon, permit and snook– all caught in one day. And as …
Urgently Needed: Bone Reports from South Florida
By Sue Cocking, Guy Harvey Outpost staff writer
One year into PROJECT BAY BONES–a three-year-study aimed at determining why bonefishing has declined in South Florida waters– scientists from Florida International University say they urgently need help from flats guides and anglers.
Dr. Jennifer Rehage, a professor of environmental studies who is leading the project, says the research team is seeking detailed information about bonefishing experiences from Biscayne Bay through the Lower Keys. Researchers have crafted an online survey at https://fiu.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_1GplxUPVHqt5xtz and urge everyone who has fished for bonefish– from decades ago up to the present– to complete it before the end of December. It was first posted online last summer.
Rehage said the survey has garnered about 250 responses so far, but she needs a larger sample size — especially guides –to ensure its scientific validity.
“If I could get 400, I’d be ecstatic,” Rehage said.
Veteran anglers and guides throughout southeast Florida and the Keys say they have seen a decline in bonefish numbers– particularly in Florida Bay over the past 10 years. The FIU scientists — with funding from the non-profit Bonefish Tarpon Trust– are examining research data accumulated from as far back as the 1970s and 80s on water quality and delivery, prey abundance, habitat, and pollutants. Without scientific data on the health of bonefish populations, angler/guide knowledge is “an invaluable source of information,” according to Rehage.
She hopes to have some answers by the middle of next year.
Meanwhile, Bonefish Tarpon Trust is conducting a separate, three-year bonefish genetics study that also depends on the help of anglers and guides.
Working in collaboration with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, University of Massachusetts, Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas, and the Fisheries Conservation Foundation, BTT is trying to learn whether bonefish populations throughout the Caribbean and Western Atlantic are related. The researchers want to know where bonefish larvae go following spawning; do they grow into juveniles on flats near spawning sites, or drift far away? The answers will have major implications for conservation programs.
Anglers and guides can help by catching bonefish in South Florida, the Caribbean, Central and South America, the Bahamas and Turks & Caicos, and clipping off a small piece of the fin for DNA analysis. BTT will provide the sample kits. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 321-674-7758.
Sue Cocking chronicles the Guy Harvey Outpost travel and adventure experience in regular blog posts on GuyHarveyOutpostNews.com/. For 21 years, Cocking covered the full spectrum of outdoors adventure opportunities in South Florida and beyond for the Miami Herald, including fishing, diving, hunting, paddling camping, sailing and powerboat racing. She is a certified scuba diver and holder of an IGFA women’s world fly fishing record for a 29-pound permit.
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