Guy Harvey Magazine — Spring 2015

Page 1



Goliath Grouper

Pacific Sails We test the bite off Guatemala

They’re coming back, but are they welcome?

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GROUND ZERO The sites where Nassau grouper gather during spawning season

Goliath grouper are a hot topic in South Florida, where the massive

used to be a gold mine for fishermen. For some poachers, they still

fish are being seen on a growing number of wrecks and reefs.

are. This winter, an expedition team set out to see what’s left.

Divers love them, but fishermen are not so enthused. Could a


Goliath Grouper season be in our future? BY DARYL CARSON




The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation is keeping conservation local by


helping shoppers fund projects in their own communities. BY DANNY THORNTON

For 30 years, the Rigs to Reef program has proven itself in the Gulf of Mexico, but it has had little success on the West Coast. Despite years of work, California anglers are still fighting to keep




their most productive habitats.

Guy pays tribute to his friend and colleague, Dr. Neil Burnie. Known


on his home island of Bermuda as the daring, caring veterinarian, Dr. Burnie had a passion for the ocean and a taste for Red Bull. BY GUY HARVEY, PhD




14 18


Passion for Life

Catch & Cook

Guy reflects on the legacy of his friend, and the love of

Terry French is a captain and fishing pro turned celebrity chef.

life we all possess.

His passion is cooking gourmet meals in impossible settings.



Exclusive Content Online


Hooked on Mullet

Check out for a dose of GHM

For those who doubt, it’s true that mullet can be caught

anytime. Here are a few of our favorite links.

with a rod and reel. And there are pictures to prove it. BY FRED GARTH


News, Notes & Gear This issue, we help you plan a trip to see Guy and eat lionfish, get the inside scoop on the Miami Boat Show and highlight some great spring tournaments.




Daniel Goz A photographer and filmmaker, Daniel Göz is known for incredible and rare aquatic shots.

On the Cover: Double Play by Guy Harvey

“Everyone benefits from healthy marine ecosystems. That’s why “I DO” keep my Florida fishing license up to date and you should too. If we all work together we can help to ensure a healthy future for marine life in Florida and all over the planet.”

© 2014 Wildlife Foundation of Florida. All rights reserved.

Guy Harvey Marine Wildlife Artist, Biologist, Diver, and Angler

THE “I DO” PLEDGE • I DO support conservation minded, sustainable fishing. • I DO support science based fishery management. • I DO support a path to connect kids with the outdoors; to become anglers and stewards of the resource. — J O I N O U R C O N S E R VAT I O N PA R T N E R S —

Wildlife Foundation of Florida | P.O. Box 11010 | Tallahassee, FL 32302 | 800.988.4889 |



a l A m E t a u g ed SAILFISH CENTRAL




Coming Around




Gear You Didn’t Know You Need

Billfish fanatics know that Central America is home to some

The marine marketplace is a wild scene. Big

of the most consistent fishing around. The question is, can

manufacturers are getting their new products recognized,

governments in the region make strides in conserving this

but there are plenty of other players. Here are 10 unique

amazing resource?

items not to overlook.




Manoel Jose Cinfuentes Marckwordt



Sailfish Central

Guatemala is so keen on Pacific sailfish, they created a special

The Pacific side of Guatemala has a reputation for big Pacific sailfish

governmental commission to protect and promote the fishery.

and a hot bite. After a little time behind a reel, the author suspects

We talk with Manoel Jose Cinfuentes Marckwordt to get the

the rumors he’s heard of great fishing might be true. Still, it could

scoop on the commission’s vital work.

take him another couple of visits just to be sure.



Complete dedicated Complete Angler Angler (CA) (CA) is is our our “magazine “magazine within within the the magazine,” magazine,” dedicated to delivering access to to experts, thethe latest to hard-core hard-core fishing fishing enthusiasts enthusiasts & and delivering access experts, in fishing gear, and hottest fishingfishing spots spots on theon planet. latest in fishing gearthe and the hottest the planet.



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GUY HARVEY MAGAZINE OFFICES: PENSACOLA, FLORIDA Fred Garth, Editor-in-Chief MIAMI, FLORIDA Ozzy Delgado, Director of Sales & Marketing NEW YORK, NEW YORK Merrill Squires, Partner SHREVEPORT, LOUISIANA Scott Smith, Partner

CREDITS TO: PUBLISHER Lost Key Publishing Managing Editor Daryl Carson Editor, Complete Angler Nick Honachefsky Copy Editor Kerrie Allen Art Director & Layout Design Leslie Ward Marketing Director John Guidroz Circulation Director Crystal Stevens Accounting Karen Belser Contributing Editors Dr. Guy Harvey, Danny Thornton Contributors Don DeMaria, Daniel Göz, Joseph Ierna, Jr., Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, Scott Ruprecht, Walt Stearns, Wayne Sullivan Editorial Advisory Board Dr. Guy Harvey, Chad Henderson, Bill Shedd, Dr. Mahmood Shivji, Steve Stock, Harvey Taulien, David Wilkinson


We’re proud that Guy Harvey Magazine is printed at Quad Graphics in West

Allis, Wisconsin. Quad has been recognized at the state and national levels for its leading environmental programs and numerous awards, including the Friend of the Environment Award from the Wisconsin Environmental Working Group® (WEWG). Quad Graphics also practices the 4 R’s: Redesign, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. The company recycles over 560,000 tons of paper per year, which spares 9.5 million trees from the blade. It doesn’t look like the world will be paperless anytime soon, but we’ve figured out how to minimize, and sometimes even eliminate, the impact to our forests and environment. Guy Harvey and all of us at GHM are happy about that. GUY HARVEY MAGAZINE, Issue 19, Spring 2015. GHM is published four times per year (quarterly) for $24.95 per year by Lost Key Publishing, LLC, 7166 Sharp Reef Road, Pensacola, Florida 32507. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to: Guy Harvey Magazine, PO Box 34075, Pensacola, Florida 32507. No part of this magazine can be reproduced without express written permission from Lost Key Publishing. Occasionally, we may make all or part of our subscriber list available to carefully screened companies that offer products and/or services that may interest you.

Every day is hump day.






Any angler worth his salt knows the bounty of the humps off of The Florida Keys. Tuna, wahoo, marlin, you name it. But here in Islamorada, you can also fish our calm Gulf waters for cobia, permit and grouper. And on days you don’t want to venture far, our bridge fishing can beat anyone else’s bridge fishing, any day of the week. 1.800.322.5397 A ISL


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CONTRIBUTOR’S PROFILE DANIEL GÖZ German photographer Daniel Göz is not one to shy away from a challenge, especially if that challenge is capturing imagery of subjects others might deem too difficult to approach, or too remote to find. His specialty is underwater imagery of fish, including blue marlin and yellowfin tuna. And while there are plenty of people shooting underwater images of these species, most do it when the animal is attached to a fishing line. Göz has worked to capture these massive fish while they are swimming freely in the big blue. In freshwater, he has also captured the entire spawning act of Atlantic salmon and European lake trout underwater. And he is not afraid to travel, willingly plunging himself into a Central American jungle or climbing the frigid peaks of a European mountain range. In addition to still photos, he has produced awardwinning niche films such as Tapâm and Gaula, and created content for large national networks such as Animal Planet’s River Monsters with Jeremy Wade. In this issue, we show off some of Daniel’s work in our portfolio section. We’re equally impressed with his skill, and grateful not to be his assistant.

M AY 9 - A U G U S T 9 SATURDAY MAY 16 12–3 in the afternoon.

Guy will be at the PMA to meet, greet & sign autographs. 850.432.6247


PASSION FOR LIFE Most fishermen I know have a deep passion for the sport.

spawning seasons is a passion of mine as well, and we’ve been

The thrill of being on the water, coupled with the battle

successful doing so in Little Cayman where Nassau grouper

between man and fish, permanently injects salt water into

are once again growing stronger. Joe has provided us with a

our bloodstreams. Then there’s the fellowship of old and new

gripping account of his ongoing efforts—regardless of the

friends. Or, the sadness of losing a cherished fishing companion.

10-ft. seas they’ve had to battle along the way.

Last year, my dear friend, Neil Burnie, passed away while

The other grouper we’ve covered in this issue is the mighty

freediving in his home country of Bermuda. I’ve never known

Goliath. Once hunted to near extinction in South Florida, these

anyone who had such a passion for fishing and all things related

massive predatory fish have rebounded. Some claim that their

to the ocean. And, just life in general. A veterinarian by trade,

numbers are so vast that they’ve become a nuisance, while

Neil assisted on many shark tagging expeditions we performed.

other evidence suggests even booming populations have a

He was full of life and always the life of the party. In honor

positive effect on the ecosystem. It’s certainly an encouraging

of him, his work in marine conservation and our friendship,

problem—to have too many of a species when, in most cases,

I’ve included an article about “The Man” in this issue. If you

we’re concerned with declining populations.

didn’t know him personally, at least you’ll get a glimpse of his


Finally, we’ve taken an in-depth look at Guatemala, a

is an internationally-acclaimed

colourful personality and contributions to our oceans after you

country that shares the Pacific Ocean with one of my favorite

artist, fisherman, scientist, and

read about him.

places in the world—Panama. Tucked away just under Mexico,

world traveler, who devotes

this culturally vibrant nation has some of the most amazing

much of his time and money

on the iconic family of groupers and how they are being

This, the 19th issue of Guy Harvey Magazine, also focuses

sailfishing in the world and, to their credit, they’ve gone to

toward ocean conservation.

managed. Another good friend, Joe Ierna, who resides on Long

great lengths to protect their marine resources.

Island in the Bahamas, has been working hard to protect the

There’s a lot more to keep you entertained and informed

critical spawning grounds of the Nassau grouper from rampant

in this edition, so please enjoy, and just as my friend Neil did,

commercial fishing. Keeping these sites off limits during

always hold onto your passion.

Join world renowned marine artist and conservationist Guy Harvey in his home of Jamaica at Beaches Negril! August 27-30, 2015 This all-inclusive weekend features: • Luxurious Accommodations. • Unlimited Gourmet Discovery Dining at 8 specialty restaurants. • Unlimited Premium Brand Beverages. • Daily & Nightly Entertainment. • Film screenings of Guy’s latest research expeditions. • Free Wi-Fi, All Tips, Airport Transfers and More.

Proceeds to be benefit the Sandals Foundation & Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation -- promoting marine science educational programs across the Caribbean.

Reserve your spot today! 305.403.7548

CHECK OUT THE LATEST AT .com Guy Harvey’s Great Shark Race In the spirit of competition and conservation, Guy Harvey’s Great Shark Race raises funds and awareness for Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation.

Fishing Slaves The sordid tale of human enslavement in Thailand’s commercial fishing industry.

Red Snapper Assessment Good news in the Gulf of Mexico; new studies are confirming what fisherman have said for years: the red snapper population is booming.

Lionfish Roundup Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission join forces to fight the Gulf lionfish invasion.

New NOAA Policies Breakthrough The Feds have finally recognized the differences in sportfishing and commercial fishing.

NEWS, NOTES & GEAR Guy Harvey Brings Fine Art and Lionfish Awareness to Pensacola

an independent, non-profit organization. So, if you’ve never been to Pensacola, there’s no better time or reason to visit than to support the snuffing out of lionfish

It’s the perfect Guy Harvey storm, where lionfish and marine art collide for a special weekend in Pensacola, Florida. The date is May 16, which has officially been crowned Lionfish

and to celebrate Guy’s artwork. You can feast on lionfish dishes, meet Dr. Guy

Removal and Awareness Day (LRAD). A massive festival will ensue with food, or

Harvey and maybe even take a signed, original painting home with you. For more information on the art exhibit and LRAD, go to:

drink, music and celebrity chefs preparing lionfish at the picturesque Palafox Park in downtown Pensacola. On that very same weekend, Guy Harvey will be in Pensacola kicking off his summer-long art exhibit at the Pensacola Museum of Art. To top it off, Guy is throwing out the first pitch for the city’s AA baseball team, the Blue Wahoos. You could say that Guy’s killing three lionfish with one spear. When you’re just one “Guy” and pulled in multiple directions, you have to be efficient. The First Annual LRAD event is slated for May 16th and 17th and is organized by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation and Guy Harvey Magazine. While the major festivities are headquartered in Pensacola, hunters from the Panhandle to Key West are being encouraged to spear the little buggers with reckless abandon and report their kill. The FWC plans on keeping track of how many lionfish are culled that weekend and will post the results on their new website,, a site dedicated specifically to the whole lionfish bugaboo. Thanks to the tireless work from leaders of the Pensacola Museum of Art, the Guy Harvey art exhibit is coming to town and will run from May through August. Some 50 pieces of Guy’s original art will be featured at the museum. Having “The Man” in town

Above: Guy will be at the Pensacola Museum of Art launching

for his art opening during the same weekend as LRAD will

a summer exhibit of his work on May 16.Photo: PMA.

certainly steer more attention toward the growing lionfish threat. Visitors are encouraged to revel in the festivities, eat lionfish and learn what they can do to help stop the invasive

Sidenote: Hardliners like to point out that

species. Then they can stroll down to PMA, have a glass of

Pensacola is actually America’s oldest city, not St.

chardonnay and admire Guy’s art at the gallery. It’s not all

Augustine. The city was, in fact, founded in 1559 by

about saving the planet. You have to enjoy life, too.

Spaniard Tristan de Luna, while St. Augustine was not

Famous for its sugar-white beaches, the Naval Air

settled until 1565. However, just weeks after de Luna

Station and the spectacular Blue Angel squadron, Pensacola

landed with 10 ships and 1,400 settlers, they were

is a fabulous waterfront city steeped in art, culture and premium cuisine, with

devastated by a hurricane. That was followed by two years of famine, disease

influences of New Orleans, Spain, France and the Deep South. There’s a brand new

and skirmishes with local tribes, finally finishing off the town by 1561. It was

bayfront baseball stadium, and downtown’s Palafox Street was recently voted one

more than 100 years before Pensacola was re-established, giving away first

of the top 10 “Great Streets in America,” by the American Planning Association,

rights to St. Augustine.

Pensacola’s Plaza de Luna and Palafox Pier and Yacht Harbor Marina. Photo: Greg Riegler.








Upcoming Billfish Tournaments Final Sail—4th Leg of the “Quest for the Crest” Sailfish Series Key West, Florida April 15–19 Final Sail is the grand finale of the four-leg “Quest for the Crest Sailfish Series.” There will be big money at stake for the teams that release the most sailfish and claim victory at the championship leg of the series. The confirmation number for each team’s final sailfish release in the tournament will also be recorded and entered into a drawing where teams will have the chance to win cash and prizes for their final sail of the season.

Bahamas Billfish Championship, Leg 1 Guana Cay, Abaco Bahamas April 22–25 The Bahamas Billfish Championship (BBC), founded in 1973, is a world-class fishing tournament series consisting of four tournaments, held April through June. The 2015 BBC series will begin in Guana Cay at Orchid Bay Marina. The


4” Shad

event returns March 12–15 to Hallandale Beach, Fla.

Pompano Beach Saltwater Shootout, presented by Mercury Marine and SeaVee Boats Pompano Beach, Florida May 7–12 The Saltwater Shootout is the first leg in South Florida’s largest tournament trail—The Pompano Beach Saltwater Circuit. Teams compete for over $275,000 in cash and prizes. It is a sanctioned event in Division 10 of the Southern Kingfish Association. Target species in the Shootout are dolphin, wahoo, kingfish, tuna

it’s here!

and cobia.

Orange Beach Billfish Classic Orange Beach, Alabama May 13–17 The OBBC is the country’s only non-profit billfish tournament with 100% of all net profits donated to qualified 501(c)(3) conservation organizations. It is an all-volunteer effort and an important fundraiser for The Billfish Foundation and

w w w . d o a l u r e s . c o m MADE IN USA

the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA). In 2011, over $50,000 was donated to these organizations, bringing the total contributed over the history of the

tournament to over $500,000.

Miami Dolphins Foundation Fins Weekend Fishing Tournament

“I’ll give you an adventure, not just a beach vacation.”

May 15–16 Now in its 19th year, the Miami Dolphins Foundation Fins Weekend Fishing Tournament kicks off with a Hook & Tackle Captains Party on Friday evening with a large silent auction, followed by off-shore fishing on Saturday for dolphin, wahoo, kingfish and tuna. Miami Dolphins players, coaches and alumni participate in the event of the year, and unique prizes are awarded for the largest fish in each category and for the greatest combined weight of eligible fish per boat.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic Biloxi, Mississippi June 1–7 The Mississippi Gulf Coast Billfish Classic is in its 17th year. Held at the Golden Nugget Casino, it offers a popular mix of fishing and fun. Cash payouts in 2014 totaled over $1 million. Teams have access to the northern Gulf’s best fishing grounds. The top two Blue Marlin landed in last year’s tournaments weighed 843.7 and 680.1 lbs., respectively.

Last issue, we reported on Blue Gas Marine and how they convert big boats



to run on natural gas rather than gasoline or diesel. Updated information we


Better Than We Thought!

Immerse yourself in everything Guy Harvey. Fish for big ones inshore or offshore, then dine in the shadow of a massive fish tank where tarpon, snook and reds swim slowly past. Strap on a jetpack and soar over the Gulf of Mexico or simply explore the miles of soft sand beach. At the end of the day, find tropical cocktails, live music and campfire s’mores. It’s is a resort experience like no other. Ready to get out there? Guy’s ready to take you there.

received from the company details that these fuel systems reduce emissions by approximately 70% for gasoline engines and 90% for diesel engines, versus the 25% we mentioned in the article. The bottom line? Using Blue Gas makes your boat a whole lot greener.

St. Pete Beach, Florida 888.906.5645


Urban Fish Farm in Iowa Although the words in the above headline seem to be an odd combination, they

holds 10,000 gal. of water with six tanks or 60,000 gal. of water sharing the same

accurately describe what’s happening in the Hawkeye State. Indeed, there is a

water filtration system. Furthermore, the tank-based system operates in its own

fish farm in Iowa. For two years, VeroBlue Farms in Webster City has been using 18

“bio-secure” environment, and unlike pond-based aquaculture, is not subject to

recirculating grow-out tanks to produce up to 400,000 lbs. of Australian seabass,

contamination by runoff or other

also known as Baramundi. Thankfully, they can grow just about anything in Iowa,

environmental factors. The end

but its usually got a stalk.

result is environmentally safe

VeroBlue Farms has also just inked a deal to purchase up to 2,000 additional

seafood that produces very little

tanks, which will exponentially boost capacity, as well as supply tanks to

waste, uses very little water and

independent growers in the region who want to begin their own fish farms. More

does not put any pressure on

than 100 farmers have already signed letters of intent to start using the systems.


“With this tank order, VBF will be expanding our output through a new, large,

For more information about

urban farm with 7.2 million pounds of grow-out production,” said Leslie Wulf,

VeroBlue Farms, please visit

chairman and CEO of VBF. “In order to support VBF’s expanding local grower

network, we are also increasing our fingerling operation to a total of 300 tanks, with the further addition of processing and packaging capabilities to meet growing demand.” If the deal develops as projected over the next three years, VeroBlue Farms will have the largest onshore, indoor aquaculture facility in North America. The grow-out potential for all the tank systems could reach 40 million pounds of fish annually. The company is also beginning a pilot program that could pave the way for farming additional species, such as Atlantic and Coho salmon, as well as trout. The recirculating tank technology used by VeroBlue Farms is from Opposing Flows Aquaculture, and utilizes a forced air system of blowers instead of pumps that create an “opposing flow” of water. This system removes solids by filtering each gallon every 45 minutes, oxygenates the water without the need to infuse liquid or industrially generated oxygen, and efficiently strips out CO2 and

An Iowa company is looking to produce up to 7.2 million

ammonia. The system has proven to be simple, efficient and reliable. Each tank

pounds of Baramundi using indoor, recirculating tanks.

Rebel with a Sauce— Chef Terry French The rebel chef himself, Terry French, spent time at the Guy Harvey Magazine tent during the Miami Boat Show pouring rum and wine and telling wild tales of cooking on elephants and sea captaining in far-off oceans. He’s a rebel alright, even though he was born in Evansville, Indiana. Truth is, there are rebels (and rednecks) everywhere, not just in the Deep South, and Terry is one of the finest. In fact, he’s featured in this issue’s “Meet the Chef” column (page 78). A former tournament fisherman and Coast Guard captain, French is now a celebrity chef who is tuned into sustainable seafood and exploring the cuisine of remote cultures. We like his style, so look for more sumptuous food and fish lies from Terry in future issues of Guy Harvey Magazine.

Miami Boat Show Moves to Virginia? For folks in the marine biz, the Miami Boat Show has grown into an institution over the past three decades. Everyone from swanky yachters in ascots to scruffy fishing guides converge on South Beach to mix with the nightclubbing, modeling crowd. But sadly, SoBe (as hipsters call it) is losing the iconic event that many enthusiasts have come to know and love as an amazing collection of boats they can’t afford. Yet, each year they instinctively come, like geese flying south to escape the horrors of Canada. So in 2016, the Miami Beach Convention Center is being demolished by wrecking balls, forcing the boat

Virginia Key, near Key Biscayne will host next year’s Miami Boat Show.

show to move to Virginia Key, next to Key Biscayne. Some like the idea and some don’t. But, either way, it’s a done deal. Organizers are spinning the new location at the Miami Marine Stadium

The Marine Stadium Park boasts 700-plus in-water slips and space for more than

Park and Basin as a new, dynamic site that will be easier to access. True—parking in

1,200 boats on land, so there will, once again, be a multitude of boats to gawk at, and

South Beach is more frustrating than playing golf blindfolded. So, if transport really is

teeming crowds of water lovers just wishing their mortgages were paid so they could

easier, that will be an improvement.

buy a shiny, new floating toy.


Big, Ugly &

…the increasingly public life of Goliath grouper BY DARYL CARSON

Goliath, the Philistine who lived 3,000 years ago in ancient Palestine, was a beast of a man more than nine feet tall. The Biblical account says he was a fierce warrior, a true champion of his people. He’s remembered today for publicly calling into question the manhood of the Israeli army and laying out a string of curses upon their God. That is, until one day, a spunky, teenage shepherd took a slingshot and, with one well-placed stone, knocked the big dude unconscious. He then walked over and used the giant’s own sword to take off his head. It was a good day to be an Israelite. Today, Goliath’s memory lives on in his namesake fish, the Goliath grouper. Ironically, this massive reef dweller—the IGFA record is 680 lbs.—used to be called a Jewfish. The name was changed back in 2001 by the American Fisheries Society, which, even though it could find no evidence of the term Jewfish being used offensively, decided to change it anyway. Apparently, a couple of letters had drifted in by concerned citizens who thought the name might one day become an issue. So the committee, looking to head off future offenses, changed the name. Of course, no one on the committee was worried about offending Goliath’s people. They are, after all, Philistines.

GOLIATH RANGE A warm water reef species, Atlantic Goliath grouper can be found in waters from the southeastern U.S., including the Gulf of Mexico, through the Bahamas and Caribbean, Central America and as far south as Brazil. They are also found along portions of the African coast. Though the population is rebounding in the U.S., it is still considered “critically endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the last designation before “Extinct in the Wild.” Map:

This history lesson is important because it illustrates that people’s perceptions

Goliaths since 1990. On the other hand, three-quarters of people among all

of a thing are at least as important—and often more influential—than the facts.

fishing groups (commercial, recreational, etc.) favor opening up some kind

That’s still true of Goliath grouper, especially since the fishery in South Florida has

of season. Commercial operators see a potential revenue stream and many

just begun to recover from a buffalo-like slaughter by trophy-crazed divers and

recreational anglers—especially spear fishermen—seem to cherish the thrill of


hunting a monster fish.

Now, for the first time in almost 30 years, anglers and divers are beginning to

Perhaps even more interesting is people’s perceptions of how Goliath grouper

see these behemoths again. A 2013 survey done out of the University of Florida,

impact the reef environment. Over half of all commercial fishermen, charter

along with Florida Sea Grant, sought to quantify what’s really happening and what

operators, commercial and recreational spear fishermen are convinced that

people think about it. Goliath catches were reported in the previous year by about

Goliaths are hurting reef communities. They believe that more Goliaths means

40% of both inshore and reef anglers in Southwest Florida and the Keys, and by

fewer snappers and other reef fish. In contrast, less than 20% of hook-and-line

20–25% in the rest of the state. In practical terms, this means Goliath grouper are

recreational anglers think Goliaths are a negative. Simply put, those with the

now a regular part of the South Florida fishing and diving scene, especially on the

biggest interest in seeing a Goliath season opened up also believe the fish is a

East Coast. Fish are in permanent residence along some of the overhanging reefs

nuisance and even harmful to other fish and the opportunities to catch them. It’s

and on an increasing number of wrecks. The population seems to be concentrated

an attitude that’s increasingly evident in threads on online forums and at South

off Palm Beach County, especially near Jupiter. Anglers are also catching them

Florida marinas.

with increasing frequency on the West Coast around Fort Myers and parts south. The survey also tracked people’s attitudes toward Goliath grouper and how

Of course, no season will be opened without the right science to back it up, but, to date, that has been hard to come by. While researchers with the state and

they should be managed. For one thing, it’s clear that Goliaths are starting to

biologists at FSU and other places have been studying Goliaths for quite some

annoy a few folks, at least reef fishermen. As apex predators, Goliaths have no

time, there are still challenges according to Dr. Angela Collins. She earned her PhD

qualms about snatching a struggling snapper or another grouper off a fishing line.

studying Goliath grouper and has continued her work for the past eight years

For them, it’s easy pickin’s. But what’s the bigger picture?

working at the FWC’s research center in St. Petersburg.

The survey revealed that a great majority of divers strongly support keeping Goliaths off limits to any kind of harvesting. There has been a ban on harvesting

“Previous stock assessments have failed due to a lack of data,” she says. “There is still uncertainty regarding maximum age, maximum size and reproductive

characteristics—these data are needed for traditional stock assessments. The state of Florida is currently in the process of updating the most recent assessment, and those results should be released sometime this year.” Once in, the information will go a long way to guiding future decisions about whether to open the fishery, but some people think a limited season on Goliaths might be inevitable. “I think there will probably be a limited take allowed, at least for a slot fish or juvenile fish,” says Don DeMaria, a commercial spearfisherman who once harvested Goliaths by the boat load. “It will partially be a political decision, but I don’t think it should be. It should be based on the science.” Demaria has a unique perspective on the issue. He began spearfishing Florida’s East Coast in 1972. He was one of the first to use Loran technology to locate and fish wrecks. “Goliaths were regarded as an

Until 1990, Goliaths were fished commercially in Florida waters. They were easy targets for spear fishermen armed with powerheads or commercial boats with heavy tackle. Photo: Don DeMaria.

underutilized fish. They seemed like a nuisance at the time, but we would spear them and take them back to the Keys where they were considered a delicacy.

invasive species, like lionfish. Invasive species don’t fit in our ecosystem, but

We did that for years. It was a good living for awhile. I remember some of those

Goliath grouper fit. They are a benefit to the reef.”

wrecks with 100 fish on it in spawning season.”

That view is a real smack-in-the-face to the conventional wisdom that Goliaths

But, as the years went by, the number of Goliaths began to decline.

are indiscriminate eating machines, gobbling up snapper, smaller grouper and

“I remember seeing just one fish on a wreck and he had a couple of power

other valuable reef fish. But Koenig has the research to back up his claim.

head wounds on the head. I came back and said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’” That was in 1989, and Demaria quickly became a vocal advocate for closing

“I did a study with juvenile Goliaths. They spend their first five years in the mangroves and, for years, people accused them of eating all the lobster. So, we

the species to fishing. He wrote letters to the fishery council, and when it came up

sampled 220 fish and pumped the stomach of each one to find out its contents.

for a vote, the motion passed with no real debate. By the early ‘90s, both state and

In all those fish we found one lobster and that was right in the area where most of

federal regulations prohibited taking Goliaths.

the lobster fishing was taking place.”

Twenty-five years have gone by and it’s undeniable that Goliath grouper have

Koenig also performed a similar study on adult Goliaths off of Jupiter, Florida.

started to come back. Yet, even without a complete stock assessment, many in the

“We found lobsters in about 5% of the fish. We found no groupers, ever. We

scientific community are making the case that the Goliath recovery is just getting

found a few snappers, and each time we found a snapper, it had a hook and leader

started and there are plenty of reasons to hold off on opening up a season. To

in its mouth.”

commercial and recreational anglers itching for a new fishing opportunity, that

The conclusion from both studies was that Goliath grouper are not targeting

may sound unnecessarily cautious, but Dr. Chris Koenig sees it differently. A long-

the species humans want. In fact, stomach contents revealed the number one

time faculty member at FSU, he has been studying Goliath grouper for more than

dietary choice for Goliaths is crabs, which probably explains why they prefer

two decades.

hanging out on wrecks that are on sandy bottoms.

“People do say they are a nuisance, but those are people with a very short vision of the past,” says Koenig. “They treat Goliath grouper as if they were an

Dr. Collins at the FWC Research Center says her research, along with historical data, back this up.

Venting the Big Boys Like other reef species, hauling a Goliath grouper up from significant depth can cause a real problem with barotrauma—the telltale signs are bulging eyes and a distended stomach caused by expansion of gasses in the fish’s body. While anglers may be familiar with venting smaller species or using descender devices to help these fish get back to depth, catching a mature Goliath can present some unique challenges. So, we asked some advice from one researcher who has a lot of experience releasing these fish. Without giving any official endorsements, she did give us some practical advice. First, you need a large venting tool similar to the one pictured. Tackle shops in Goliath country often stock something appropriate. It’s basically a stainless steel

“Even interviews with old-time fishermen that would cut them

tube, 6–8 in. long and no more than / in. in diameter with a sharpened point.

open to clean them showed the same thing,” says Collins. “Most of

People who are handy in the garage could probably make something on their own.

the things in the stomach were crunchy—crustaceans, slow moving

A fat piece of mono, like the 500 lbs. stuff, works well to clean the tube out if it gets

bottom fish, even small stingrays and turtles. Also, there are often lots

clogged up.

of little baitfish. Goliaths are opportunistic ambush predators. They

1 8

Second, it’s imperative that the tool gets placed in the proper place on the fish’s

are probably not naturally chasing down snappers and groupers. Of

flank to make sure the swim bladder is punctured and the gas can escape. Study

course, if one is struggling on a fishing line, Goliaths are capable and

up on your Goliath anatomy and know what to do. Check out

willing to take it as an easy meal.”

fisheries/venting for help with this. Third, doing this over the side of the boat and not trying to get the fish on the

“Because Goliaths are so big, people think they must eat a lot,” says Dr. Koenig. “But this is not a warm-blooded mammal with a high

deck is a much better option for the fish. Still, angler safety is most important. Only

metabolism. In many of our studies, the fish’s stomach was empty.

do what you’re comfortable doing.

They are not eating tremendous amounts of food.”

Fourth, venting is rarely necessary for

In fact, while Goliaths do grow large—evidence suggests fish can

Goliath grouper caught at depths less than

reach 1,000 lbs.—it takes years to achieve this size. Many of the fish

60 ft. Barotrauma increases with depth and

seen on the wrecks off Jupiter are between 150 and 400 lbs. Growth

also with time at the surface, so the faster

rates show that it takes between 15 to 20 years, or even longer, for

the fish can be released, the better. Getting

fish to grow this large.

the fish’s head angled down and letting

In addition to debunking the myth of Goliaths as eating machines

them get that big tail behind them to push

ruining reef fishing, Koenig says there is overwhelming evidence—in

water often does the trick with no need to

this case, two independent studies with the same results—that

vent—especially in shallower water.

show a strong, positive correlation between the numbers of Goliath

Today, there are six known spawning sites for Goliath groupers off Southeast Florida. Some fish are known to come from as far away as Southern Georgia to spawn. Photo: Walt Stearns.

grouper on a reef and numbers of snappers and other reef species. In other

industry. Jupiter Dive Center has been one of many East Coast dive operations

words, the more Goliaths there are, the more snapper and other reef species are

to see a nice payday from taking clients to witness the annual spawning

present. The studies didn’t identify the cause of this positive relationship, but

aggregations. Whenever the issue comes up, owner Gerry Carroll regularly

Koenig believes it’s related to the excavating habits of Goliath grouper. Known for

petitions the state to keep the Goliath grouper moratorium in place.

blowing out large areas of sand and exposing buried reef, these fish effectively create new habitat that supports more reef fish. Slow growth rates and a positive impact on the reef environment both help

Fortunately, for bubble blowers, spawning season runs close to the height of the dive season, from mid-August through September and sometimes into early October. Six known sites—four artificial wrecks and two natural reefs—host

the case for keeping Goliath grouper closed to harvest, but two additional factors

spawning aggregations at this time. Divers can see between 50 to 100 fish, most

might ultimately silence proponents of a new season. One is mercury. Adult

between 150 and 400 lbs. in size. While some of these fish are resident year-

Goliath grouper have consistently shown mercury levels that are well above the

round, tracking studies have shown others come from as far away as Southern

limits that are considered safe for consumption by children, pregnant women

Georgia to spawn.

and others considered high risk. In fact, Goliath grouper can have twice as much

These sites are within a few miles of shore and in easily diveable depths. It’s

mercury contamination as swordfish and adult king mackerel, two species

a diving opportunity that is incredibly unique. In the rest of the world, there are

consumers have long been warned about. If any Goliath grouper take were

no other known grouper aggregations this accessible to divers, and unlike many

allowed, only juvenile fish under 4 ft. would likely be deemed safe to eat.

other big-animal encounters, diving with Goliath grouper is very reliable.

The other issue is that the big grouper are becoming big business in the dive

“It’s amazing that for the six or eight weeks of the spawning season, these fish

While regulators debate the merits of opening a fishing season for Goliaths, they are already becoming big business for dive tourism, especially off Palm Beach County. Photo: Walt Stearns.

are here every day. It’s not a hit-or-miss thing like trying

hurting the reefs. Between that and the weather, we

to find a manta ray or whale shark,” says Carroll, who

think the numbers are staying about the same.”

says that in the last two years, Goliath grouper dives

Overall, the case for opening a fishery for the mighty

have accounted for 25% of his annual charter business.

Goliath grouper may be crumbling, at least in Florida,

“It’s been very good. We’re seeing not just local

where they are proving themselves to be a benefit to

divers, but an increasing number of tourists traveling

the reef and a boon to the economy. The good news

from other parts of the country to have this experience,

for recreational anglers is that you can still experience

and some are even traveling internationally.”

the thrill of catching this beast as long as you follow

The other plus for this kind of ecotourism is that

responsible catch and release techniques. With such high

the diving activity doesn’t seem to be having much,

Mercury levels, keeping Goliaths for the grill or fryer is

if any, negative effect on the fish. If a Goliath grouper

not really an option anyway, and anyone who wants a

gets bugged, it can just swim away and no diver will be

trophy only needs a few pictures and a measurement for

able to keep up. Spawning activity happens at night,

creating a fiberglass mount. Plus, responsible anglers

and diving happens largely during the day, so the two

can target these giants without being overly concerned

activities are not overlapping. Carroll says he and the

about the health of released fish. According to Dr. Collins

other area dive operators are mindful of the issue of

at the FWC, Goliaths show a great tolerance for surviving

too much diving activity putting pressure on the fish,

their interactions with fishermen.

but their bigger concern is that the Goliath grouper numbers seem to have hit a plateau. “These fish are sensitive to environmental

“If they’re vented properly, released Goliath grouper do really well,” she says. “In one of our surveys, we caught a single Goliath grouper three years in a row at

pressures, like cold weather killing off juvenile fish. The

the same site. It had a fishing lure lodged inside it that

cold weather we had in 2010 really set the recovery

we couldn’t remove and it was still there every year.

back,” says Carroll. “But also in Florida, it seems that

They’re pretty tough fish.”

these are the fish everybody loves to hate. It’s obvious

Certainly, the ancient Philistines would be proud.

that there is some poaching going on by people who

Especially if these present-day Goliaths can avoid taking

are misinformed and think Goliath grouper are

any lethal hits.

Divers explore the labyrinth of beams that foster rapid growth of marine life. Photo: Budd Riker Photography.



any offshore fisherman knows, oil and gas platforms, which were originally designed to tap into underground energy resources, have become havens for another vital resource—fish. Mother Nature, always ruthlessly practical and efficient, has settled in. Even though there’s evidence that offshore platforms can

As in the Gulf of Mexico, California’s rigs, with their

be even more productive than natural reefs, there’s a cloud over

latticework of steel legs, beams and cross members, provide

this success story. The oil industry is required by law to remove

hard substrate for a tremendous diversity of species. The cold,

platforms after they cease production so that the ocean floor

nutrient rich Pacific water fosters mussels, scallops, sea stars

is returned to the way it was before the well was drilled. It’s

and brittle stars. These man-made habitats are also home

a sensible enough plan, something every scout learned on

to sponges, bryozoa, corals and anemones, which encrust

campouts. Leave the campsite as it was before you came. Of

the steel in a display of psychedelic colors. The invertebrates

course, in the case of oil rigs, this was before we discovered that

provide a beautiful backdrop, as well as a plentiful supply

they provided an incredible habitat for our ecosystem.

of food for California’s iconic rockfish that ordinarily live on

Fortunately for sport fishers, scuba divers and the sea

rocky reefs. In fact, 42 different species of rockfish find the

life that inhabits the underwater structures, some forward

platforms so hospitable that they live there in higher densities

thinking folks dreamed up the Rigs to Reefs program. RTR

than on natural reefs, both as adults and as juveniles. They

utilizes a regulatory exception, so instead of full removal

grow faster at the platforms than on natural reefs and a recent

as was originally agreed upon, the main structure is cut off

study published by the National Academy of Sciences has

below the waterline. This allows enough clearance for boats

concluded that, “…the oil and gas platforms off the coast of

and ships, but most of the structure, where the majority of the

California have the highest secondary fish production (growth

fish live, is left as an artificial reef.

in fish biomass from all sources) per unit area of seafloor than

Because much less work is required to reef a platform

any marine habitat that has been studied.”

than to fully remove it, that translates to massive cost savings

Recently, researchers collated extensive data for 16

for the oil industry. It’s appears to be a rare but beautiful win-

platforms and compared it to other well-known ecosystems

win between Big Oil and Big Government, with a side bonus

both in California and worldwide. The results were published

for Big Environment. But, things are not always as they appear.

by the National Academy of Sciences in 2014. Compared

In California, instead of a common sense solution, Rigs to

to nearby rocky reefs at similar depths, fish production on

Reefs has been a political battleground for three decades. But

the average platform is almost 30 times greater than on

we’ll get to that part later.

natural reefs. When compared to other well-known marine

Another reason for the platform’s higher productivity is that they provide more hard substrate than do rocky reefs per unit area of seafloor. This is important for rockfish that require this substrate for both food and shelter. With more substrate, the fish live in higher densities around platforms. Even though the benefits of having these highly productive habitats in the marine environment are obvious, and even though the fish production plays an important role in re-populating our depleted natural reef sites offshore, there’s still disagreement over whether they will stay or go. As with many battles, it all comes down to money. Typical oil and gas platform with the coast of Southern California in the background. Photo: Budd Riker Photography. In the early 1990s Chevron shut down four of its platforms and announced plans ecosystems worldwide, including coral reefs and estuarine environments—

to remove them as required by law. A group of local fishermen realized that this

generally regarded as the most productive ecosystems globally—the platforms

would also remove valuable fish habitat. Dan Frumkies, a leading force with the

are an order of magnitude greater in fish productivity.

United Anglers of Southern California, was one of the first to raise the alarm that

The reasons for this are well established. Most of the rocky reefs and other

a Rigs to Reefs program was desperately needed. The UASC appealed to Chevron

global ecosystems are low relief. In contrast, the platforms extend through the

and the State Lands Commission to leave the platforms in place. However, even

entire water column and provide habitat for fish from a wider range of species and

though Chevron realized the conservation value of a RTR program and was in

maturities. Fish production on a platform occurs not only near the bottom, but

favor of it, there was no permitting process for doing this, and the environmental

also in the mid-waters and at the surface.

community demanded that the platforms be removed.

As an example, rockfish like to live on shallow, rocky reefs as juveniles and

Their argument was the same as we’ve all heard before—that rigs just

relocate to reefs in deeper water as they mature. Juveniles living on a platform

congregate fish that are in the area rather than grow new populations of fish.

can move to deeper water without leaving. This allows some species of fish to live

Since then, that theory has been largely disproved, but in the early 1990s, even

their entire lives on a single platform.

the scientific community didn’t agree. The RTR issue soon caught the attention of Milt Shedd, co-founder of


SeaWorld and founder of the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute (HSWRI). Shedd was a respected marine conservationist and owner of the American Fishing and Tackle Company (AFTCO) so it was in the best interest of his company to see

Turning rigs into reefs has become an accepted practice to address obsolete

fisheries prosper. Shedd and others met with Chevron but the stage had been set.

platforms in the Gulf of Mexico for several decades. Since 1985, about 450

Facing a long and costly battle, Chevron was forced to fulfill its legal obligations

rigs have been “reefed” in Gulf waters. About two-thirds of these have been

and removed the platforms. The United Anglers and the rest of the fishing

off the coast of Louisiana. Still, this is only a fraction of eligible reefs in the

community was aghast as the structures were hauled to shore, and the once

region. In June of 2013, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement

thriving and beautiful marine life was scraped off the platform’s legs. More than

(BSEE), updated the rules by which proposals for the Rigs to Reef program

four million pounds of invertebrates were loaded into dump trucks and hauled to

are evaluated, easing some previous restrictions. This included reducing

a landfill. The loss was intolerable. They began to explore how they could create a

the minimum five-mile zone between reefs to two miles and providing

Rigs to Reefs program to save this marine life. Shedd demanded that something

extensions for the deadlines oil companies normally face in dealing with a

be done, and the United Anglers appealed to Chevron to ask for help.

decommissioned rig. The program, largely viewed as a success in the Gulf, still has its detractors.

Employees of the oil giant were well aware that their platforms had been thriving marine habitats and saw first-hand the loss when their platforms were

Commercial fishing operations that rely on trawling dislike the reefs, seeing

removed. Yet, for RTR to happen, they needed science to support it. Shedd, who

them as a hazard to fishing gear and effectively limiting their available fishing

had been joined by his son Bill and the American Sportfishing Association, hoped

grounds. Despite objections from this part of the fishing industry, the rule

they could help deliver scientific data that would prove their point.

changes of 2013 were enacted and the programs have continued.

“Our message was simple,” Bill Shedd said in a recent interview. “We wanted to focus on what was best for the ocean and our state, and not remove an offshore

Opposite: Multicolored sponges, corals, anemones and other invertebrates have made these rigs a valuable asset to the ecosystem. Photos: Budd Riker Photography.

platform until a scientific study had been completed. If it was shown that the

Fast forward to the present. In 2010, another RTR bill was passed. However,

marine resource was better off if the rig was removed, then it should be removed.

it was extremely complicated and set up a labyrinth-like permitting process with

However, if scientific studies showed it was better for the ocean and the fish to

built-in time limits on the industry, but none on the permitting agencies. The oil

keep some portion of the underwater structure in place, then it should stay.”

industry was concerned that any savings from reefing would be lost on having

In 1999, the United Anglers in partnership with Chevron, PADI, and Hubbs

to follow an overly complicated regulatory process, payments to the state and

SeaWorld Research Institute launched a new organization called the California

payouts to environmental groups. Plus, the industry would be left with a legacy

Artificial Reef Enhancement (CARE) Program. This non-profit was organized to

structure for which it will have continuing liability.

conduct research on the platforms and educate everyone who would listen about

Currently, there are 27 rigs off of SoCal’s coast and most are either non-

the marine life that lived there. Momentum was building. Milt Shedd was able to

productive or near the end of their economic lives. Thankfully, none have been

help organize a RTR symposium at UCLA so experts could take a serious look at

removed since the four Chevron rigs back in the 1990s, so that’s good news for the

the science. That event and others, along with an increasing amount of research,

ecosystem. However, without an RTR bill in place, there’s no guarantee that these

led to more interest in a RTR program for California. It also drew special attention

rigs will ever be reefed and, at this point, the oil industry has not been willing to

from State Senator DeDe Alpert, who authored a workable piece of legislation to

commit a single rig to the program.

finally create a RTR program. The bill outlined how Rigs to Reefs might best work in California, and set

At present, a new bill is being proposed to try and fix problems with the 2010 bill. Timing could not be better for the fishing and diving community. In March,

aside a significant amount of money for marine resource enhancement and

the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) launched a successful effort to form

research efforts. In 2001, the Alpert bill passed both houses of the California

CCA California. The CCA has had a great deal of success with helping to create RTR

legislature by a wide margin, yet Governor Gray Davis vetoed the bill at the

programs in other states and will now be involved with the California process.

urging of the environmental community. More than a decade had passed

What began more than 20 years ago may finally become a workable RTR

during which time the unsightly tops of the platforms could have been removed

program to help provide California waters with habitat it so desperately needs

leaving vibrant reefs below the surface. Politics had prevailed and the Pacific

to conserve. Time will tell whether politics will get in the way of a proven and

fisheries were further at risk.

effective method of enhancing the ocean environment.

Mystery SPAG, Southern Bahamas, quite possibly the largest gathering of spawning Nassau grouper in the world. Photo: Wayne Sullivan.



A diverse team of experts pulls together and documents the largest known gathering of Nassau grouper in the Bahamas. BY JOSEPH IERNA, JR.

A name like Colton Cartwright conjures up images of Wild West gunslingers. Maybe Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday’s sidekick. But Cartwright is as far from the ol’ dusty trail as he could get—he is a modern day Bahamian fisherman, and he’s as passionate about saving his fishery as he is about catching fish. The 25-year-old Bahamian is a pure island boy who has been fishing and diving since the age of six. He hails from a long line of commercial fishermen—ironically a breed whose future may be as tentative as Billy the Kid’s. Cartwright is also a team member of a talented group of scientists, divers and explorers who are conducting critical research on the reproductive cycles of Nassau grouper. Because, no matter how much you study fish in the laboratory, there’s no substitute for the experience and knowledge of a real, live, local fisherman. As founder of Ocean Crest Alliance (OCA) and one of the organizers of the grouper expeditions, I understand the great importance of working with the commercial fisherman and the community of Long Island. Throughout the expedition, Colton had us all mesmerized with his stories; and while diving, he’d study the tides and then tell us exactly where the fish were going to be. He was spot-on each time. The fish I’m referring to are Nassau grouper, which come to reefs in massive schools—numbering into the thousands—to lay their eggs…kind of a giant

fish-birthing party. These spawning aggregations, called SPAGs, have become a

big money to go on guided shark dives. Sport fishermen like to catch sharks.

focal point for protecting Nassau grouper breeding grounds because the mass

Marine researchers set up shop to study the apex predators. Without a healthy

gatherings make them extremely vulnerable to commercial fishing.

shark population, those tourism and research dollars would land in someone

For many decades, fishermen all over the Caribbean have known about SPAG sites and have capitalized on the bonanza. Like clockwork, Nassau grouper

else’s pocket. Now, the Bahamian leadership is taking steps to save the iconic Nassau

congregate during the winter full moons, making them an easy target. Protecting

grouper, following data gained in the Cayman Islands where their Marine

SPAGs is gaining momentum in the conservation community due to awareness

Conservation Board shut down fishing on the SPAG site in Little Cayman for

campaigns from groups like OCA. Guy Harvey’s award-winning movie, Mystery

eight years. (Nassau grouper reach sexual maturity between four and nine

of the Grouper Moon, has also helped to stoke the fire. It may seem strange that

years.) That was back in 2003, following huge catches in 2001 and 2002. The

a commercial fisherman like Cartwright is joining forces with people who want to manage and protect fishing on such a honey hole. But, these days, even those who make their living from catching and selling seafood know that targeting breeders is foolish. Fact is, in the Bahamas, while commercial fishing is a huge industry, it is still dwarfed by tourism. Sun seekers flock there to see rainbows of fish when they snorkel and scuba dive. Sport fishermen spend millions to chase everything from bonefish to blue marlin. And anything that might reduce tourism dollars evokes the same emotions in Bahamians as losing their Nassau grouper schools. The basic question is simple: Can commercial fishing continue as it is without effecting tourism? It’s

SPAG thrived and the news of Cayman’s success had the Bahamian government

a balancing act that the OCA is pursuing, along with groups like the Bahamas

taking action. Just days before our December 2014 expedition, the Bahamian

National Trust, BREEF (Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation), The

government announced a yearly closure of Nassau grouper fishing from

Nature Conservancy and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation. The challenge is

December 1 to February 28, which coincides with the spawning season.

to help create sustainable fisheries so that fishing activities can thrive without influencing tourism, the nation’s number one industry. Fortunately, the Bahamas has been one of the most proactive countries in

This past December and January, the Bahamas initiative got another big push. There were three known SPAG sites off Long Island that researchers wanted to evaluate, and a rumored fourth site—something like the mythical

protecting its natural resources. In 2012, they led the way with a nationwide ban

El Dorado of grouper spawning—that could be the largest in the world. The

on commercial shark fishing because, one, it was the right thing to do and, two,

big question was if these sites were still viable and healthy, and what the

live sharks bring more money to the economy than dead ones. Scuba divers pay

future might hold for the Nassau grouper fishery to recover. There would be

In the Bahamas, protecting Nassau grouper from poaching has become a top priority. Photo: Walt Stearns. Opposite: Long Island Commercial Fisherman Colton Cartwright, catching baitfish for the

exploratory mission in January to search for the rumored mother lode. As the winter season approached, and with a full moon sparkling across Bahamian seas, Colton and I joined a team to do the fieldwork. A native of Florida, I married a Bahamian princess and now live on Long Island full time! To help make our research expeditions possible, I contacted my friend Wayne Sullivan, owner of the 100-ft. yacht Glen Ellen. With 50 years of cruising experience and many years of working with Guy on the Cayman SPAG’s, Sullivan is known simply as “the Admiral.” Dr. Craig Dahlgren, who has spent more than a decade studying SPAG sites in the Bahamas, led the scientific efforts with help from Casuarina McKinney Lambert of BREEF. Also on board were two master divers, Rupin Baker and Don Ferris, Bahamian Wolcott Miller, Captain Jimmy Schluten and, most important, head chef Monica Bollet to keep the crew fed. Following is our account of the expedition and our amazing discoveries.

Long Island SPAGs

two expeditions, one in December to cover the known sites, and an

December Expedition—

science team’s traps used to catch specimen Nassau grouper. Photo: Joseph Ierna, Jr.


ay 1: We arrived late in the afternoon at the first Long Island site, the Hail Mary SPAG at 1510 hrs. Although a bit choppy, with seas in the 4-to-5 ft. range, the dive was magnificent, with divers

locating 600+/– Nassau grouper. They did see a few bi-color fish, but there was no spawning activity witnessed. Still, to see this many fish gathered at the Hail Mary site was a very positive sign, and obvious proof that the location is still viable. Colton, in his 20 years of catching fish had never experienced the majesty of this congregation of the Nassau grouper SPAG underwater. He was always working above the water during the Grouper Moon activity, pulling traps. In fact, most Bahamian fishermen are afraid to enter the water during spawning because sharks are usually patrolling the event. For this expedition, we had five resident bull sharks cruising around the divers throughout the week, most probably the same five bulls we encountered at this site last year. Everyone was awestruck with this first day, especially an encouraging count of Nassau grouper! It appeared that we were set for an excellent expedition.

Throughout the expedition, we concentrated on three known Long Island SPAGs: Hail Mary, North Point and Newton’s Cay, with our primary site being Hail Mary. Our research and science focused on five main points: 1. Visual counts and surveys at the three sites. 2. Setup of a telemetry receiver array at Hail Mary to track fish movements. 3. Collection of DNA samples. 4. Surgically implant and release transmitters on 16 fish. 5. Perform mapping of the SPAG sites using the boat to record depth and GPS data in a 1km x 1km grid. During the five-day expedition, we hoped to add to the data that Dr. Dahlgren and colleagues have collected over the last decade. They’ve found that unlike the Cayman Island grouper schools, the Bahamas fish have much different habits, with fish coming and going regularly from the SPAGs. Because the Bahamas Islands have great banks of shallow water habitat, the grouper here travel long distances, and it’s common for fish to arrive at a SPAG and, after one or two days, depart while a whole new set of fish comes on the site. On several occasions, we witnessed schools of 100+/– fish arriving as if on cue to join the party. The array of receivers we set up will gather important movement data so we can better manage our fishery. Day 2: As we again approached the Hail Mary site, we discovered three other vessels. We suspect they were poachers, as they all fled as soon as we got close. After this encounter, we did not see any other vessels throughout the expedition, a nice surprise compared to last year’s expedition. ( Today, we began setting up the receivers under water. Craig wanted a cross pattern setup, extending out from the central point of the actual Spawning Aggregation site. We were only able to place four of the five necessary receivers this day, hampered by equipment challenges and the heavy seas. It is not easy setting up sound equipment 100 ft. underwater, with bottom time limited to 20 minutes per team. Despite the conditions and challenges, everyone felt very good about the day’s activities. The next day, the team would set the final receiver in the morning while Colton and I went out in his boat to catch live bait for our grouper traps. Day 3: Our catch and release job began so we could collect DNA samples and begin tagging fish. At first light, Colton and I skirted south down the island and caught 20–30 small baitfish, perfect to catch our specimen groupers. While setting our first trap— actually before the baited trap even hit the bottom—10 mature Nassau grouper entered the trap! Ironically, the fish do not go into trap to eat the baitfish, but rather just to kill the baitfish. It has been noted by old-timer island fishermen that they witnessed this at the SPAGs each year. In fact, the reefs around the SPAG seem devoid of the typical reef occupants—jacks, snappers, triggers, etc. The conclusion is that the usual occupants are hiding because the Nassau grouper will kill anything in the area. The fishermen further concluded that the grouper are defending their eggs. By eliminating any fish in the area, they increase the chances of survival for the eggs. Back on the stern of the Glen Ellen, we utilized an array of white Igloo coolers on the aft deck area and swim platform. This would be our waiting room and a surgical and recovery ward to take care of our precious cargo. We successfully completed the first day,

Team photo left to right: Wayne Sullivan, Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, Dr. Craig Dahlgren, Jimmy Schluten, Colton Cartwright, Don Ferris, Walcott Miller, Rupin Baker. Photo: Joseph Ierna. Jr. Opposite: Bi-color males surround female in the hopes of mating. This ritual occurs each evening as the sun sets into the horizon. Photos: Casuarina McKinney-Lambert.

equipping eight fish with floy tags and pingers, and two more fish with floys only.

Day 5: On our last day, we focused on completing surveys

Once the procedure was finished on each fish, the divers lovingly swam these fish

and checking on the schools. We spotted three of the 16 fish we

down to the SPAG site so our resident bull sharks and a couple of big barracuda did

performed surgery on and they all appeared healthy and puffed up

not make them dinner. (The grouper that is, not the divers.)

with beautiful, bold bands of vibrant color. As for sizes of the fish

Day 4: The weather was calmest in the early morning, so we chose to dive the

experienced during the expedition, the ones we took DNA samples from ranged in weight from 7-14 lbs., with lengths from 22–28 in.

Point and Newton’s Cay. These dives would be very challenging for the team!

These are not big fish if we look back at historical catches.

anchor the big boat, but rather to do a drift dive off the Glen Ellen. Craig, Casuarina and Wolcott made the dive. Once on the bottom at about 120 ft., they found a small aggregation of only 40–50 grouper, a large group of 100+/– chub, and, as a bonus, a magnificent whale shark that passed right next to the dive team. The second dive at North Point proved to be beautiful in another way, this time with the dive team finding a broad array of healthy corals in the area. But we were disappointed that this Nassau grouper SPAG was obviously extinct. The team only saw three fish—one adult and two juveniles. The rest of the day, we would move back to the Hail Mary site and continue our tagging work, but it was disheartening to see so little activity on the north side, with minimal grouper at North Point and none at Newton’s Cay. If the fishery grows, will these sites bounce back? That answer will only come with time. Back at the Hail Mary site, we repeated the success of day three. We caught and released an additional eight fish, complete with floy tags and pingers inserted.

January Expedition—

Arriving at the Newton’s Cay at 0800, the seas were 5-to-7 ft. We chose not to


wind-exposed north side of the island to check the other two SPAG sites, North

The December trip was a scientific success, in that we accomplished all the research we had planned, but of the three SPAGs visited, only one had fish that would support breeding. Two of the three SPAGs are now considered extinct—not a good outlook for the future of the Nassau grouper—but with the data collected, we are hopeful of helping to reverse this trend.


s the January full moon drew close, it was time for another high-seas adventure, though this would be somewhat different. We were looking to document a “secret” SPAG

rumored by fishermen to be the largest in the world, and we had some new members: divers Mallory Rapheal from BREEF and friends of the Admiral, T-Bird and Muley. Our chef this time was Lacy Fogg. Also joining the eclectic group was world champion free diver William Trubridge, a resident of Long Island and an Ocean CREST Alliance advisor.

Day 1: The winds were piping a steady 20–25 knots and seas 7-to-8 ft. We were in for a long night of steaming south to Raccoon Cay. Day 2: At 0600 hrs, the wind was still blowing 20–25 knots and the seas had built to the 10-ft. range. We received a radio call from the Royal Bahamas Defense Force vessel HMBS Arthur Dion Hanna, which we could see anchored off the south point of Ragged Island. For the next two hours, we received a thorough inspection and even got buzzed by the USCG helicopter based out of Great Inagua. It is good to know the RBDF and the USCG are out there to assist in case you need them! We arrived at our suspected mystery spot in one of the most remote areas of the Bahamas and two divers went down. Unfortunately, the site yielded zero grouper, let alone a SPAG formation. Naturally, we were disappointed, but we forged ahead to a new location for the night. Day 3: As if Mother Nature was showing us the way, the team awoke to a perfectly arched rainbow. Maybe the grouper gods were speaking to us, because this was the magical day. Working in 5-to-7-ft. seas was challenging, but our team performed flawlessly. The date was January 5, 2015. The time: 0930 hrs. Our dive team documented what may be the largest known Nassau grouper spawning aggregation remaining on the planet, with a tremendous school of fish numbering close to 8,000! The New Year was only five days old and it had already yielded an amazing discovery. Back on the boat, our team hooted and hollered in celebration.

Rather than conduct the same research as at the other sites, this trip was simply one of documenting a new location. Now that it is known, future research can continue to learn the extent of the migration patterns of the fish and the overall health of the fishery. Its existence sparks much needed hope regarding the future of Nassau grouper. On our cruise back home to Long Island, the team began to discuss the results of both expeditions. In the big picture, just two of the seven SPAGS we explored had enough grouper to support a growing species. While we were fortunate to discover a phenomenal site, it made us wonder what these SPAGs must have been like in years past, with up to 100,000 grouper visiting at once! Perhaps one day, if we all take care, we will see this again. To learn more about Ocean CREST Alliance programs and expeditions and how you can help, visit The OCA is committed to fostering conservation solutions that involve the input of all stakeholders, including local fishermen, the local business community, and national and international partners and supporters.

Above: Casuarina McKinney-Lambert and Joseph Ierna, Jr. show off two beautiful Nassau grouper, fully recovered, ready for divers to swim them back down onto the SPAG. Photo: Ocean CREST Alliance. Opposite: Colton Cartwright and Casuarina McKinney-Lambert perform a surgical procedure on Nassau grouper specimen fish. Photo: Joseph Ierna, Jr.

• Most Sailfish bites per boat and great Marlin activity as well • Tournament Level Captains, Mates and Boats • Boutique Hotel with individual Villas to guarantee exclusivity • Gourmet Restaurant 1-888-700-3467

The Mexico Beach (Florida) Artificial Reef Association builds Memorial Reefs in which your loved one’s ashes can be mixed into the concrete.

Backyard Conservation


GH Ocean Foundation lets shoppers fund projects in their own communities.


’m a bit skeptical when a store or website claims that “a portion of your purchase goes to XYZ charity”. Sure, your Buy-A-New-Boat charity, I always think. But then, I’m a hopeless cynic.

One self-evident truth is this: we rarely see the tangible results of those

has saved numerous dolphins and whales over the decades. The RCP generated enough money to allow the store to present the GWMI with a check for $7,456. Just a few miles to the west of Panama City, but still in Bay County, is the Mexico Beach Artificial Reef Association, another recipient of RCP funds. Established in 1997, MBARA has a lofty goal of creating 1,000 artificial reef habitats

donations. The best we can do is trust, and hope, that we’re not being lied to.

in the waters off Mexico Beach. By working closely with the City of Mexico Beach,

That’s why the new Retail Partner Conservation Program is so cool, because it’s

the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and the Army Corps of

quantifiable. The Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation is using money they receive from

Engineers, the MBARA is moving rapidly toward that milestone. The group is also

the sale of Guy Harvey apparel to fund local conservation programs for folks living

heavily involved in education, not just about artificial reefs, but also the marine

in the surrounding community.

ecosystem in general. They sink derelict vessels when available, but the MBARA

It’s very simple, really. You buy a Guy Harvey T-shirt or hat or swimsuit at your

also builds concrete teepee and reef ball type structures that can be deployed

neighborhood retail store. Part of that money goes to the GH Ocean Foundation.

much more quickly and with less red tape than old ships. Of course, their most

Then the super coolness begins. The store gets to pick a local conservation project

unique and quite touching artificial structure is a Memorial Reef for loved ones that

to give the money. Everybody wins and you, the buyer, can actually witness and

includes a lovely cross made of shells. Ashes from the deceased are mixed into the

experience the fruits of your donation. Then you go buy more Guy Harvey stuff, the

concrete during construction. Sales of Guy Harvey merchandise at Mexico Beach

local charity gets more money and then everything is balanced in the universe. Not

Marina, Bluewater Outriggers of Port St. Joe and Half Hitch Tackle of Panama City

to mention, you’re looking totally sharp in your new Guy Harvey duds.

all contributed to the check for $992 that was presented to MBARA.

This Retailer Conservation Program (RCP) began in 2014 and has already

Moving still further to the west and across the Florida border, the GH Ocean

paid dividends to several grass-roots conservation groups. In Panama City Beach,

Foundation donated funds to the City of Orange Beach, Alabama, for the town’s

Florida, where the local folk love their sea turtles, protecting them is high on the

Waterways and Shoreline Enhancement Program. With 1.6 million visitors coming

agenda. Several species, including Kemps Ridley, loggerhead, hawksbill and greens,

to Orange Beach each year, the city is, by far, the most popular tourism destination

claw their way onto the beach each summer to lay eggs and propagate their

in the state. In addition to generating more than $600 million in revenue, the

kind. That’s why retail store, Hy’s Toggery, located in Panama City Beach’s Pier Park

tourists also tend to leave behind a lot of debris on the sugar white sands of the

shopping village chose the Gulf World Marine Institute to benefit from the RCP.

gulf and inland bayous. The Waterways and Shoreline Enhancement Program

The GWMI manages a turtle stranding program that has existed in Panama City since 1970 and is considered one the leading rehabilitation facilities in the National Marine Fisheries stranding network. Dedicated to

utilizes two boats, two jet skis and city staff to patrol and clean up marine debris and trash in the area waterways and shorelines. Local retailers, Sam’s Bait and Tackle

turtle and marine mammal rescue, rehab and release, the

and J&M Tackle, participated in the RCP,

GWMI cared for 149 live sea turtles associated with the 2010

and a check for $1,651 was presented to

oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Their dedication and vigilance

Orange Beach mayor, Tony Keenon, to help fund the Waterways and Shoreline Enhancement Program. It’s great when companies donate a portion of their revenue to charitable causes. It’s even better when the local community benefits. The Retailer Conservation Program is a great example of both. For more information go to:

Far left: Hy’s Toggery in Panama City with staff from the Gulf World Marine Institute. Left: A Retailer Conservation Program point of purchase display.












I was looking for my departure gate on concourse D at Miami International Airport, heading down to Panama for some fishing. Andi Marcher and I were supposed to be meeting up with Neil Burnie, but there was no sign of him. Suddenly, amidst all the noise and bustle of thousands of travelers, a saxophone erupted from their midst. It was playing a familiar tune and doing it very loudly! There in the middle of the concourse was Neil. He was dancing and playing without the slightest inhibition, while people laughed and applauded.

Seen here catching and tagging tiger sharks during an expedition with Guy, Dr. Neil Burnie was well known in Bermuda for his passion for the ocean and an irrepressible sense of fun.


hat was Neil. To him, music was relevant anytime, anywhere. We could be out on the Pinas Reef fishing for black marlin, or at Challenger Bank waiting to catch a big tiger shark, or

in a bar anywhere—Neil would always have his sax or harmonica within easy reach. There was always a can of Red Bull close by, too. Heaven knows he did not need it. A veterinarian by profession, Neil was an avid diver, spear

A 300-lbs. blue does a cartwheel behind the boat in

fisherman, kiteboarder and angler. He was famous for going surfing

Panama. Below: Neil was never far from his harmonica

or kiteboarding in the huge waves before an oncoming tropical

or saxophone, even while on the water. He was always

storm or hurricane. He would appear on the TV news, this tiny

willing to play music in order to conjure up a bite.

figure hurtling down monster waves. People would think, who is this CRAZY person? Oh, it’s Neil. He was really good at everything he did, and it ran in the family. His wife Katrin is an excellent golfer, Kim is their daughter, and his son Oscar is a brilliant musician. Through his vet clinic, his shark conservation work, and his music, Neil knew everyone in Bermuda and had the enviable title of “The Caring, Daring Veterinarian.” Most appropriate. I first started working with Neil in Bermuda when he invited me, Dr. Mahmood Shivji and Dr. Brad Wetherbee from the GHRI to help with a tiger shark tracking project. Neil needed help in acquiring and deploying SPOT tags on tigers. This required an expedition. We went to Bermuda in the summer of 2009 to get as many tiger sharks tagged as possible. Choy Aming was Neil’s able assistant, and we used Neil’s 34-ft. Prowler, called Bones, as the workboat. Other local charter captains helped as well, particularly James Robinson on the Wound Up and Allen DaSilva on Mako. I took my grown-up kids Jessica and Alex on the first tiger shark tagging expedition in July 2009. We also had my film crew shooting footage for a new documentary I was making about tracking tiger sharks. We all returned in July 2010 for another round of tagging. For a month before we arrived, Jessica worked at Neil’s clinic as an intern. Neil had kindly invited Jessica to get more experience in vet medicine, as she wanted to pursue this as a career. Neil was the star of the show over two successive years of shooting. The finished product was eventually released as The Tiger Shark Express by producer George Schellenger. This experience helped Neil get going on his own TV series called Ocean Vet. Filming the catching and tagging of tiger sharks with Neil was exciting. Not only was he so energetic, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable about the ocean and the animals that lived there, but he was also able to engage his audience using his oratorical skills with humor, authority and authenticity. Generally, we would spend some time anchored over Challenger Bank, chumming up the tiger sharks. This involved

Over several years of tracking programs, Dr. Burnie helped document the migration pattern of tiger sharks in the North Atlantic. Left: Neil and Chi-Chi.

deploying the large, smelly head of a blue marlin on a buoy behind the boat, plus

some tracks lasting more than three years. The secret migratory pathways of the

catching robins and chunking with scraps. Neil would swim and spear the wahoos

tiger shark in the Northwestern Atlantic have now been revealed. Not only did

or barracudas that showed up in the chum line, often right next to a 12-ft. tiger

we tag a number of female tiger sharks near Tiger Beach, but Neil got to dive

shark. The tiger sharks were not fazed by all the commotion—they were focused

with them in shallow water and have lots of close interactions. This is difficult to

on that marlin head, and often succeeded in tearing it apart in front of our

accomplish in the deep blue water around Bermuda.

camera. After we had enough time in the water with the tigers, the baited hook would be put out and it was action time. We all took turns in catching the big tigers on stand-up gear. It was hard

We also went to Panama with sax, harmonica and Red Bull in tow. Fishing out of my favorite big game fishing location at Tropic Star Lodge, Neil caught his first sailfish, his first black marlin and his first Pacific blue marlin. One day it was slow,

work and a lot of fun. Neil often burst into improvised songs to suit the moment,

we were pulling live baits and nothing was happening. Suddenly a blast from

launching into Bob Marley’s “Get up…stand up, stand up for your shark…” on

the sax rips through the quiet as Neil vented on a new song he was composing.

one particularly tough shark. When they were subdued, tail roped and strapped

The crew jumped off the flying bridge in astonishment. Being a great angler, Neil

to the side of the boat, we moved swiftly as a team to drill holes in the shark’s

had lots of fun catching marlin. One particularly explosive 300-lbs. blue marlin

dorsal fin, attach the SPOT tag, measure it, take a DNA fin clip and then release

did a cartwheel in the air right behind the boat on its first jump, and I was able to

the shark. Nearly all were males. They were very hardy animals and always left

capture it on my Canon.

strongly swimming away. Neil and I would always swim with the shark on its

As might be expected, Neil had a way with animals, and Chi-Chi, the golden

departure. He was always trying to work in a shot with the shark and a can of

lab at the lodge, loved it when he played his harmonica. I had never seen a dog

Red Bull.

react to music like this. Neil said some dogs get it and some do not.

Later that year, we went on another tagging expedition to Tiger Beach on

The list of accomplishments behind Neil’s name is endless. He had just

Grand Bahama Bank with famed shark photographer and shark conservationist

finished his first year as a host for his own informative natural history series called

Jim Abernethy. Many of the tiger sharks we tracked in Bermuda ended up

Ocean Vet, filmed almost entirely in his home waters of Bermuda, when he passed

spending the winter in the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos or the USVI. We were trying

away. He was free diving trying to help friends. He will be remembered by all he

to better understand this migratory cycle by tagging tigers during the winter in

touched with his enthusiasm, knowledge, energy and commitment to better

the Bahamas. After five years of research, the story is finally complete as we have

understanding the animals he so dearly loved.

Angler John Travis releases a bonefish on the remote St. Brandon Atoll, Mauritius. Yes, we know the ground is on the top.

: DANIEL GOZ a photo portfolio

Daniel enjoys catching giant tarpon from his float tube in a remote jungle river of Central America.

Two yellowfin tuna perform a yin yang swimming pattern in front of Daniel’s camera (Ascension Island).

Flyfisher Daniel Günther carefully releases a huge barracuda that lurks on the flats of St. Joseph Atoll in the Seychelles. Below: Daniel Günther enjoys an early bird cast from his float tube in high hopes of hoooking a giant tarpon.

A wild Atlantic salmon fell for the Frances fly on the waters of the Norwegian Flyfisher’s Club, River Gaula, Norway. Below: Daniel hooks another giant tarpon in a minuscule creek (remote Central America). The fish goes berserk right after hook-up.

A healthy release of a fly-caught sailfish in the Seychelles (St. Joseph Atoll).


a l A m E t a gu ed

Sails in Guatemala are the best you can find. Photo: Pacific Fins.



COMING AROUND Conservation makes progress in Central America Both recreational and commercial fishing sectors drive monster money into Central

at sea and jetty entrances, distribution outlets and markets, with an ultimate goal

American countries. No doubt, monies that sportfishing/tourism and commercial

of snuffing out the supply chain for the sailfish fillet; to promote the development

fishing bring into Central American countries determine certain policies and the

of alternative fishing for artisan anglers; to provide education at the elementary

politics that surround them. Still, fisheries management in the region appears to

and university school levels; and to promote local and international tourism.

be about more than just power or profits. A shift in thinking has taken root, where

This past June, the ministers added some backbone to the agency when they

local peoples and governments alike understand their responsibility to protect the

involved the Coast Guard in enforcement duties. They have had success through

fish stocks, which in turn, protects their investments in their own country. Central

sting operations at docks and by intercepting and unloading boats offshore. The

American countries are improving regulations and enforcement, and they’re doing

shift in tactics has also prompted the military to help by reporting sailfish kills to

it through lodge efforts as well as governmental initiatives.

the local police. It’s a bold move and a step in the right direction for Guatemala.

Kristen Salazar, owner of Casa Vieja Lodge in Guatemala, works with The

Likewise, there is progress in Panama. For example, at Tropic Star Lodge in

Billfish Foundation (TBF) as well as the Central American Billfish Association

Pinas Bay, Panama, where Guy Harvey has visited more than 50 times, they’ve

(CABA) to tag billfish for a variety of efforts. “Mainly, it’s to educate people that

led by example while also working with the government to implement more

there is no real negative impact of sportfishing, but also to determine the role

conservation policies. The lodge universally adopted circle hooks in the early ‘90s

of oceanic features on billfish seasonal habitat use, the spatial interactions with

and has been releasing all roosterfish since 2007, and more recently, all Cubera

commercial gear and status of population exploitation of the billfish stocks.”

snapper. In 1994, owners Mike and Terri Andrews, along with different leaders in

However, the overarching problem for any conservation measures set forth is

Panama, created the CONAMAR Foundation (Foundation for the Conservancy of

that you can enact all the laws you want, but the underlying issue has always been

the Sea, Nature and Marine Species). CONAMAR was responsible for establishing

enforcement of the laws, and instilling a driving mechanism to ensure the laws are

a 20-mile, non-commercial fishing zone around Pinas Bay and creating a billfish

followed and applied. In 2002, Guatemala created an agency to enforce the laws,

decree that protects all billfish from being killed commercially. In 2010, Panama

namely the Guatemala Sailfish Commission. This includes strong representation

secured a national decree that banned large-scale purse seines from Panamanian

from the sportfishing community, especially through member Niels Erichsen, who

waters. This set the standard for other Central American countries. A previous

is also owner of Pacific Fins Resort.

president, Pedro Perez Balladares, won the IGFA conservation award for the

The “four pillars of the commission” are: to enforce the law through inspections

country of Panama.

Carter Andrews of the Isla Secas Lodge promotes conservation efforts that

the tuna catches are caught,” he said. Regarding sportfishing measures, Mufson

include not only tagging programs of billfish off the Hannibal Banks, but a real

adds, “We can use circle hooks only for live and dead baits, and cannot bring

emphasis on catch and release of bottomfish species as well.

billfish out of the water and into the boat for a photograph.” Zancudo Lodge is

“Isla Secas tags black marlin, tuna, roosterfish, snapper, and grouper, and records show that in 2013 we released 60,000 lbs. of fish, with only 10,000 lbs. harvested,” said Andrews. Regarding governmental conservation initiatives in Panama, Andrews is a little

also working with Gray’s Fish Tagging program and

Certainly, over the last 15 years, a shift in policy has changed in Central American countries regarding the protection of their fish stocks.

more jaded on the prospects.

has tagged 60 fish so far. An example of the country’s recognition of the socioeconomic and natural impacts of overfishing is the formation of the Federacion Costarricense de Pesca (FECOP), which touts a strong message. Quoting the Federation: “The lack of policies on sustainable fisheries in Costa Rica has resulted in the deterioration of social, economic and environmental conditions in coastal communities. Over the last 10 years, the abundance of fish stocks available to the national

“They may have banned the four-ton (generally 40 ft.) fishing vessels that had 1,000 hooks on the longliners, but now those longliners bought little boats, each

fisheries sector has declined by at least 50%.” According to FECOP, the foreign tuna fleet catches 18 times more tuna

carrying 200 hook longlines that hammer away indiscriminately at the snapper

than the national fleet, causing serious socioeconomic problems and poverty

and grouper spawn on Hannibal Banks rocks. They clean out the bottomfish.

among thousands of families along the coast. FECOP, working with the office

All the fleet did was downsize their boats and buy more of them, so the law

of the president of the Republic, is taking on initiatives to research purse-seine

doesn’t work too well on that level.” He also notes that within the prominent

fisheries over the period of a six-year moratorium that would allow the parallel

Coiba National Park, there are 41 licensed longliners allowed in park waters that

development of a fisheries management plan and an on-board observer program

frequently push in close to a mile from shore.

on the national fleet, including research and development of alternative fishing

On the positive side, the Panama Marine Resource Foundation was formed to work with governmental and private agencies. They have already begun to

gear to reduce bycatch. The program “would focus specifically on billfish and maximize tuna catches by the national fisheries sector that would have access to

institute educational programs on fisheries conservation within the school systems, as well as working with lodges to commit to complete policy on catch and release—not just on all billfish, but on roosterfish and Cubera snapper as well. The biggest obstacle now is the enforcement of the laws already in place. This is one of the many challenges that the new president, Perez Balladares, is facing while continuing to improve the conservation efforts and enforcement in the Republic of Panama. In Costa Rica, conservation efforts have really

tuna, free from competition

The foreign tuna fleet catches 18 times more tuna than the national one, causing serious socioeconomic problems and poverty among thousands of families along the coast.

become part of the fabric of national life. According to

from the international purse-seine fleet, while also reducing their bycatch of billfish. Foreign fleets will not be allowed to enter an area within a 370-nautical-mile limit, which is for the exclusive use of national fishers.” Certainly, over the last 15 years, a shift in policy has changed in Central

Gregg Mufson, owner of the Zancudo Lodge, Golfito, Costa Rica, seems to be

American countries regarding the protection of their fish stocks. Though some

getting ahead of the curve.

fisheries, such as sharks, are still experiencing a severe decline, an awareness

“So far, some conservation efforts that have been passed in Costa Rica are

to make a preemptive stand and protect both bottomfish and billfish is highly

that no shrimp boats are allowed to trawl in Golfito Bay area; no export of billfish

commendable—so long as mechanisms are set in place to ensure compliance and

is allowed out of the country; longliners may not use live baits within 40 miles

enforcement. Only time will tell if Central American fisheries management will be

of the shoreline; and tuna seiners are banned within 40 miles, where 80% of

a model to follow or a lesson to from which to learn.

Saving Sailfish Manoel Jose Cinfuentes Marckwordt BY CA STAFF

Guatemala is a gem in the sport fishing jewel chest known as Central America. It has coastlines on both sides of the continent and the geography of the seafloor on the Pacific side creates a natural gathering place for massive amounts of bait and the predators that chase it. The most prominent of these is the Pacific sailfish. Complete Angler asked Manoel Jose Cinfuentes Marckwordt, representative of Guatemala’s Sailfish Commission, about efforts to protect and promote this amazing natural resource.

a l A m E t a gu ed

CA: What is the current law regarding harvesting of billfish in Guatemala? Is any take allowed by recreational or commercial fishermen? MM: Billfish are reserved only for catch-and release sport fishing. Marketing them is prohibited in the articles of the Fisheries Law and its regulations.

CA: What steps have been taken in recent years to increase protection for billfish? MM: In 2002, by presidential action, we created the National Commission for the Protection of Sailfish. This involves the collaboration of four governmental ministries involved along

64 |

with the Guatemalan Tourism Institute. The Commission was created not just to address conservation from the perspective of enforcing regulations, but by also increasing scientific investigation, raising public awareness of the importance of billfish, developing new conservation programs, coordinating local and international authorities in enforcing the law, and promoting sustainable fishing in alignment with tourism.

CA: What is the economic impact of recreational or tourist fishing compared to commercial fishing? MM: Sportfishing for sailfish in Guatemala generates $5,000 dollars per animal caught, while illegal fishing of this species generates only $15 dollars per animal captured.

CA: To what degree does illegal fishing have an impact on the fishery? MM: Our challenge is with local fishing and especially with demand for dried, salted fish during the season of Lent.

CA: Is there illegal fishing from foreign commercial boats? MM: No. We’re not seeing fishing pressure of this sort because these boats focus on fishing reefs and on tuna. Since our coastline doesn’t support either one, we have avoided this problem.

CA: In what ways does Guatemala work with its neighboring countries or the larger international community on conservation issues? MM: Guatemala encourages conservation of sailfish throughout the region through our affiliation with the Central American Fisheries and Aquaculture Organization (Organización del Sector Pesquero y Acuícola del Istmo Centroamericano, OSPESCA). It promotes the development and the coordinated management of regional fisheries and aquaculture activities in Central America.

CA: What are some of the immediate, practical challenges facing Guatemala’s efforts? MM: We need to develop and promote new techniques and opportunities for artisanal fisheries so they no longer use the sailfish as a source of income. We also need to create a fund to sustain these initiatives.

Guatemala’s Sailfish Commission meets regularly and pools together resources from across the government and the sport fishing community to ensure conservation initiatives are producing real results.

Gear You Didn’t Know You Need GEARHEADS :

If you haven’t noticed yet, the Guy Harvey Magazine staff has a penchant for things BY GHM STAFF that are a little, well...different. Okay, sometimes the stuff we write about is just downright geeky. But that’s okay, because we do work for one of those artistic types. When it comes to new products, this means that, while we love to cover exciting things from the big players in the marine industry, we also appreciate innovative gear that may not be considered mainstream. Maybe it’s from a smaller manufacturer, or it’s an eco-friendly alternative or it’s just plain cool. And, if you didn’t read about it here, you might never see it anywhere else. Fair enough? Here are a few new products for 2015 we think should be on your radar.

Keep Your Line Fine Plenty of fishermen have a love-hate relationship with their spinning reels. They love the ease of casting and having a smooth drag, but they hate dealing with line twist. Nothing’s more frustrating than trying to place a bait in front of a tailing redfish only to have your line hang up in mid cast and fall pitifully short. To cure this plague, Wavespin Reels use a slick, new spool design that automatically handles line loops and twists when casting. The result is no more tangles, and casting distances up to 30% longer than traditional reels. While Wavespin has had a greater presence in the freshwater market, the latest model has been built specifically for saltwater use. A prototype of the new Vison65 was even given to several IGFA anglers, including Jason Schall, who gladly used it, abused it and gave input on needed improvements. The end result is a 65-size reel with enough line capacity (460 yds. of 12-lbs. mono or 50-lbs. braid) to work well as a surf and wadefishing reel as well as a great reel, for tarpon, big reds and all other species of the larger game fish found in saltwater. This new reel is perfect on a boat rod and fills multiple applications, while tipping the scales at just 19 ounces. MSRP $169.95

Fishing Bling

Sonar On a String

Dan Phillips is a man who takes serious pride in his work, and his work is

Although this looks like something you would expect to see in one of those

handcrafting top-shelf lures. Available rigged or plain, Scylla lures come in light-,

gadget-filled catalogs you find in airline seatbacks, we think the iBobber may have

medium- and heavy-tackle sizes for targeting everything from mahi and kingfish

some potential for the shallow water angler. It’s a float that you can tie to a line

to the biggest tuna and marlin. Anglers can choose from a variety of head styles,

and cast into position—useful for kayak fishing or pier fishing. Once in the water

each designed to troll perfectly and create just the right action needed to induce

it activates, using Bluetooth to connect with a Smartphone, tablet or watch up

reel-screaming strikes. Heads are made from water-clear polyurethane and will

to 100 ft. away. Activate the iBobber app and you can plug into all kinds of fishy

not chip or fade. They are matched with high-quality Ocean Lure Concept skirts,

functions. First, it’s a simple sonar that will tell you depth of the water from 3 to

and there are enough colors, patterns, and sparkles involved to impress both

135 ft. It will also identify fish, tell you their depth, and tell you if the fish is under

veteran charter captains and 8-year-old girls who might want to use them as

or over 15 inches in length. Anglers can record locations using a GPS function, and

fashion accessories. Lures Lu are made d in i smallll batches b t h to t maintain i t i the th hi highest h t

record d water t temp t and d weather th conditions, diti and d kkeep it allll iin th the app’s ’ llogbook. b k

standards and customers custome can order directly from the company’s website. When

There’s even a mapping function. Cast the iBobber out, reel it back and it will

you order it, they’ll make ma it.

record the bottom contour, revealing any structure or “hidey holes” where the fish

MSRP $24.99–39.99 $24.99–39.9 www.scyllalures.c

might be—a slick tool for prospecting new territory. MSRP $99.99

Beneteau’s Surprise

M-80 Supercharged Chum. Available in both saltwater and freshwater blends, it’s

Sailors know Beneteau. It’s a 100-plus-year-old, legendary French company with

a dry powder that bypasses the smell and mess of traditional chum, yet, in the

roots in wind-powered crafts and motor yachts. In June 2014, the company

water, it creates a truly potent cocktail. The powder comes in a resealable bag or

deepened its footprint in the powerboat world when they purchased Rec Boat

bucket and very little is required to be effective. It can be sprinkled on the surface

Holdings, owners of Four Winns, Glastron, Wellcraft and Scarab. That made many

or mixed with a small amount of water and formed into a ball to be dropped to

headlines in the boating universe; but perhaps the most intriguing new boat in

the bottom. The chum attracts fish by sight, scent, and taste, and is made with

the bunch is part of the old guard—the new Beneteau Barracuda. It comes in 24

“flavor enhancers” to concentrate fish and trigger a feeding frenzy. It’s a great way

or 27 ft. and has everything, including the kitchen sink.

to attract the big one to the back of the boat or to gather baitfish for catching

Leave it to the French to come up with something completely different. This

with a castnet.

boat has a spacious cabin, a roomy galley, v-berth sleeping for four and twin

MSRP $18.95 (2.5 lbs. bag)

steering stations with one perched on a fly bridge. The hull is sleek and attractive.

There is a stern fishing deck, but it’s a bit cramped—a sacrifice to keep the interior cabin more wife-friendly. The hardcore fisherman may turn up his nose and wander toward the Intrepid

Green, Clean and Mean What do you use to clean your boat? That was the question the owner of Bio

and Contender center consoles, but for weekend family fishing

Green Clean was asking herself as she cruised by dock

trips, the Barracuda offers everything in one floating box. And it

after dock and watched soapsuds spilling into the

gets a 10 for sheer uniqueness.

waterway. She was already selling her 100% plant-derived

MSRP approximately $150k

cleaner for household use, so she started marketing it

to the marine industry. First and foremost, the product

Mix Your Fish a Drink

cleans. (Just Google the video by Ed Schultz of Ed TV as he cleans his airplane.) But the best news is that Bio

You can find the fish, or you can make the fish come to you. The

Green Clean makes things shine without harming the

best option is probably to do both. Many anglers know the value

environment and without chemicals, dyes, perfumes

of using chum to do the latter and attract their target species.

or artificial ingredients. There’s no peroxide, bleach or

The problem is that chum smells like, well, chum. And you usually

ammonia, and it’s hypoallergenic. It might even go well

have to prep it, cut it, freeze it, thaw can be a royal mess. To

with rum—but that’s not highly recommended.

eliminate these hassles, M-80 Marine Products has developed

The company proudly claims that Bio Green Clean is

the most effective, yet safest, all-natural cleaning product ever produced. That’s

Propane Power Goes Bigger

bold, but it seems to be true. When you clean your boat, you might as well use a

The LEHR propane outboard motors have won tons of eco awards for their clean

product that won’t harm the waterway.

burning fuel over the past few years. Now, the company has pumped up the

MSRP $36.95 (1 qt. Concentrate)

volume with a 25hp engine, opening the door for Jon boats and larger skiffs than

the 15hp can handle. While this is big news, the coolest breakthrough is not the

Is This Really Necessary?

fuel but the innovative, internal lithium ion battery. Instead of a heavy, bulky, 12volt lead acid battery (so Neanderthal!), the LEHR has a lightweight (under 2 lbs.)

It’s true that many parents shower their kids with too many toys and, in this case, an

battery hidden under the cowling to electric start the engine. Better yet, lithium

innovative mom wanted her young waterbugs to have a diving board on their small

ion will hold a charge for a year and its life expectancy is twice that of a lead

boat. It just wasn’t enough to leap into the water from the side of the boat. They

battery. LEHR is the only motor on the market to offer this function. The battery

needed springing power for flips, soaring swan dives and the occasional belly flop.

innovation is also available on the 9.9hp and 15hp outboards. This type of high

Enter the Lillipad, the world’s only diving board for boats, which begs the

technology comes with a high price.

question: is this really necessary? It does seem a bit excessive, but credit has to

MSRP $4,295.00 (25hp with battery)

be given to the sleek, innovative and award-winning design that absorbs the

downward force from the diver and doesn’t rock the boat. Because everyone knows that rocking the boat is a highly overused expression. If you’ve run out of toys for your boys and/or girls, the Lillipad looks like it’s a fun, cool and unique investment for your boat.

Water, Water Everywhere Folks know Hooker Electric for their mac-daddy electric fishing reels. Well, the company has just introduced a new pump based on their already-proven electric

MSRP $1,295.00

motor technology. It measures 4x4x6 in. and delivers 4500 GPH at 6 ft. of head

pressure to run large live bait wells. It’s completely submersible and water-cooled, and no water box is needed. It’s also variable flow, controlled either by a turn pot like the ones used on Hooker’s electric reels or using a push-button switch. The turn pot gives unlimited variation as it adjusts motor speed as you turn the dial. The pushbutton switch changes between three different speed settings (low, mid and high). The pump is built to last, with a shaft made of titanium, an internal body of 6061 aluminum and a solid PVC housing—all designed with electrolysis in mind. The pump runs on 12v DC and draws a maximum of 22 amps. There’s a 2" npt inlet and a 1½" npt outlet. If needed, Hooker offers a manifold that will distribute water to multiple areas. MSRP $749

guatEmAla ed

upwelling of b m ke Gu tem ’s co s ce for big P cific s


If Guatemala is on your fishing radar, you know it is nestled into the narrow strip of land connecting the two American continents. Bordering Mexico and Belize to the north, and Honduras and El Salvador to the south, it boasts beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts. It also has a reputation as home to perhaps the greatest Pacific sailfishing grounds on the planet. I’ve always been curious about Guatemala’s fishing scene, and when a recent invitation presented itself, I booked a trip to find out for myself if the hype was real. This is an increasingly popular destination for U.S. anglers and I wanted to get a feel for everything from the accommodations to the government’s billfish management work to the vibe of the local fishing community. Fortunately, I speak Spanish, and I was hoping to get the “untranslated” version of what’s happening with the fishery.

guatEmAla ed

The interminable astonishment of La Antigua, Guatemala—La Iglesia de San Pedro Apóstol (Church of Saint Peter the Apostle).

Flying into Guatemala City, the nation’s namesake capital, I was greeted by my

postcards or newscasts like to make it. Still, I found that the Guatemala you

guide, Norman Raxon. We exchanged pleasantries and quickly developed a good

see from the inside, once you walk the streets and meet the people, is a very

camaraderie. Raxon was easy-going and obviously adept at making newcomers

hospitable place. The way I was received everywhere—even by total strangers,

feel at home. After just a short time with him, I realized that at least some of my

not part of the tourist trade—was refreshingly, overwhelmingly friendly.

trip would feel more like a wine tasting than investigative journalism. That’s not to

After the tour, my schedule called for a power lunch—a meeting with the

say there aren’t real issues to understand—such as how serious and effective the

Guatemala Sailfish Commission. I was glad, too, because I hoped it would answer

government is about its fishing policies—but policies but if the fishing was as good as I had

some of the basic questions about the fishery. Present were both top Guatemalan

heard, I might be swirling and sniffing the glass and deciding in what subtle ways

officials and leaders from the sportfishing community. The key element of the

it was different than something equally grand, like chasing exotic fish with a fly

Guatemala Sailfish Commission consists of Niels Erichsen, owner of Pacific

rod in the Amazon.

Fins, Brenda Zaldana, marketing director for Guatemala’s tourism department

First on the agenda was a quick driving tour through the city, and it gave

(INGUAT), and representatives from the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and

me a first visual experience of the country. I was struck by the contrasts. There

Food, Department of Defense, Department of Natural Resources, Department of

were both modern buildings and old ruins, and a collection of ancient Mayan

the Interior and Department of Social Services.

sculptures and other artifacts. Later in the week, I would see more of this diversity

Through our discussions, I found out that Guatemala has been working for

in the landscape. Vivid colors, lush vegetation, volcanoes rising into the sky, and a

more than a decade to promote its sailfish fishery. In 2002, the country made

mix of Mayan and colonial influences in the architecture all gave me a sense of the

headlines for enacting into law the protection of the sailfish, and the Commission

cultural and ecological richness of Guatemala.

has developed numerous programs to support this goal. They have worked to

In many ways, these views fit the postcard-perfect images travelers see

raise public awareness of the importance of billfish, increase scientific research on

in tourism department ads, but it struck me that it’s not what I expected.

the species and the fishery, and to combat illegal fishing—a huge task throughout

Subconsciously, I had a dimmer view of the country taken from the daily news

the region.

cycle. But, like nearly every destination, the reality is more complex than either

At the meeting, I also connected with Julio Mansylla, a legend in the local

fishing community and a key member of the Commission. I immediately

the marina, the resort has a new lodge, extremely comfortable accommodations

recognized him as an old salt, and he helps to bring a very real world, fisherman’s

and some of the best sport fishing boats in the country, each manned by proven

view to the government’s work.

blue water captains.

“Do you mind if I go out one of the fishing days with you to talk more about our plans about the fishery?” he asked.

After a quick breakfast, I took a short ride to Marina Pez Vela. Waiting for me was a 31-ft. Bertram by the name of Piragua. It’s a boat well known in the tournament circuit, and I’d started thinking about catching my first Pacific sail. The high

Mahi on board means fresh ceviche

season for sailfishing is November through

and homemade tacos.

the latter part of May. But even though it was late September, I knew that Guatemala could put up a historic day of fishing anytime of the year. We cruised out of the harbor for the 30mile ride out, and I was able to sit and soak in the view off the back of the boat—a sheer volcano rising up off the coast. Fishing would mean finding where the bait was concentrated—and some days that can be as close as 15 miles—but our captain was up-to-date on the reports coming in from the charter fleet and we would have to make a farther run. As we headed out, things got bumpy. The waters in this area are typically calm, but Mother Nature saw fit to throw some 4–6-footers our way. Still, I was feeling confident and declared it to be “marlin weather.” I got some skeptical looks and a friendly chuckle from the crew. In Guatemala, dead ballyhoo is the bait of choice for sails, with one teaser in each side of the boat and a rigged mackerel in case “the man in the blue suit” shows up. I was glad to see circle hooks on the rigs and learned that the local fleet advocates their use.

I readily accepted. I really wanted to get some first-hand experience on the

After an hour’s ride out, we put the lines in the water and started to work.

water with the local fishing experts. And I had a hunch that Julio’s presence would

“Marlin, marlin!” yelled the captain. I quickly opened the bait cooler and grabbed

be a great bonus come fishing time. I have a policy never to turn down local

the mackerel. I positioned the bait just in front of its bill and let him eat. This is a

knowledge when I can get it.

time when everything must go right, because there is no guarantee a marlin will

I spent the night in nearby Antigua, a city many consider the most beautiful

stick around if it gets spooked. With my thumb holding the line in free spool, I

in Central America. It is filled with colonial-era mansions with brass knockers and

made sure he ate the bait. As I felt my thumb start to burn, I positioned the reel

elaborate cedar wood window grilles, carved hundreds of years ago. The Hotel

lever on strike.

Camino Real—one of many boutique hotels throughout the city—turned out to be a smart choice for unwinding after a long day of travel. Up early the next morning, it was time to head down to the coast and Puerto San Jose, home to the legendary Casa Vieja Lodge. Located less than a mile from

Bam! He was hooked. But he decided to hang close to the boat, and I made fast time in pulling him close to the transom to get a clean release. As the mate grabbed the leader, the fish just went bonkers and put on a show for us to see. The estimated 350-lb. blue marlin gave me a nice fight for over 30 minutes until we

guatEmAla ed

P cific Fins Pacific Fins guests are truly pampered. Accommodations include four beautiful, air-conditioned villas, which offer two bedrooms with two queen beds and two bathrooms. A very comfortable central lounge area features a flat screen TV with SKY satellite service. And there is a bar for relaxing after a long day on the water. Local chefs prepare dishes from an á la carte menu for gourmet dining.

Pacific Fins allows guests to pamper themselves by the pool or in comfortable, elegant villas.

A Pacific sail puts on a brilliant show. Photo: Casa Vieja Lodge.

got it close to the boat again. This time, it broke off as the deckhand grabbed the

their guests. It’s always good to see business interests cooperating for the greater

leader—one more marlin for my résumé.

good of the sport.

After our action-packed marlin show, we regrouped and started trolling

On my second day, I arrived at the marina to be welcomed by a 32-ft. Blackfin,

again. This time, I had a chance for a little breather and sat down to talk with

Maverick—one of several boats run by Pacific Fins. The seas had not improved

Julio. I couldn’t help but notice the passion he has, both for the sport and for his

from the first day, but we arrived at the fishing grounds and it looked like we were

country’s fishery. One of his ambitions is to create a no-take billfish zone, 50 miles

the only boat around. I still hadn’t caught my first Pacific sailfish, and so that was

by 100 miles off the coast of Guatemala.

high on my agenda. We began our troll and not long after, the captain yelled,

The conversation was cut short, however. Not long after we started to troll, we had our first sailfish on the teaser, and another angler on our boat soon had his first-ever Pacific sail on the line. There is no denying that the Pacific sailfish is much

“Marlin on the teaser.” The first excitement had come early, but unfortunately, this marlin didn’t stick around too long. Before I knew it, one of the rods started to scream again and it was a dorado.

larger than its Atlantic cousin. Beautiful colors shot across its body as it put on an

Like the day before, this tasty fish filled the void in-between the billfish action.

aerial display.

Fresh mahi on board called for Maverick’s deckhand to serve us some fresh,

The fishery is certainly unique in this area. Researchers have conducted studies on the billfish off the coast of Guatemala and concluded it might be the largest known feeding grounds for Pacific sailfish. Strong currents coming west

homemade tacos with a side order of chips and guacamole and a jumbo shrimp cocktail. Not a bad way to pass the time. With a bit of green water in our area, the captain decided to run a little further

to east from the Mexican coast turn back after hitting the coast of El Salvador

offshore in hopes of finding better conditions. After we found cleaner water, it

and create an enormous, naturally occurring eddy around the San Jose trench,

didn’t take long for the action to start up again. “Sailfish on the starboard rod!”

also known as “The Pocket,” which pushes up bait that pelagic predators just

shouted the captain. Those were the words I’d been waiting to hear.

can’t resist. After a bumpy, but otherwise great day of fishing, I was looking forward to a nice dinner. I was able to meet up with Kristen and David Salazar, owners of Casa Vieja, and Niels Erichsen, owner of Pacific Fins, host of the night’s gathering. It was

Instantly, I was hooked up. It was an incredible sight to see a massive sailfish greyhound in the distance. By the time the fish reached the transom, I was pumped up and let out an emphatic “Yes!” to punctuate my small victory. The crew all had their game faces on and we put out the ballyhoo spread.

obvious they were all interested in showing off their slice of paradise and their

The captain kept circling the area for more bites. “Marlin on the teaser!” he yelled

properties, but it was also pretty clear they have a vested interest in the fishery

again. The mate grabbed a mackerel, but I saw two blues, one in the starboard

and actively promote conservation issues, both with the government and with

teaser and one on the port.

guatEmAla ed It was coordinated chaos, but as soon as the mate pitched to one of them, Bam! Fish on! As one of the other anglers started to reel in the line, it went slack, but the second marlin suddenly grabbed the bait and made a run. And it wasn’t long until we had another blue at the boat. Despite the rough weather, in two days, our boats were four for nine on sails, had raised five marlin, released two, and caught plenty of dorado ranging from 15-20 lbs. Not bad, considering this is considered Guatemala’s “slow” season. It was time to leave the coast and I rounded off the trip with a stay at Hotel Mansión de la Luz back in Antigua. Like all the boutique hotels in town, it was in walking distance to local shopping and attractions and I was able to pick up a few souvenirs. Mansión de la Luz is beautiful, and the owner provided great personal service. It has an open courtyard to enjoy the cool weather and a nice view of the volcano, Volcan de Agua. My host was even gracious enough to cook up some of my fresh catch. Having seen it for myself, I can say Guatemala’s incredible fishery is for real. It’s evident that the government realizes the great resource they have, and that catch and release fishing and the tourism it provides is a real boost to their economy. There is always more work to do and good intentions do not always become good policy. It will be interesting to see if Julio’s idea of a no-take zone will become reality. But, as it stands, the authorities, resort owners and fishing captains are all finding common ground and making progress in their conservation efforts. If this continues, Guatemala’s reputation as the go-to destination for Pacific sailfish should be safe for a long time to come. Special thanks to Brenda Zaldana, Kristen Salazar, David Salazar, Niels Erichsen and Norman Raxon.

Top: Ozzy, bringin’ them in. Bottom: The Pacific Fins charter fleet offers numerous boats, all with experienced crews. Opposite: Delgado’s first Pacific sail, ready to be released.



What makes food extreme? Is it using exotic ingredients? Or cooking under outrageous conditions? Chef Terry French is accomplished at both. A selfstyled culinary bad boy, he has blazed a unique trail to being a celebrity chef. Before graduating from Scottsdale Culinary Institute, he served two world tours in the U.S. Navy, spent nine years as a tournament fisherman, nine years as first mate on a sportfishing boat, and earned his captain’s license to boot. As a chef, it’s cooking outdoors and in adverse conditions that really gets the

always trying to prepare

creative juices flowing for French. His years spent outdoors, which began even as

for the unexpected. But

a child hunting and fishing with his dad, have forged tough mental attitude and

he also carries a deeper

innate resourcefulness. As long as he has fuel, materials and fresh ingredients,

appreciation for the

he says he is happy to cook anything, anywhere, anytime. That claim was put

seafood he prepares.

to the test in 2012 when he entered and won the Food Network’s Extreme

Chef Terry French | World Extreme Chef

“I have a real

Chef competition. In the final episode, French found himself atop an elephant

respect for the environment and the sustainable development of our oceans

navigating the remote jungles in Thailand, then racing up hundreds of stairs to a

and waterways,” says French. “The fish that I catch are treated with respect and

Buddhist temple. He wowed the judges with his “perfect bite,” and earned the title,

reverence. I’m taking a life that is meaningful and beautiful and I handle it that

World Extreme Chef.

way from start to finish.”

Today, Terry splits his time between the road participating in special events

Of course, it’s obvious that when French speaks of “respect,” part of what he

and cooking at Tavolino Della Notte in Coral Springs, Florida. But regardless of his

means is creating incredible flavors worthy of the fish that’s been caught. When

locale, he seems to be always on the move, looking for another event, adventure

asked what he likes to eat after a long day on the water, the answer comes easily.

or culinary challenge. Through the years, he has prepared meals in the most unlikely places and using whatever methods were available. “I’ve cooked fish on hot rocks over bamboo and over coconuts. I’ve smoked fish in palm leaves and even steamed it in bags by the heat of the sun. Every situation is different, but even if you can’t find a heat source to cook with, “there’s always sashimi,” he says with a grin. “That works, too!” Having a background as a fishing pro has also influenced French’s approach

“There are a couple definites on my list. I’m after French onion soup to restore my electrolytes. And I like to pair that with a great piece of fish simmered in coconut milk curry and fresh hot chili’s with lime. Of course, a tall glass of rum over ice is also a must—simple, plain and comforting.” These days, Chef French is spending a little less time fishing and little more time cheffing. When he’s not globe trotting as an ambassador for brands such as Gunter Whilhelm and Chef Works, he’s participating in special events or working

in the kitchen. Practically, he says being a captain and being a chef carry a similar

with his nonprofit organization, Chefs for Life. But the wilds are always calling, and

responsibility, as you’re always looking out for the welfare of your team and you’re

remain his inspiration for creating extreme eats.

Snapper Grille with dipping sauce Whole snapper, scaled and cleaned (one 3–5 lb. fish or two 1-1/2 lb. fish) Coconut oil, for brushing Salt and pepper Big handful of fresh herbs cilantro or basil 2 lemons/limes or 1 orange 3-in. section of fresh ginger, sliced thinly Additional lemon or lime wedges for the table


fish is done when it flakes easily at the thickest part

dish onto, something to keep the dish off the bottom

of the fish.

of the pot and the water. Put some water into the pot,

To make the dipping sauce, heat a small sauce

cover with a lid and bring to a boil over a high heat. If

1/2 t brown sugar

pot over medium-high heat. Add the cooking oil, and

you choose to serve this dish with rice, now is a good

2 T coconut oil

when hot, add the garlic and the chili peppers. Cook

time to start cooking that as well.

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

for 30 seconds. Add the soy sauce, fish sauce and

1/2 to 1 fresh chili pepper, sliced thinly

sugar and let cook for another 15 seconds. Serve the

fish. Place the fish into a shallow, heatproof dish that

(depends on your heat preference)

sauce with lemon/lime wedges with the fish.

will fit into the steamer. Pour the soy sauce, oil and

1/2 cup soy sauce 2 t fish sauce

Preparation Pre-heat your outdoor grill. Clean the fish inside

Make two diagonal slits onto both sides of the

ginger over the fish, rubbing it onto both sides and

Whole steamed snapper with spring onion

into the belly. Sprinkle the white pepper over the fish. Put the dish into the steamer that’s already come to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down to medium. You want a medium rolling simmer of steam as

and out, and pat very dry. Cut 3 to 4 vertical slashes

1 lb. whole snapper fish

opposed to a furious boil. Steam for 10 to 12 minutes.

to the bone on each side of the fish. Brush the fish

4 T light soy sauce

Resist lifting the lid before the first 10 minutes. The

inside and out with coconut oil. Season the fish with

4 T coconut oil (or grapeseed)

flesh should be white and easily come away from

salt and pepper inside and out. Stuff with the fresh

white pepper (fresh)

the bone. Be careful not to overcook the fish though.

herbs, citrus slices and ginger slices, both inside the

1 bunch spring onions (thinly sliced)

After 10 minutes time, sprinkle the spring onions

fish and tuck them inside the slashes. Place the fish

over the fish, cover and steam another minute just

inside a fish grill basket and close the basket. Grill for


to soften the spring onions. Present whole and serve

6–8 minutes on direct heat (covered) then flip the

Set up a wok or a pot wide enough to use as a

with rice.

basket and grill another 6–8 minutes (covered). The

steamer. You’ll need a trivet or a rack to put the fish


HOOKED ON MULLET I hate to admit it, but I’ve been fishing in the Gulf of Mexico

Robert would wheeze out, “What did Fred say?”

for more than 350 dog years, better known in human

My dad would lie right through his tobacco-stained

terms as a half century. By now, you’d think I’d have learned everything about catching Gulf fish. But, as a wise man once said, “The more you know, the more you realize how much

“Okay,” Robert would say. “I’ll go, too.” He was sneaky old dude, but we were young and

you don’t know.” Actually, I just made that up. But, you know

gullible, so I can’t give him too much credit. Soon we’d be

what I mean.

in the boat zipping across the bay as the orange orb rose

Some of my first recollections in life were of my father dragging me out of bed before sunrise to go fishing. There’d be four or five of us sub-teens and teens with just

above the pine trees. His trick worked for decades. Like I said, dumb runs in the family. This back-story is meant to explain that one fish I’ve

swim trunks and maybe a T-shirt. No shoes, no sunscreen,

never caught in the Gulf of Mexico is a mullet. Oh, I’ve

no water, no food—just fishing until 10 o’clock in the

tossed a cast net over many a mullet and snagged them in

morning for bluefish, Spanish mackerel and the occasional king mackerel

…When I reeled it in close, I realized I’d caught my first ever mullet on a hook and line.


or bonita. Of course, we

For the past 25 years, Fred D.

all hated bonita because

Garth’s articles have appeared in

they fought like a world-

numerous books, magazines and

record king but were

newspapers around the world.

inedible. Catching bonita

Read his blog at:

was our early lesson in life’s disappointments.

teeth. “Fred said he wanted to go.”

As I grew into teenhood, when sleeping late became more important than eating or breathing, my dad began

gill nets before those were outlawed. I even skewered a few mullet with a pole spear once and impressed a girl so much that she married me. I’m sure it was the mullet-spearing that hooked her. Or maybe that

I brought the fish onto the boat, cleaned them and grilled them right on the spot for her. But, in all those years, I’ve never caught a mullet on a

pulling a trick on me that he’d used on my five older

rod and reel. The only time I’ve ever seen one caught on a

brothers. None of us ever caught on. We’re not a very bright

hook and line was years ago when some local folks were

family. Rusty hooks in the tackle box, so to speak. Anyway,

using worms and tiny hooks that the mullet would suck in.

he’d slip in a 5am and blow a puff of cheap Dutch Master’s

They also caught ’em on a balled up piece of bread. We were

cigar smoke in my face. It’s a gnarly alarm clock, but quite

always told that their mouth was too small to bite a hook.

effective. Then he’d lean over and whisper, “Ya wanna

Au contraire, mon frere. A full-grown mullet’s mouth

go fishing?” I’d pull the sheet over my head and say, “Ask

is plenty big enough for a hook, as I found out this past

Robert.” (My cousin, who was sleeping three feet away.) My

December. I was on my semi-regular morning jog on the

dad would step over to the other single bed—more of an

white sandy shores of Perdido Key when I noticed pelicans

army cot really—and hit Robert with the death cloud.

crashing into a dark circle of fish about 100 feet in diameter.

“Y’all wanna go fishing?” he’d ask.

The water was crystal-clear and the school of fish was close

enough for me to shore cast. Considering I was running anyway, I picked up the pace and jogged directly home for my fishing rod. Well, rods. I wasn’t sure what species they were, but I kinda figured they were Spanish mackerel or bluefish, so I grabbed a lightweight spinning rod and tied on a red-beaded Clarkspoon. I have learned that the Clarkspoon is the most reliable lure ever for Gulf fishing. I also brought my 6-wt. fly rod with a chartreuse Clouser minnow and a topwater popper. When I caught the first fish, it fought like a blue, and even looked like one in the water. But, when I reeled it in close, I realized I’d caught my first ever mullet on a hook and line. I tossed the spoon again and caught a fatter one, which I figured HAD to be a bluefish. But, low and behold, it was another mullet. That one was obviously a female because her belly was bulging out with roe. In 30 minutes, I’d gone from jogging—which I rank on my “Enjoyment Scale” somewhere between stepping on a rusty nail and hitting my fingernail with a hammer—to an absolutely beautiful fishing experience. I was wading in three feet of clear water, walking among this giant school of fish and just having a blast. The fact that I was supposed to be at work just heightened my bliss. I switched to the fly rod but couldn’t sell the Clouser minnow to the mullet. Then I noticed that the fish were striking the surface, so I tied on the topwater popper fly, thinking there was NO WAY in hell a mullet would hit a topwater lure. To my teenage-girl-like, giddy delight, I got crashed on my first cast. The dang mullet loved that topwater popper. They fought the good fight and spit the hook a few times, but I won the battle plenty of times, and landed enough for breakfast. When I got home, I cleaned them and cooked them on the spot for the same woman I impressed with my mullet-spearing prowess 30 years before. Thank goodness, she still loves eating freshly caught mullet, and I’m pretty sure she still loves me, too. Of course, if she had to choose between the two, it’s probably a toss-up.

Photo: Greg Riegler.

Let’s see how many lionfish we can remove from Florida waters in one weekend Don’t miss the first annual

May 16–17 10am–5pm Plaza de Luna, Pensacola


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Lionfish Tastings Fillet Demonstrations Family Activities Celebrity Chefs Raffles & Prizes Over 40 Vendors

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