Sharkland Gillnetting, Days 1-3
written by Janet Stalker
Finally our first night of fishing in Sharkland. Needless to say the lab has been buzzing with excitement and anticipation for tonight. After inspecting the newly built pens one last time to make sure there were no holes or gaps, the gear was checked and we were ready to go. The boats set out around 6PM with a full crew for the busy night ahead. Shortly after the nets were set sharks started coming fast and furious. It was a wild and busy night indeed with the final catch exceeding 70 sharks! The leading team as expected was Net 3, which caught a total of 39 sharks in the 12 hours. With that much action it can get quite hectic, with several sharks in the net at once.
Luckily we knew from past experience that Net 3 would be the busiest, so put some extra, well experienced people on that team. This contributed to the overall success of the night. The tagging boat receives the sharks from the nets and does a biological workup on each one including tagging, measuring, taking a DNA sample and if needed, injecting a PIT tag under the dorsal fin. They were completely inundated with sharks throughout the night and literally overwhelmed.
In the end a very tired but excited team made their way home at dawn after successfully catching and tagging 71 juvenile lemon sharks, a new PIT record for catches in one night.
Tonight will be the second night of fishing in Sharkland, and with the results of last nights record breaking 71 sharks, expectations are running high. The day was spent mostly relaxing and cleaning up around the lab, so everyone is excited to get back out in the field. The Sharkland nursery is more open to the ocean so larger sharks (some over 105 cm) tend to be caught here. Thus interest has shifted from which net can catch the most sharks, to which net can catch the biggest one. Last night the biggest shark caught was just over a meter in length, which will be hard to top.
This session will be the last night of fishing in Sharkland for a few days, because the tides will be extreme on the new moon. We will thus begin long line fishing for several days. The final tally for the away crew last night was 17 juvenile lemon sharks, which was enough to keep a steady flow to the tagging boat through the night. Along with the 17 juvenile lemons a couple nets also caught nurse sharks which are not tagged by the lab, but are just released to carry on their way. By the time the away crew got to bed the home crew was waking and preparing to set the five long lines (75 hooks), which went out around 3PM. Nothing was caught during the set or at the 9:30PM check which was somewhat disappointing. However the chances are better to catch a big one during the night when sharks tend to be more active so everyone is still looking forward to hearing the results of tonight’s checks.