July 13, 2010
I usually do not like morning radio shows. Seriously, I just want some music to keep me awake on my drive to the Keys. However, this morning was different. One of the radio stations was reading horoscopes. When they got to mine, Aries, they predicted a day full of adventure and ranked it a 10. I am not usually one to buy into all of that, but take luck where I can get it on days on the water with the shark team. When I arrived at the Keys Marine Lab to set up for the next four days I shared news of my good fortune with Fiona, another shark intern on the trip. I then found out Fiona is a Scorpio, the only other horoscope with a 10 day. We expected nothing less than an exceptionally awesome day out on the water.
We loaded the gear, ran through the checklist and headed out on the water. Even at 9:00am the sun was beating down intensely and there was no breeze to speak of to cool things down. Getting the boat moving and “turning on the air conditioning” was welcomed even more than usual. We had students from the always-wonderful South Broward High School helping out for the day. Many of them had been out with us before so setting out all 10 drumlines, 4 baitcages, 3 fishtraps and reading water quality data from the YSI was a fairly quick process.
As we moved away from our lines to allow them to soak in peace, the crystal clear waters of Florida Bay called out to us. Although this point of the day is usually lunchtime, most of us were hot and sweaty so opted to delay eating to go for a swim. The still, hot air made even the lukewarm seawater very refreshing.
As we headed back to our lines, Fiona and I reminded everyone we were supposed to be having “10” days and that our catch expectations were high. The kids shared in our enthusiasm and, with Dom’s fabulous cheerleading, began cheers for hammerheads, tigers and bulls.
The first shark on the line was a large nurse shark. Although these animals are typically docile when you run into them on a snorkel or a dive, when you get them on a line they are quite frisky. To make things less stressful on the animals and on us, Captain Curt threw on a mask and fins and got in the water to collect the data once the “business end” of the shark was secure. We sampled several more nurse sharks throughout the day, each one seemingly larger than the previous, topping the charts for the day at eight feet.
It was at line number six that the day took an incredible turn. Captain Curt later told us he was pretty sure he knew what was on the line when he hooked the buoy from the bow. However, he said he didn’t let on because he didn’t want to get our hopes up, just in case. Luckily, he was right! As we pulled in the line the beautiful and unmistakable coloration of a tiger shark approached the surface. He lay fairly still, almost as though he were posing for us, until he got to the side of the boat. It was then that he showed us the incredible power of his species and proved to be tough to wrangle onto the boat. After the data was collected, the 215 cm (7 foot) shark was released in wonderful condition leaving behind only minor shark burn on Dom’s legs and arms. Although a prime target species for one of our SPOT satellite tags, he was just slightly too small to place one. Nonetheless, absolutely the highlight of the day!
The lines started coming in quickly as a couple of South Broward guys, self-named “Team Awesome,” made it their mission to accomplish everything not only quickly, but efficiently as well. They, along with their classmates, pulled in six more sharks for a total of 10 for the day. That is a 50% catch rate, which is basically unheard of! Way to go! Guess that explains Fiona’s and my 10 day! The stars were definitely aligned in our favor!
Thank you to our interns and crew and of course to the students from South Broward. Oh, and thank you to Fiona’s and my parents for ensuring our birthdays fell during the right zodiac.
Until next time,
Rachael Kraemer (Shark Intern)