[Saturday, October 9, 2010]
It was a great feeling to finally get back on the water with the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation program and begin another great season of shark trips! Even though I have been with the program for a year now, I still get a jittery feeling while driving down the Overseas Highway knowing that there could be big sharks in the vastness of water surrounding me. It was also great seeing all the other interns and catching up with them. Luckily today we had a new school with us, Troy Academy, so there was a new buzz of excitement about what the trip would entail for them. We also had a special guest on the boat with us this weekend- our lucky charm Sophi!! With the combination of Sophi and a new school, we were bound to have a successful day bringing up some ginormous sharks!
Trying to get the students involved took some persuasion aka some interns (don’t worry, you guys will remain nameless…) kissing the bait and playing with it, but they were quick to jump up at the opportunity to bait the hooks and put out the drumlines. Once the drumlines were in the water, the infamous “10 DRUMLINES IN THE WATER” chant was said and then, of course, it was time for something we all look forward too- lunch!
Almost ready for the pick-up, we had Sophi lead us in a shark “meditation” which includes calling out to our favorite sharks-lemons, bulls and hammerheads! When we got to the first drumline and brought it up, we noticed the hook timer had popped (meaning that something was on the line) and sure enough we had our first shark of the day- a male blacktip that was 145 cm in total length. The students were quick to work on getting all the samples and before we knew it, the shark was in good conditions swimming back in the water and the drumline rebaited. Hoping that this was a sign of more sharks to come, we got to the second drumline and noticed its hook timer was also popped. Could we go two for two? You bet we could, this time bringing up a female blacktip that was 156 cm in total length. The good fortune continued as the third drumline held a female blacknose, the smallest of the day’s catches whose length was around 116 cm. Although we were going three for three and riding high with excitement, the fourth and fifth drumlines did not bring anything. But we did find some algae that Austin had fun with….
Feeling a bit down after nothing in the second set, we got a bit of a pick me up in the form of some awesome shark cookies thanks to Sophi (they were absolutely delicious…keep up the good work Sophi!!) And the cookies and our good luck charm did not disappoint us. On the final drumline of the third set, we were able to get the largest catch of the day, a feisty female lemon that was 215 cm in length! We were able to get all our samples and released her in excellent condition. The fourth and final set brought us our final shark of the day, a 144 cm long male blacktip.
I would say that overall it was a great day to be out on the water. The conditions were perfect, sharks were caught, new students got to experience our trips, and we were graced with the presence of the one and only shark-saving seven-year-old, Sophi! It was a great way to start the season and hopefully more amazing trips to come!
Julia Lampe (Shark Intern)