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Gray’s Fish Tag Research Gets Boost with Billfish Bonanza

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We wondered whether the blue marlin being caught well-offshore in the rainy season was the same body of fish that we were seeing well-inshore in the December/January month. So we designed a billfish study to answer the question. When first inquiring into the subject, many people agreed this was a hot-point question, and we should try to study this together.

The first mention of this work was to Will Drost from Maverick out of Los Sueños Marina. Will had mentioned that his new 50-footer would be ready soon and that he wanted to buy a Sat Tag. He’d go to the seamounts to deploy it with our team and try to answer this question with us. Within a week, Will sent the funds, and we ordered the tag. Once our friend and Board member, Dick Tanner, heard about this program, he immediately said, “I want to buy the second tag and get involved.” Throughout the high season, we anxiously awaited the time to go. There was a lot of communication over which date to pick, and we decided on July 25, 2019.

During the Los Sueños tournament, we shared with Miss Ashley and Eduardo Lizano the plans for the upcoming season. Bill Royster and his team said they wanted to be a part of this work, and they also bought a tag. We were now set to deploy three Psat tags on Blue Marlin and wondered how this would be possible; would it take one day? Two days? Three days?

While we planned this adventure, so many people (board members and sponsors) wanted to know if they could come and be a part of the study, catch these fish, and help deploy the tags as well.

The concept and model for this study resulted in the most-amazing, cooperative fish-tagging study ever. We are happy to share this story with you. We are also so thankful for all who took part in making this study a reality. I have always believed in having people who pay to support us enjoy the work we do along with us.

So, we asked the team led by John Brownlee: how can we catch three blues to tag? How can we include a large group to go? How can we make this a reality and share with the world this potentially great expedition? John and the team at Maverick went to work on the idea. They came up with a plan, but we were not sure if it would work. The guys offered us two great boats for an overnight trip to the 80-mile seamount. We were able to invite up to twelve guests.

If we covered the hard expenses of the trip, the cost of the boats and crew were on them! In response to so many interested parties, we hopped on the phone, and in a few hours the boats were full, and we were booking flights.

All throughout last season, so many people expressed a desire to join us. However, we have never seen so much interest and commitment from so many.

When we arrived in Costa Rica, the adventure began with a blast. Justin Poe from Accurate Fishing Reels was the first to arrive, and he planned a surprise welcome dinner at the home of Christian Bolanos (Gray Taxidermy Area Rep to Costa Rica) for all of us. He brought a ten-pound rib eye and was waiting for the first group to get in. Stu Webber and Marlon Jacobs (CR Primo sponsor) and Alex Henry (Southernmost Apparel Sponsor) joined us for dinner. We had a great time prepping tackle and telling stories of what we may expect from the upcoming trip. The excitement was great as we awaited the rest of the team to get in over the next 24 hours. Stu is a five-star chef in California and had no problem doing his thing with the US beef. He became the go-to guy for the food.

The crowd buzzed with a single unanswered question. What are the chances we can catch three healthy Blue Marlin in one day? We all felt this was a high bar, but we believed in the guys who do this every day once again. Carter Takacs (Board Member) from Marina Pez Vela was also coming and was in constant contact awaiting the trip as we planned to get offshore. Tracy Ehrenberg (Board Member and Research Center in Cabo) had committed that she was sending Rebecca from Cabo to take part because she believes so much in the work we are all doing.

July 24th at 4 p.m. we all came together at the Maverick Center in Los Suenos for a meet and greet. We shot a video with the crew of both boats and prepped for a 9 p.m. departure offshore 80 miles. We climbed aboard our allocated boats and fell asleep as we chugged 10 knots offshore all night. The mates were prepping rigs, and the excitement filled the room. Our crew was Capt. Carlos Espinoza (Pollo), on boat #1 the 50 ft Sea Fly (donated by Will Drost) the First mate was the infamous Jose Zuniga (Poncho) and second mate Esteban Gonzalez (Gallo). These guys are top in their game, and we were pumped.

The second boat was the Geaux Fly (a donation from Mitch Drost) with David Messen serving as captain and Dempsy Avila, Eduardo Espinosa (Macho) and Christian (Chimpa) as crew.

The expedition was finally happening, and we were steaming to the unknown area where the stories have all been coming from. At 4:30 a.m. I was the first one awake and was soon Pollo and Poncho were ready. At 5 a.m., we proceeded to deploy bait rigs and awaited the sun to rise. This was in absolutely flat calm waters nearly 100 miles from land. I assisted Poncho in the bait catching project while he deployed the spread of lures and bait.

We got to enjoy about five minutes of quiet before all hell broke loose. Poncho and I were the only two awake at the time. We had two monster Blue Marlin bites and managed to catch and release one of the two before 5:30 a.m. While we were screaming and yelling the entire team woke up and Alex Henry caught the first blue of the day. Amazingly, on the Sea Fly, we managed to get approximately 16 Blue Marlin bites. By 1 pm we had caught 12!

We were able to tease one up and hook it on a fly, and the countless stories continue from boat one. Our entire team on Sea Fly all managed to catch marlins. Carter Takacs had two, Rebecca had three, Alex had three, Gallo caught three, and I caught four.

The Geaux Fly (boat #2) had similar results as the Sea Fly, with a Grand Slam mixed in on their boat. They caught a blue, sailfish and striped marlin in one pass and tagged them all with GFR green tags. We were able to deploy two Sat tags aboard the Sea Fly and one aboard the Geaux Fly. We finished all of the tagging by 11 a.m.

These sat tags are for a six-month duration. We will anxiously await the release of the tags and the data to come back to us. We expect some great information on an as-yet untold story. We will share it with all of you as soon as it becomes available.

The fishing was epic, the people were exceptional, the crew on each boat was like no other. The boats were first class, and the experience was one that I will never forget. Our entire team expressed that they had the best fishing trip of their life and they are ready to return. The fishermen running these boats said: “We are family Bill,” “We had the best time ever”, and “We are very interested in the tagging results”. This camaraderie was great, and we are so thankful to all of you who made this work possible.

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