Gray FishTag Research Symposium 2018

gray fishtag researchApproximately 40 Gray FishTag Research Scientific Advisory Board Members, GFR Marketing Partners, scientists, marine researchers, hotel owners, fleet owners, captains, publishers, members of the press and staff were on hand when Bill Dobbelaer, President of Gray Fishtag Research, Inc., (GFR) opened the 4th Annual Gray FishTag Research Symposium on Dec. 7 at the Lighthouse Point Yacht Club in Lighthouse Point, Florida.

Dobbelaer observed that he was “it was absolutely shocking, the number of folks present,” adding that

“many had traveled thousands of miles from two continents to attend the event.”

Continuing, he briefly introduced each participant, their background and their contribution to GFR:

Captain John Brownlee, one of the most recent Advisory Board Member as well as a Marketing Partner; Kristen Salazar, who represents Casa Vieja Lodge, Guatemala, the newest Research Center for GFR, and Samantha Mumford, founder of Premium Marine, Quepos, Costa Rica. Moises Mug, from Costa Rica, who is also on the Advisory Board, was unable to attend.

gray fishtag researchDobbelaer announced that Carter Takacs of Marina Pez Vela was awarded the 2018 Bill Gray Conservation Award for outstanding achievement advocating for GFR and the ongoing research, as well as for being a true leader in fisheries conservation.

Nick Froelich was awarded the 2018 Top Fish Tagger in the World for tagging over 200 billfish on his charter boat, Double Nickel. Froelich declared that “tagging on his charters allows his clients to become more excited, and more involved, plus they had more respect for the resource.” He and his wife, Brandi, made a commitment to continue their great work by tagging even more fish in 2019.

Other meeting highlights:

Leah Baumwell, the new GFR Director, detailed the tagging statistics from the past year. More than 5,000 fish of 98 different species were tagged in 2018, and there were 133 recoveries from 32 species, many of which were discussed and emphasized in the program.

The following research centers were recognized for their ongoing efforts on behalf of GFR:
Pisces Sportfishing, Marina Pez Vela, Los Sueños, Sunset Marina, Zancudo Lodge, Grand Alaska Lodge, and Aqua World.

• GFR provided the data analysis from two roosterfish funded by Ramiro Ortiz and staff at Marina Pez Vela and one striped marlin funded by Pisces Sportfishing that were deployed with satellite tags during the year.

Kristen Salazar discussed Casa Vieja and their successful program banning all single-use plastic water bottles at both the lodge and their ten-boat fleet which she said had saved an estimated 80,000 plastic bottles from landfills and the ocean in 2018; this was supported by the Costa Del Mar program.

gray fishtag research• Congratulations from the entire GFR Team to Salazar who recently completed her Executive MBA at the University of Miami in a remarkable 17 months! At her graduation, she observed, “I started … with a 3-week-old Bebe that came to class with me and 23 strangers who thought I was insane. My sanity, patience, family, work, friendships, and intelligence were put to the test and it was one of the most rewarding experiences to date.”

After Baumwell detailed the satellite tag data recovered from the first year of roosterfish tagging, she reviewed some of the proposed work GFR is planning for 2019.

Tracy Ehrenberg of Pisces Sportfishing, stressed that sportfishing was not only her family’s livelihood, but the livelihood of many others who depended on the striped marlin recreational fishery in Los Cabos.

She concluded, “There are questions (mentioned in the next to last slide of her presentation) that must be answered. And to that end, Pisces Sportfishing will be funding another satellite tag for GFR research in 2019.

Tracy then described the ongoing, illegal striped marlin harpooning by pangas in Cabo San Lucas Finger Bank area, highlighting Pisces Sportfishing’s response and continuing efforts to prevent the illegal activity in the future.

gray fishtag researchReports were received from the Sport Fishing sector in regard to commercial fishermen from Todos Santos (45 minutes drive up the Pacific coast from Cabo) capturing and commercializing marlin in the áreas knows as Finger Bank and Golden GateBank (where there is a concentration of these species due to schools of bait and other marine life which billfish feed on) killing them with hand held harpoons.

On the 21st of November of this year (2018), an operation was carried out with logistics set in place by SEMAR, FONMAR, CONAPESCA and PISCES GROUP CABO, where a navy interceptor boat and a Pisces Sportfishing boat participated with observers from FONMAR on board as well as representatives of  Sportfishing.  The result of the operation was the impounding of a 22ft panga with S.C.P.P Punta Lobos on the hull with the name Punta Lobos XLII and with registration number 0304182513-5 and a 115 hp Suzuki outboard motor 4 stroke, two harpoons and three trunks of fish without heads or tails which were fresh marlin giving a total weight of  95.78 lbs. It should be mentioned that more evidence could not be obtained at time of the inspection.

This action took place when the crew of the above mentioned boat, where found chumming with bait known as mackerel, to bring the marlin to the surface, where  harpoons were then used to spear the fish. When the fishermen became aware of the patrol boats presence advancing towards them,they threw the product, consisting of pieces or marlins into the sea, actions confirmed by the observers of  Fonmar and the representatives of Sportfishing. The patrol boat proceeded to do an inspection of the fishing boat, finding 30 pieces of mackerel bait, as well as two hand held harpoons, wrapped in a canvas sheet and blood on the floor of the boat which the fishermen were attempting to clean at the time of the inspection. Immediately a search was made of the nearby área where marlin trunks were found floating, which were secured and the formal report was written up along with the impounding of the fishing boat, motor, product and harpoons which possession and use of is prohibited by law.  

Marco Ehrenberg accentuated the need to work with these panga operators to help provide them an alternative source of income.

Travis Moore, Marine Biologist and GFR research scientist, discussed a children’s field trip to a south Florida elementary school where a tagging lesson became a fish-anatomy lesson when they opened a fish for the kids to see inside.

Moore shared with the group how excited the students were to be a part of the activity.

Todd Staley and Marina Marrari, representing “Federacion Costarricense de Pesca (FECOP),” promotes sport fishing in Costa Rica through science and advocacy. They outlined their 2014 victory convincing the Government to increase the no-commercial fishing limit to 45-miles, covering over 200,000 square kilometers. The 2017 analysis of previous bycatch records have shown that it saved 25 tons of what would have been marlin bycatch based on the favorable results thus far. They are proposing increasing the limitations further to include offshore sea mounts in FECOP’s continuing efforts to improve sportfishing in Costa Rica.

Samantha Mumford of Premium Marine pledged to tag in the region beginning with her Pescadora Billfish Championship tournament,

an all-female angler tournament, as well as her pledge to involve more women in fishing.

Don Dingman of Hook the Future & Salt Life echoed the importance of involving women in fishing and then reviewed the need for research on redfish in Northern Florida.

Paul Michele of Navionics and Mike Caruso of The Fisherman Magazine underscored the strong interest in striped bass by anglers in the northeastern United States and agreed to fund two satellite tags for striped bass research.

Luis Basurto of Aqua World in Cancun, spoke on the importance of expanding tagging in his region and his dedication to creating more of an interest in fishing and conservation in Cancun, Cozumel, and Isla Mujeres.

Dave Bulthuis of Costa Del Mar emphasized the importance of GFR and his personal commitment to attracting more Marketing Partners in 2019.

Mark Cooper, formerly of the Denver Broncos, volunteered to become more involved by helping to drive the GFR mission, starting with television exposure and outreach to industry friends.

John Brownlee announced that he joined Maverick at Los Sueños as the General Manager. Later during research project discussions, he brought up the possibility of comparing tagging data of roosterfish to amberjack. The results would be welcomed by the angling community.

Dick Tanner of CR Primo Fishing Tackle and Will Drost committed to helping fund the Los Sueños, Costa Rica blue marlin study proposed during the meeting.

Zsolt Szekely of Dolphin Electric Reel, Alex Henry of Southernmost Apparel, and Joe Herdering of Shadow Graphics,Also, in attendance Kim UnderwoodOffice Manager Gray Taxidermy, Jonas MasreliezCreative and Marketing Gray Taxidermy and James “Mango” Buckwald – Captains Support that all participated in the conversations and joined GFR expeditions in 2018.

Eric Leech, GFR Advisory Board, spoke about his tagging efforts in the Dominican Republic.

By: JM-Admin Category: Fisheries, Gray FishTag Recoveries, Marine Research
On December 16, 2017 swordfish (Xiphias gladius) was tagged with a Gray FishTag conventional tag (GFR6486). It was caught, tagged and released by angler Anthony DiMare while fishing with Captain Nick Stanczyk aboard the “Broad Minded” charter boat out of Bud’n Mary’s Marina, Islamorada, Florida USA. The group was fishing the waters about 25 miles east of Islamorada. The swordfish was estimated to be 47-inches. (119 cm) Lower Jaw Fork Length (LJFL) and had an approximate weight of 50-pounds. After tagging the fish, Mr. DiMare registered the swordfish using the Gray FishTag Research website ( and decided to name it “Little A.”

On August 11, 2018, 238 days later, the Swordfish was recaptured by NOAA observer McKenzie O’Connor while aboard PLL Vessel “Ellen Jean.

The tag recapture location was approximately 475 miles (764 km) straight line distance north from where the swordfish was originally tagged, in the waters 90 miles ESE of Savannah, Georgia. The measured length of the fish was 55-inches (139 cm) and a weight of 96-pounds (43.5 kg).

Recaptures are important and events such as this one are truly amazing! Not only do recaptures make valuable data available about each species that cannot be learned any other way, but they also provide encouraging incentives to continue tagging fish. The Gray FishTag Research program has been able to exceed their original expectations for fish recapture rates thanks to the hard-working professional fishermen who are on the water day in and day out.

GFR’s multi-species tagging program’s growth is remarkable with new species being tagged in new regions daily. Tags are provided free-of-charge to the collaborating professional fishermen, and the tag data is available to the public at

After hearing the results of 2018, the entire group endorsed the plans on the horizon for the 2019 fiscal year research.

Those plans include:

1. Continuing satellite tagging work on striped marlin in Cabo San Lucas, with funding generously provided by Pisces Sportfishing.
2. Continuing satellite tagging work on roosterfish in Quepos, Costa Rica; funding proposed by Ramiro Ortiz.
3. Beginning a vertical habitat study of swordfish in Florida; Seaguar provided funding for one satellite tag.
4. Beginning a striped bass movement study in the northeastern United States; Navionics has committed to two satellite tags.
5. Beginning a blue marlin FAD/seamount study in Costa Rica out of Los Sueños Research Center. Maverick, Will Drost, and CR Primo Fishing Tackle have committed to supporting this research.

If you would like to involved or want more information, visit:

That Baja Guy-Gary Graham, the BD Outdoors Baja Editor, has more than five decades fishing experience off of Southern California and the Baja Peninsula. From light tackle and fly up to offshore marlin fishing, Gary has experienced all facets of this fishery. He's set several fly-fishing world record...