Successful Electronic Tagging Expedition on Roosterfish in Costa Rica

Roosterfish Electronic Tagging Study

Summary of events from Roosterfish Electronic Tagging that took place in Los Sueños Resort and Marina and Marina Pez Vela, Costa Rica.

Gray FishTag Research recently completed Phase 1 of the Roosterfish tagging study in the name of John DeVries.  Thanks to a generous donation from Seaguar Fluorocarbon, the GFR team travelled to the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica to deploy 2 electronic implantable tags in Roosterfish.

The tagging group consisted of Bill Dobbelaer (GFR), Travis Moore (GFR), Christian Bolaños (GFR), Jessica Harvey (Project Manager (Cayman), Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation), Dave Bulthuis (Vice President of Industry Relations and Government Affairs, Costa Sunglasses and Official Spokesman for Gray FishTag Research), Ashley Bretecher (Executive Director of Marketing and Communications, Los Sueños Resort and Marina), Carter Takacs (Harbor Master, Marina Pez Vela) and Richard Tanner (Owner, CR Primo Tackle).

The first tag deployment

The crew set out from the GFR Research Center, Los Sueños Resort and Marina in Playa Herradura, Costa Rica.  Two charter boats, the Sea Fly with Captain Carlos “Pollo” Espinoza, mates “Pancho” Brenes and Steven Cambroncro and the Sunny One with Captain Walton Smith and mate Jeffrey set out to catch these sought-after species for the first tag deployment.

The boats left Los Sueños and headed approximately 15 miles south to the coastal fishing grounds where the Roosterfish bite had been good in recent days.  Bottom fishing is the preferred method for targeting Roosterfish at this particular location.   Both boats put lines in the water around 7:30am and used live baits as they circled around bottom structure looking for the bite.

As time passed, the GFR team started to get a little worried because neither boat had any bites.  Captain Walton of the Sunny One reassured the GFR team that the fish were there and the bite would turn on.  Just after 11:30 am, as if somebody had rung the dinner bell, the bite turned on and both boats hooked up.  The boats were catching and releasing a mixture of Crevalle Jacks and Cubera Snapper at first. Shortly after the back rod on the Sunny One went crazy and we knew it was a Roosterfish.

Jessica Harvey grabbed the rod and started to fight the fish.  Jessica being a seasoned angler was able to bring the fish to the boat in about 10 minutes.  The Roosterfish was placed on a clean surface and damp towel was placed over the eyes to keep it calm. A seawater hose was placed in the mouth to keep water flowing over the gills.  A measurement was taken and GFR scientist Travis Moore went to work.  He made a small 3 cm. incision on the belly of the fish near the anal opening.  A small electronic tag was inserted into the body cavity with the tag antenna protruding through the cut.  Once the tag was secured, the incision was sutured shut.  The fish was placed in the water to be revived before release.  The mate on the Sea Fly, Jose Fancisco Brenes Zuñiga (Pancho), was in the water to get underwater footage and ended up swimming the Roosterfish for 20 seconds to aid in revival.  The 49in Roosterfish was released and swam away in a healthy condition.

Part 2
of the research expedition took place from the GFR Remote Research Center, Marina Pez Vela located in Quepos, Costa Rica.  For this tag deployment, the GFR team worked with legendary captain Skip Smith aboard the Hooker with mate Keller and captain Manuel Gabuardi and Mates Yoxan Gabuardi and Benn Gilmour aboard the Jackpot Sport-fishing boat.

The two boats pulled out of Marina Pez Vela around 7am and head south to some coastal waters where rock formations break the surface and shoot up 100’s of feet up into the sky.  Live bait was used again, but in this particular area, the Roosterfish are commonly found in the mid-water column.  Both captains, Skip and Manuel used their years of experience to navigate the turbulent waters near the rocks.

While fishing, the team experienced the typical weather pattern for Costa Rica during this time of year.  We experience a small storm, cloudiness, and sunshine all in a 6-hour time period.  As with fishing the previous days, the GFR team started getting a little nervous with no fish bites for the first few hours of fishing.

The second tag deployment

After trying multiple rock formations, the bite started up around 11:30am again.  Angler Jessica Harvey onboard Jackpot Sport-fishing was once again on the rod when the action hit.  The fish was fighting a little harder this time, so we knew we had a big trophy size Roosterfish on the line.  Jessica brought in the 54 inch Roosterfish after about a 15 min. fight.  Once onboard, Travis Moore followed the previously used handling and tagging procedure.  A wet towel was placed over the fishes eyes and a saltwater hose was placed in the mouth.  A small 3cm incision was made the tag was placed inside the belly cavity of the fish.

Once the tag was secured, the incision was sutured closed and the fish was placed back in the water.  Sea Fly mate, Pancho once again volunteered to participate in this part of the expedition to aid in fish revival and get footage of the fish underwater.  Pancho swam the fish for about 20 seconds and then released it in a healthy condition.

Phase 1 of the Central American Roosterfish tagging project was truly an incredible accomplishment.  The GFR team, advisors and boat crews successfully deployed two electronic archival tags in Roosterfish off the coast of central Costa Rica.  This was the first-time TDR archival tags have been implanted and deployed on Roosterfish.  Over the next months to years, valuable information on migration, habitat utilization, feeding behavior, and growth rates will all be gathered as those Roosterfish swim and go about their daily lives.

The GFR team would like to thank the following groups for their sponsorship and support in making this project possible.  Seaguar Fluorocarbon, Costa Sunglasses, Scales, Southernmost Apparel, AFTCO, Wildlife Computers, CR Primo Tackle, Shadow Graphics, FECOP, Stay in Costa Rica, and iFish Quepos.  The GFR Research Centers:  Los Sueños and Marina Pez Vela.

A special thank you to the charter boats and crews:  Sea Fly Sport-fishing, Sunny One, the Hooker, and Jackpot Sport-fishing.  All the boats and crews donated their time, energy, and expertise to this research expedition.