Chasing My Dreams, One Fish at a Time

I have posted several blog entries about seining here at Florida Tech and being able to do research, but let’s be honest.  After reading that so many times, how many people believed me? Well, now’s your chance to get some real proof. I’ve been talking about how research is great and seining is great, but everyone on the planet pretty much knows that I love sharks, and yet I never post about doing anything involving shark research… but that ends today.

pretty “small” eagle ray apparently. but he was heavy!

This summer has literally been one of the best summers of my life thanks to Florida Tech. I enrolled in summer classes, some of which were far more entertaining than the others, including organic chemistry (gross) at BCC, a fisheries course and undergrad research.

While organic chemistry may be a drag, the fisheries course that I’m enrolled in has been the most fun I’ve pretty much ever had. Dr. Shenker has gone above and beyond creating this dynamic course that is constantly entertaining and educational, not only for biology majors, but also anyone who has an interest in wildlife.

We started our class by taking a trip to the Vero Beach Marine Lab to tag some permit (a type of fish) and that was great! (I’ll go into more detail on why we were tagging the permit fish in my next post, so stay tuned.) We got to see lionfish and the other projects that were going on at the marine lab, but it was a pretty short day and I was itching to get out on the boat and do some more research and play with more critters.

Not long after our first outing, we packed up the university van and headed over to Port Charlotte, FL (about a 3 and a half hour drive or so) at the great old hour of 5:00 am…. While mostly everyone slept, I picked Dr. Shenker’s brain about my own research project having to do with shark research (a blog post for another day) and by the time we got to Port Charlotte, I was ready to get to work.

gorgeous blue crab

We met up with the Fish and Wildlife Service to try to catch some sawfish! The first few hours were kind of a bust… We caught some stingrays, some evil blue crabs, some fish, and lots of oysters from the bottom, but no sawfish. I was starting to lose hope, when we went to our final spot for the day and laid our gill nets out, hoping to catch the fish we’d been trying to catch since 9am!

Within about 10 minutes the net started going under so we went to see what it was and it was…. A jack… not the fish we were looking for so we put the net back in to the water. About 5 minutes later, two more tugs. Our first pull revealed A SAWFISH! He was pretty small, but probably the most gorgeous fish I had ever seen… until our second pull when we found a juvenile bull shark!

I wasn’t sure which fish I was happier about, the sawfish or the bull shark. We let the bull shark go after getting some pictures and measurements, but we were there to tag sawfish and that’s what we did. The juvenile was really gentle and it was completely docile through all of its measurements. It even remained still when getting it’s fin clipped and punched out for tags.

Not everyone gets a chance to go out on interesting projects like these and I’m thankful to have the opportunity to work with such interesting animals and learn new things while following my dreams. Keep in mind that here at FIT, you have great connections through your professors, so use them. Find something that interests you and talk to your advisor because chances are they’ll tell you, “I know a guy doing something with that now!” and put you in contact with him!

the huge jack we caught!


me holding a sawfish!
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