By C.J., Noah, Hannah, Ellen, Heather, and Chris D.
The Flats Research team recently traveled by boat to Kemp’s Creek to catch bonefish. Our research group is studying bonefish, among other species, because there have been very few studies on them. This is surprising, considering the important ecological role played by bonefish, as well as their appeal for sport fishing in the Bahamas. Bonefish are mainly found in shallow flats ecosystems, since this is where they hunt for prey. At low tide, however, bonefish tend to swim into open ocean. Recognizing that bonefish would be making this transition during the change in tides, we headed to Kemp Creek to collect some for our research.
The process by which we caught the bonefish was a method known as seining. This method involves setting up a large net that covers the opening where the creek meets the ocean. Many fish enter tidal creeks during high tide to forage for food. We purposefully set the net during a time when the tide was leaving the creek, because the bonefish would be following the tide and retreating into deeper waters at this time. As the fish left the mouth of the creek, they were caught in the seine net that impeded their exit. We also used an additional “booster” method to lure as many bonefish into the net as possible: those who weren’t holding the net stood in a line that stretched the width of the creek, and slowly walked towards the net while splashing and making as much noise as possible to scare the fish into the seine net. The net-operators then immediately closed the net into a circle surrounding the fish. Using smaller dip nets, we then did our best to catch all of the bonefish that had been trapped. After collecting all of the bonefish from the net, our “by-catch” – which included a lemon shark, a cow fish, and many barracuda – was safely returned to its habitat in the creek.