Category Archives: Save the World

The Historical Gravity of the Panga

I once took a bonefishing trip out of Belize City. I was there for other reasons but the concierge said she had a cousin who could take me out. He picked me up at a pier about three blocks from the hotel and we started for the mangrove cayes off the peninsula. He worked the tiller of the old outboard to steady us on the ride; wind catching the high profile of the bow made the boat wobble. This is a common problem with pangas.

Chris Santella’s article on Punta Allen in the New York Times reminded me of this, mostly because of its striking color photo (by Matt Jones) of  anglers on a panga variant. Anyone who has ever engaged in back country travel to a desolate stretch of foreign water has thrown flies from a panga at some point, likely unaware of the significance found in the cheaply laid fiberglass under his feet.

There is debate over who really created the panga*, but Yamaha Motors developed and mass produced the modern version in the 1960s, desiring a low cost work boat with a flat transom that could hold the outboards it was selling. Inspiration came from traditional Japanese fishing boats, as well as from cast netters in Central and South America, Africa and Asia, who launched their long, narrow wooden boats through the surf.

It’s designed to get in and out of the breakers without rolling, with a flattened keel for pulling onto the beach. They original panga was 22 feet long and five and a half feet wide, with that rounded rising bow for extra buoyancy. A Delta pad underneath helped it hop to life with little horsepower and skip like a stone on top of a bay chop.

Here’s how pangas changed the game: They could be quickly molded from fiberglass and with their long, narrow, efficient shape they could run forever on a small tank of gasoline. Seeing their economic value, the World Bank got involved, working to distribute pangas and outboards to net fishermen in Asia, Africa and South and Central America, and to teach their owners how to fix a carburetor.

Over the years they’ve evolved into water taxis, freight haulers, drug runners, dive boats, marlin chasers and flats skiffs, like the dark green one I sat in as we glided over the water between Belize City and the bonefish flats.

My guide picked up his homemade push pole and stood on the back bench. He’d crafted a casting platform from plywood, roughly cut and planked across the bow. From there I had a higher vantage point than he did–he didn’t have sunglasses anyhow–and I saw the shadows moving across the flat first. He staked off and I made ready to cast, another small transaction in the history of a boat that brought waters all around the world within reach.

*(See comment below.)

Support the Bonefish Tarpon Trust

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All about TARBONE

We like the Bonefish Tarpon Trust because they have a cool sounding URL – tarbone.org – and because everything they do is driven by scientific research, and the desire to keep doing it.

So when Aaron Adams dropped a note about supporting the org’s new membership drive, I’m all in.

They are now offering associate membership for $50 contributions. As Dr. Adams wrote:

“As always, the funds go to support BTT’s research, conservation, and education. We are having monthly give-aways of gear (this month it’s Howler Brothers), next month Cheeky, then Orvis,…. But best of all, the final drawing at the end of the year is a trip to Ascension Bay.  And for people who join and renew at $100 of higher, there is a year-end raffle for a trip to Pesca Maya.”

MENHADEN: ROCK THE VOTE!

Photo from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

The fishing has been sucking. Here’s a chance where we can all actually do something about it. Rather than mince words, I’ll paste them directly from a mailing by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation:

In a matter of days, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (ASMFC) will meet to discuss the fate of menhaden (AKA the most important fish in the sea). At the end of that meeting, it will adopt an addendum to its menhaden management plan, which will determine new overfishing thresholds and target fishing rates.

Now, more than ever, we need your help. In 32 of the past 54 years, we have overfished menhaden, and its population now stands at its lowest point on record—a mere 8 percent of what it once was!

But, we have an historic opportunity to rebuild the population of this important fish, which represents a critical link in the marine food web of the entire Atlantic coast, especially the Chesapeake Bay. Please write ASMFC today and urge the commission to set new targets that will allow the menhaden population to increase to a point where it can support a fishery and fulfill its vital ecological role. Please submit your letters by 5 p.m. November 2, 2011, in order for them to be considered.

If we don’t speak up now, this fish, so critical to the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and the human community that it supports, could be lost forever.

Bass, Menhaden, Everything

Young

The striped bass of the Chesapeake, and therefore the Eastern Seaboard, got a dose of good news this week with a big spike in the Young of the Year numbers.

I spoke briefly with my friend John Page Williams of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation about it, and he said it has everything to do with ideal weather conditions during spawn and early life stage.

Of course, the best news for the striped bass in the long run could come out of the ASMFC meeting in Boston in two weeks. Williams and his friends in the CCA and other conservation groups have been working hard to ensure that the result comes down in favor of protecting the bass. “It looks to be a landmark vote,” said John Page.

Bunker

Also of paramount importance is what happens to the menhaden. The ASMFC has to vote on whether to raise the population threshold from eight percent to 15 percent, as explained in this article from the Richmond Times Dispatch.

Midcurrent also lays it out in detail here, with a link on how to write your local ASMFC rep about it. (Here is the direct link to the state by state directory.)

Here’s a chart that shows why you need to write.

The steep decline

 

Bonefish Tarpon Trust Symposium

Click on the pick for more info.

We’re big fans of the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust and are spreading the word about their upcoming Symposium. In their words:

Two full days of presentations on cutting edge scientific research of bonefish, tarpon and permit from fisheries scientists around the world is scheduled, as well as panel discussions, fly casting seminars and tying clinics by some of the world’s noted flats anglers.  On the final night an “Evening with the Legends” banquet will be emceed by author and angler Andy Mill, participants include; Joan Wulff, Bob Popovics, Lefty Kreh, Flip Pallot, Chico Fernandez, Sandy Moret, Rick Ruoff, Mark Sosin, Ralph Delph, Steve Huff, Bill Curtis, Stu Apte and George Hommell.

CBF Asks, A Turning Point For Menhaden?

from the CBF blog

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation reports on its blog about the opportunity to change the menhaden management plan for the better. 

The post again sheds light on the extreme harvest practices of Omega Protein, a company that should be on the enemies list of all recreational fishermen.