and gentlemen, here’s the beginnings of the rant and the ramble. These are my thoughts based on my
experiences, some of which are based on observations while doing research, some
are backed up by statistically
significant findings, others based on observations while guiding 60-90
days/year on the lower Neuse/western Pamlico for 20 years.
after graduating from UNCW with a B.S. in Marine Biology, my degree was un-expectantly
put into use when I was approached by a scientist from NCSU who was pursuing a
Fisheries Resource Grant to study adult red drum. His goal was to use radio transmitters to
track adult red drum in the lower Neuse River and western Pamlico Sound in
hopes of documenting where these fish were spawning.
summer of 1999 we were on the way out to tag our first red drum with a radio
transmitter the size of half a roll of Life-Savers candy. It was attached to the drum by one of the
shoulder tags that we normally use to tag big drum. The transmitter was attached to the dart with
a material that would break away after about 6 months, about the life of the
tag. Each tag had a different frequency,
too high to even be noticed by red drum.
Each tag had a different “ping” sequence so that we could identify
To hear the
tags, we used a hydrophone on the end of a pole that we would hold in the
water, slowly turning and turning until we heard the “ping”. The cables from the hydrophone went to a box
where we could change frequencies; from the box a set of head phones was
attached. The guy with the head phones would sit on the
gunnel of the boat, eyes closed, concentrating. Depth finder would be off, VHF off, we would often be anchored and we
would take turns listening…….and listening…….and listening.
The range of
the tag was over a mile under ideal conditions, under rough conditions, we
could easily hear a tag as long as we were within half a mile. We had the river gridded with different listening
positions so that we could effectively search entire sections of the river and
Pamlico Sound for the faint sound of a “ping”.
heard the “ping”, we would slowly head in that direction, trying to get closer
so that we could hear the tag more clearly and identify from the sequence of
pings exactly to which fish we were listening. After we identified the fish, we tried to
get as close as we could to document the habitat and water quality conditions
that the fish was utilizing. This was
difficult, because when we got within a 100 yards and often much further in
shallow water, the idling boat would “push” the drum.
parts of the Neuse River are not much deeper than the deep-end of a swimming
pool. Imagine a school of big drum
swimming around in a giant swimming pool.
Consider that they spend most of their year in the open ocean, so when
they get in this skinny water, they can be a bit spooky. Now run an outboard at pretty much any speed
through the swimming pool and the drum are going to go the opposite
direction. Idle that motor ever so
slowly and they may just casually swim out of the way, but when you run it hard
enough to push a wake or get on plane, those drum are going to run
If you are
within 200 yards of a school of drum and running your motor, they know you are
If you come
within 300 yards of another boat, you are affecting their fishing, so at the
very least, be quiet and just idle. Also, try not cross the chum slick of
another boat, that’s where the drum he will be catching will most likely be
coming from. The courteous thing to do
would be to slowly idle off to the side or bow, ideally after being
This is only
a tiny segment of the rant that is coming.
Maybe in little pieces and spelled out it will be easier for the
knuckleheads to get it through their thick heads.
I look forward to telling you about those
first fish that we tagged and what we learned.
More to come.