A Leatherback Turtle, Angel Shark (devil fish), and (almost) smokin reel

This weekend provided a few of those “magic” moments on the water that stay with you.

On Friday we got an early start  with beautiful conditions. The bite was consistent with some nice sized keepers. Our drift good, overall one of those perfect fishing days.   At the end of what would become our last drift fishing  80-90′ water, blue, clear, and Joe hooks up on what we first think is a monster. The rod was bent and pressure was on and he cranked, and cranked. At first site it appears to have “flounder” like color, but its big and fights different. To our surprise up came an Atlantic Angel Shark (also know as a devil-fish).

A few facts:

The Atlantic Angel Shark or Squatina dumeril is a very odd-shaped shark that is sometimes referred to as the Sand Devil. The Angel Shark is often mistaken for a type of stingray, because of its broad pectoral fins.  An odd eye setup allows them to bury themselves in sand or mud, lying in wait for their prey.  These sharks can grow to about 5′ in length and are not considered aggressive unless accidentally stepped on or aggravated.   Currently, they are considered a protected species and possession is against the law. This shark is currently listed as “Data Deficient” in its range in our area by the IUCN.

After safely releasing the fish boat side with a de-hooker it went through the drive up and again was hooked it up. It was one of those “what just happened” moments. Safely released again.

We packed up from the spot and decided to hit one more for a final drift of the day.  Top of the drift and lines all going down when we see 23′ Trophy approach. Thinking they are about to drift this too we pay no mind until they get close enough to talk. They shout over that there is a giant turtle tangled and they need assistance to set it free. Immediately capt reels in as we all do. We make our way over to see a huge Leatherback Turtle gasping for air, with lines tangled around his neck and front fin. He is flailing and struggling.

We go a bit past and maneuver around to assist and as we do we see in the water…. a fin which is attached to an approximately 8′ hammerhead shark.  Could be he was waiting for this turtle to die. We get back close to the Trophy and the 2 gentlemen from Delaware are trying desperately to save this great creature. The plan is to hold one rope and untangle or cut free the other. This way they could free the turtle and set the pot with out harm to the equipment.

With crew leaning off the front he held the line, and capt positioning the boat to not get too close of far. I tried to snap a few pics, but mostly I was trying to make sure everyone was safe and not going over. And I was caught up in the mere excitement of the moment and majestic turtle.

The massive flipper came up..

As soon as the turtle was free it quickly dove deep. Both boats  stayed for a minute, I believe in awe of what just happened. It was wonderful to witness that. The two guys from Delaware–I give them a lot of credit, they stuck by the turtle, the came looking for help. It was a good deed and great effort for everyone to save the turtle.

Info on Leatherbacks:

Weight: 2,000 pounds (900 kg) for adults;
hatchlings are 40-50 grams (1.5-2 ounces)
Length: 6.5 feet (2 m) for adults;
hatchlings are 2-3 inches (50-75 cm)
Appearance: primarily black with pinkish-white coloring on their abdomen (ventrally)
Lifespan: unknown
Diet: soft-bodied animals, such as jellyfish and salps
Behavior: females lay clutches of approximately 100 eggs several times during a nesting season, typically at 8-12 day intervals

The leatherback is the largest turtle–and the largest living reptile–in the world.

The leatherback is the only sea turtle that lacks a hard, bony shell. A leatherback’s top shell (carapace) is approximately 1.5 inches (4 cm) thick and consists of leathery, oil-saturated connective tissue overlaying loosely interlocking dermal bones. The carapace has seven longitudinal ridges and tapers to a blunt point.

The front flippers lack both claws and scales and are proportionally longer than in other sea turtles; their back flippers are paddle-shaped. The ridged carapace and large flippers are characteristics that make the leatherback uniquely equipped for long distance foraging migrations.

Female leatherbacks lay clutches of approximately 100 eggs on sandy, tropical beaches. Females nest several times during a nesting season, typically at 8-12 day intervals. After 60-65 days, leatherback hatchlings emerge from the nest with white striping along the ridges of their backs and on the margins of the flippers.

Leatherbacks lack the crushing chewing plates characteristic of sea turtles that feed on hard-bodied prey (Pritchard 1971). Instead, they have pointed tooth-like cusps and sharp-edged jaws that are perfectly adapted for a diet of soft-bodied pelagic (open ocean) prey, such as jellyfish and salps. A leatherback’s mouth and throat also have backward-pointing spines that help retain such gelatinous prey.

Habitat
Leatherbacks are commonly known as pelagic (open ocean) animals, but they also forage in coastal waters. In fact, leatherbacks are the most migratory and wide ranging of sea turtle species.

Thermoregulatory adaptations such as a counter-current heat exchange system, high oil content, and large body size allow them to maintain a core body temperature higher than that of the surrounding water, thereby allowing them to tolerate colder water temperatures.

Nesting female leatherbacks tagged in French Guiana have been found along the east coast of North America as far north as Newfoundland. Atlantic Canada supports one of the largest seasonal foraging populations of leatherbacks in the Atlantic. Leatherbacks tagged with satellite transmitters at sea off Nova Scotia were tracked to waters adjacent to nesting beaches along the northeast coast of South American, the Antilles, Panama and Costa Rica (James et al., 2005).

Leatherbacks mate in the waters adjacent to nesting beaches and along migratory corridors. After nesting, female leatherbacks migrate from tropical waters to more temperate latitudes, which support high densities of jellyfish prey in the summer.

The ride in I was a lil teary eyed sitting in the bean bag chair thinking about the gifts you receive while fishing. Always an adventure and something to learn each time and witness.

Next day was DOF. Most of the day we were sandwiched between two big blobs of green on the radar. Us in the middle (thankfully). On that note I would like to thank Capt Don for saying “look at all those boats bobbing up and down there” and “that was not thunder, it was a sonic boom” (funny). It proved to be a zero drift day with lots of bumping.

I managed a few nice size fish as did everyone with Don’s being the biggest but it was just not going to happen and as the day ticked on try as we did we did not get ’em.

There was a moment of what the ……………………… when I had a decent bang-bang on the line, waited a few seconds and hooked up what I thought to be a very nice fish. A little ribbing that it was not a fish but I was snagged caused me to let down on the tension. At that very moment “bang” the line took off stripping, straight out the back of the boat. I was not sure what to do because I had the fish 1/2 way up but now something else was happening. I was like what should I do… I handed the rod to Don at his offer of assistance and the thing broke off. But it was like a bullet, so it is our belief something stole my flounder half way up (shark maybe) and took off with it.

So we headed back to the dock later, as we knew our fate. But all in all in  was a great day on the water fishing, listening to stories. We all went home with a decent amount of flounder.

Pic at the dock

This story would not be complete without the bird who fell in love with the Regulator and followed it everywhere, all day Friday.

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4 thoughts on “A Leatherback Turtle, Angel Shark (devil fish), and (almost) smokin reel

  1. Congrats on catching some fluke but be very PROUD of the good deed you all performed.Nothing but GOOD KARMA to all of you! The leather back is a majestic creature.

    1. Bill it was one of those moments you talk about out there- the things you see- why we love it and keep going back.Thanks!!

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