This doesn’t really fit all my prior posts about fibers or ceramics, but this was such an awesome day and hands-on experience that I needed to share it. As we were coming through Alabama and visiting with Dan’s old friend Travis, I got the opportunity to go gill netting with Travis’s wife, Crystal.
Travis’s wife Crystal is employed at and is working on her Masters at Sea Lab, the marine science education center located on Dauphin Island off the coast near Mobile. Within an hour of meeting Crystal, we were talking about volunteer opportunities with Sea Lab and she said, “Yes! You can actually volunteer tomorrow!”
The following morning we set off with two of Crystal’s fellow students on a research boating trip. Andrea needed bonnet head sharks for her thesis research.
We cast the nets in shallow waters just beyond the breakers. Initially, we waited 10 minutes, then checked the nets. We checked them again twenty minutes later and re-cast if we didn’t get anything. You need to keep an eye out for dolphins, making sure they don’t get caught in the nets accidentally and also because the presence of dolphins might scare away any sharks. It’s still incredible to see them cresting nearby.
I don’t mean for this to be a bunch of photos of me holding the day’s catch, but I had NEVER done anything like this and it was a real thrill. My jaw dropped every time we brought the net in. Unfortunately, no bonnet heads, but we brought in a few catfish; a red drum (Crystal’s research fish!); a sharp nose shark; a Spanish mackerel; and a blacktip shark. I estimate the largest of these - the red drum and the blacktip - weighed at least 50 pounds - note the grimace as I hold the shark. That beast is heavy and you have to hold him under the jaw.
I was so impressed with these women and their command of their objectives, the boat, and these very strong fish as they thrashed about in the nets.