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xray turtle This radiograph from the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center reveals where a Kemp’s Ridley, caught from a fishing pier, had swallowed two hooks.
Courtesy of Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center

Sometimes They Bite the Hook

Fish Eye News
Oct. 2010 Archive

You are on your boat with your line in the water and you are anxiously waiting for that big one to take the bait, when, all of a sudden, you feel the tug.

You just know you have a keeper on the end of your line when up pops the head of a turtle! Now, what do you do?

It’s not a farfetched idea.

Sightings of turtles are a common experience, said Captain Joe Shute, with Fish Finder Charters and Captain Joe Shute’s Bait and Tackle in Atlantic Beach.

“I see sea turtles about every trip where we go in the ocean,” said Shute, who charters trips in the ocean and in the rivers and sounds.

While sightings and interactions are less common in the rivers and sounds, they do happen, Shute said.

“I’ve caught them on shrimp beside the turning basin on a two-hook bottom rig,” Shute said.

Shute said he believes he is seeing more sea turtles now than in the past.

In one trip this past spring, Shute had already seen 15-to-20 loggerheads while fishing in the area of the Big Rock. On his way back to shore he saw even more.

“We saw close to 100 that day,” Shute said. “We saw 50 within a two-mile stretch.”

Dr. Craig Harms, a veterinarian for the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Beach, estimated that about 15 percent of the patients at the hospital come in with hook and line injuries.

According to the Rehabilitation Center’s website admission records eight out of 22 admissions so far in 2010 involved hook injuries. Other injuries in recent years include disease, fractures, gill nets and cold stun.

The turtles are brought in from all up and down the coast, more often in the summer, Harms said. The hooks usually come from heavy duty gear, either from a commercial long line or big game fishing, but a few also come from fishing piers each year.

Harms, also an associate professor for N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine at the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology in Morehead City, said the severity of the hook and line injuries depend on how the animal is hooked.

“If they are not deep hooked, and the hook can be removed through the mouth, they can often be released immediately, or after only a standard course of antibiotics,” Harms said. “If they are deep hooked, or require surgery, or cause internal damage, the rehabilitation process can be prolonged.

Line entanglements can complicate matters by wrapping around limbs and either cutting into the soft tissues or cutting off circulation.”

 

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