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Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 2:21 pm Posts: 1356 Location: Gramercy, LA
We know where people go when a hurricane hits. They run for the hills or they hunker down with a generator, boarded-up windows, and lots of prayers. But where do the fish go? That's what scientists want to know, too, and Hurricane Charley may have given them some answers.
The Associated Press reports that fish in the mouth of Charlotte Harbor near Lido Key, Florida did exactly what we humans do in the same circumstance: Some get the heck out of there and others stay put and take their chances. Scientists learned this from two research projects that have tracked the movement of the estuary's species. For example, of eight radio-tagged sharks, six escaped before Hurricane Charley hit land. Although the other two are no longer in the range of the sensing equipment, Mote Marine Laboratory biologist Michelle Heupel isn't sure they have actually left the relative safety of the lower sound. On the other hand, all of the bull sharks in the Caloosahatchee River stayed right there throughout the hurricane.
Sharks in Florida also fled in September 2001 just before tropical storm Gabrielle hit the southwestern part of the state. AP reports that all 14 tagged blacktip sharks in Terra Ceia Bay, near Palmetto, bolted from their natural nursery and swam to deeper waters. "I'm guessing that this is something that is hard-wired," Heupel told the news service. She thinks they can sense the decrease in atmospheric pressure and water pressure that both occur as a hurricane approaches. "If the barometric pressure decreases, they may feel like they're in two or three feet of water instead of five," Heupel told AP.
Up here (Florida Big Bend) you have to go out a good distance to get into the 30-50 feet depths to get to the good grouper spots. Since the storms have passed people have been catching them in as little as 20 feet of water, in sight of St. Marks lighthouse. Local guides credit this to the starvation diet they endured during all the storms and desperation has driven them inshore.