- Rule 1: Never stick your hand into a puka (hole), because you don't know what will be in there!
- Rule 2: Do not pick up anything with your hands unless you know what it is, that's what hand nets are for. Many shells, sea urchins, fish and other marine animals can sting, as well as bite, so beware.
- Rule 3: It is wise to always wear dive booties, tobies, an old pair of tennis shoes, or whatever on your feet when wading around in the water, for the same above reason.
- Check where you are considering collecting and find out about the fishing laws. In many places around the world there are restricted or protected areas and fishing of any kind is prohibited. Do your research! Is the area you want to collect in protected? Which fish or marine animals, included corals, are protected species? Are their size or quanity limits? Which type of nets, traps, and equipment are allowed or illegal to use? What fishing permits are required, if any? Respect the local fishing laws and following them!
- Be a responsible collector, NEVER use chemicals (bleach, cyanide, etc.) of any kind!!
- Trops (tropical fish) need three things in life: good water, food and a place to hide or live in (a house). Take the time before you begin to go in the ocean and just watch the fish and what they do. Most fish have several houses and will travel from one to another. When startled they will run for cover. Wrasses dive into the sand, Surgeonfish will melt into the coral, Butterflyfish will dart into a puka (Hawaiian for hole), Mano will scare the phooey out of you and the fish, and an Eel will rearrange your extremities if you dangle them in front of their house. The key to collecting trops is to think like a trop. Learn the characteristics of each fish and you'll know how to catch them. The basic point is, their job is to outsmart you and your job is to outsmart them!
- What you are going to need to collect trops is a fence net, a hand net, a collection catch bucket, a five gallon bucket for carrying water in, an ammonia buffer, something to transport your catch in, and the ability to think like a fish. You can dive from a boat or from a beach, you can scuba dive or free dive. These things you will have to decide for yourself and determine what kind of dive gear you will need for the method you choose. You can always find some nice tide pools by the beach shores to capture fish and inverts in too. All this takes is wading, along with something to protect your feet and your catch gear.
- About first-aid! If you get poked, cut, or stung by something, be sure to disinfect and treat it properly as infections may result if you are not careful. We've been there! Carrying a basic first-aid kit with hydrogen peroxide, cotton balls, band-aids and an antibacterial ointment are helpful to have if you get minor cuts or scrapes needing attention. Carry some emergency antihistamines in case you get stung by something you might have an adverse reaction to. It's like bee stings, for some people it's no problem, but for others it can be critical. Better safe than sorry. A topically applied product like a "stop sting stick" is good to have handy in case a minor sting occurs. Deb getting slapped upside the neck with a Portuguese Man-Of-War was not a pleasant experience. Good thing we had our "stop sting stick" on board! Our motto is "always go prepared". When you're dealing with ocean critters, anything is possible. To learn more about how to treat cuts, bites and stings, refer to our First-Aid Resources.
Stan (& Debbie) Hauter
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