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Category: Science

'Fish Warrior' extreme fishing series starts Monday on National Geographic Channel

Jakub Vâgner is all smiles as he poses with the massive 8-foot, 8-inch piraiba catfish he caught.

Following last Sunday's debut of the extreme fishing series "Monster Fish," the National Geographic Channel offers up another show in the popular genre. "Fish Warrior" follows adventurer and angler Jakub Vágner as he journeys on extreme fishing expeditions to the most remote regions of the world.

Premiering Monday at 9 p.m., the series follows Vágner he travels deep into the Amazon, searching both for the arapaima, which can weigh 400 pounds, as well as for the giant piraiba catfish, known to eat birds and monkeys. Vágner also visits Kenya’s Lake Turkana, where he seeks the 6-foot-long perch that makes the lake home and is a valuable but potentially deadly food source. Along the way, he meets the locals, observes their customs and hears surprising fishing legends.

Vágner, a lifelong adventure angler, holds many notable records, including one for catching 147 catfish in 40 hours and another for landing a 242-pound, 8-foot-long catfish on Italy's Po River. Vágner’s angling endeavors succeeded in proving the mass existence of catfish in the Czech Republic, and he is a passionate promoter of catch-and-release fishing.

The "Fish Warrior" series schedule and episode descriptions are after the jump.

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'Monster Fish' extreme fishing series premieres Sunday on National Geographic Channel

Zeb Hogan and an alligator gar.

Extreme fishing shows seem to be more prevalent on television lately, and there is no mystery why --  lurking in the murky depths of some of the world's great waterways are bizarre giants -- specimens of such enormous proportions and odd appearance that they boggle the mind.

Now, National Geographic Channel has a new offering in the genre, with the debut of "Monster Fish," premiering Sunday at 10 p.m.

Fish biologist, conservationist and National Geographic explorer Zeb Hogan is the director of the Megafishes Project, a five-year study to find and research the world's largest freshwater fish. In the series, Hogan investigates flying fish from Asia that are invading America's waterways; goes in search of one of North America's toothiest and most misunderstood monster fish, the alligator gar; and navigates Class V rapids on a quest to locate a new species in one of the most unforgiving environments on the planet. 

This five-episode series will move to its regularly scheduled night and time, Mondays at 10 p.m., beginning the following night, July 19.

The "Monster Fish" series schedule and episode descriptions are after the jump.

Continue reading »

'Meet the Grunion' program Monday evening at Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Grunion scramble to get onto the beach to spawn.

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro will be holding its "Meet the Grunion" program Monday evening.

The aquarium exhibit hall will open at 8 p.m., with a film on grunion to be screened at 9 p.m. The cost to attend is $5 for adults and $1 for seniors, children and students.

Afterward, those who wish to participate will head to the beach to await the spawning run, which has a projected two-hour window of 10:50 p.m. to 12:50 a.m.

Grunion runs are a sight to behold. For four consecutive nights, beginning on full and new moon phases during spring and summer, the small silvery fish leave the water to spawn on beaches. The shoreline may glisten with fish as the silversides attempt to lay and fertilize their eggs.

Grunion may only be caught in the months of March, June and July, and only by hand. Catchers 16 and older must possess a valid state fishing license.

There is no limit to the number of fish that may be caught, but the state Department of Fish and Game asks that people only catch what they will eat.

The program will be offered again on July 13 and 27.

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is at 3720 Stephen M. White Drive in San Pedro. Directions and parking information is available on the aquarium's website.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Grunion scramble to get onto the beach to spawn. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

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'Expedition Great White' premieres Sunday on National Geographic Channel

Crew members get a female great white shark into position on the hydraulic lift.

The great white shark has been on the planet for more than 10 million years, and yet still remains one of the world's most mysterious predators.

Now, a crew has set out in an attempt to document more information on white sharks, hoping to better understand their migratory patterns -- where they actually travel, and why.

"Expedition Great White" premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on National Geographic Channel, with two hourlong episodes. Three additional episodes will follow, airing at 10 p.m. on Sunday nights through June 27.

Using a specially designed, 126-foot long mothership that includes a 37-ton hydraulic platform for hoisting a living shark out of the ocean, marine biologist Michael Domeier takes a crew to Mexico's Guadalupe Island, 160 miles west of Baja California, in the hopes of landing, tagging and releasing seven sharks alive.

Domeier has been studying white sharks at Guadalupe Island, one of the world's largest seasonal gathering places for adult great white sharks, for at least a decade. He has compiled a database which includes more than 100 sharks -- identified by gill slits, pectoral fins, tails and color patterns -- and can identify many by the names they've been given.

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Southern California man wins National Park Service volunteer of the year award

Tony Valois pauses while photographing wildflowers.

The National Park Service recently announced that a Southern California volunteer has won the national George B. Hartzog Jr. award for outstanding volunteer service by an individual.

Tony Valois, who lives at Circle X Ranch as a volunteer campground host, won the award for his dedicated service to Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. His most notable accomplishment is an innovative wildflower identification database. The Internet database allows for easy identification of wildflowers in the Santa Monica Mountains based on just a few simple characteristics, such as color and size.

The project, which Valois, 53, has been working on for the last six years, simply grew out of demand. "I found that even though visitors had field guides, it was hard for them to find the flowers quickly and easily," Valois  said. He started taking photos of the most common wildflowers found around Circle X Ranch and Sandstone Peak. When hikers would stop by the visitor station with wildflower questions, Valois would show them digital images of the most common flowers to help with identification. 

As the number of images grew, Valois realized that posting them to the Internet would allow more people access and empower even the novice wildflower enthusiast to make independent identifications. "I wanted to create a search engine that was built on characteristics that people remember, like size, color and shape,"  Valois said.

The collection has grown to more than 700 pictures and includes scientific and common names plus close-up shots of wildflowers that otherwise might be difficult to tell apart. Valois is now working on an iPhone application which will allow hikers to bring the database along with them on the trail.

Before joining the National Park Service as a volunteer in 2002, Valois earned a PhD in electrical engineering, was a professor at the University of Minnesota, attended seminary school taught in Malaysia, and worked as a church choir director.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Tony Valois pauses while photographing wildflowers. Credit: National Park Service

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Fish and Game Q&A: What time of year can beachgoers see their footprints glowing in the sand?

DFG biologist Ken Oda fishing at sunset.

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: I have been trying for years now to find out what time of year a person can walk the beach and turn around to find their footprints glowing in the sand. My grandfather took me to the beach when I was very young to experience this phenomenon, and now that I am older and have told the story to my children, I want to take them to the beach to experience the same excitement I did. Could you please explain why, where and when this happens? (Terri P.)

Answer: According to Associate Marine Biologist Ed Roberts, the phenomenon you’re referring to is the result of a “bloom” of microscopic algae known as dinoflagellates.

Some species of dinoflagellates are bioluminescent -- they can create their own light. These bioluminescent cells flash when disturbed.

Thus, when a bloom of bioluminescent dinoflagellates occurs, hundreds of millions of these cells are washed up on the beach, and they light up when you cause a disturbance by stepping on them. When you see this phenomenon, look at the waves breaking on the beach -- they will be glowing as well.

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Jeremy Wade returns for a second season of 'River Monsters,' beginning Sunday on Animal Planet

Jeremy Wade with a Congo tiger fish. There are monsters that live amongst us.

I hesitate to go into the ocean because of the dangerous denizens of the deep that reside there. Now I may start thinking twice about going into lakes as well, thanks to the preview episode from the second season of "River Monsters" that I recently watched.

Extreme angler and biologist Jeremy Wade is back, tracking down and fishing for some of the most threatening-looking freshwater fish found worldwide. The new season will begin Sunday, April 25, at 10 p.m. on Animal Planet.

"'River Monsters' is breaking new ground," Wade said in a press release. "Even in the 21st century, there are genuine mysteries to be solved and discoveries to be made in rivers and ultimately shown to the outside world."

Traveling to exotic locations including the Congo, Uganda, Ethiopia and South Africa, as well as spots in the U.S. such as Florida and Alaska, Wade attempts to land some of the most mysterious freshwater fish, including the Congo tiger fish, with teeth as long as the animal it's named after; the Zambezi river shark, a species that lives 100 miles from the sea; and the snakehead, a Far Eastern predator that’s now invading America’s backyards.

"Freshwater is probably the last frontier of wildlife filmmaking," added Wade. "Although lakes and rivers comprise less than 1% of the Earth’s water, we probably know less about what lives in fresh water than in oceans."

Episode 1 sees Wade heading to Thailand in search of the giant freshwater stingray, which can grow to more than 1,000 pounds and is equipped with a venomous barb on the end of its whip-like tail (Wade reminds viewers that Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray).

Though it did have some graphic wound sequences that were a bit shocking, I found the show utterly fascinating as well as educational, and it left me wanting to see the additional six episodes of the season.

I guess you could say I'm hooked.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Jeremy Wade with a Congo tiger fish. Credit: Animal Planet

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Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival starts Friday at Paramount Ranch

Paramount Ranch Main Street

The inaugural Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival begins Friday evening at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills.

Sponsored by the National Park Service in partnership with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, the free festival will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and will give attendees a chance to ask and learn about the flora and fauna of one of our local national parks.

Friday's nocturnal activities include a campfire singalong, a nighttime hike to learn about animals that come out after dark and the opportunity to identify bats, bugs and owls, including catching and banding owls.

Saturday's events will include special presentations on native plant and animal species in the Santa Monica Mountains, bird and plant identification walks and hands-on demonstrations for children and adults. There will also be an update on the mountain lion research program and additional booths and games to inform and entertain.

There will be limited food vendors on site, so attendees are encouraged to bring their own food and water as well as any personal comfort items, such as sunscreen, sunglasses and hats.

A complete schedule of events is available by clicking here.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A view of Main Street at Paramount Ranch. Credit: National Park Service

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Idaho trips' auction raises nearly $17,000 to benefit outdoor education

Children participate in the songbird banding and raptor trapping trip, one of 42 outdoor opportunities up for auction.

A recent online auction of extraordinary Idaho trips netted nearly $17,000 for the state's Watchable Wildlife programs, designed to promote education, wildlife viewing and photography, and instill an appreciation for what the state has to offer outdoors.

With more than 100 bidders nationwide, the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Foundation reports that this is the most successful auction since it moved to an online-bidding format five years ago.

Ranging from day trips to overnight excursions, 42 outdoor adventures were on the auction block. Trips included guided fly-fishing, youth-mentored duck hunting, patrolling the Salmon River by jetboat and helping biologists capture and radio-collar elk calves.

The top-three highest-bid items were the Selway Wilderness fishing and trail riding trip, which sold for $950; the wolf pup count in Idaho's Sawtooth National Forest, $900; and the Hells Canyon white sturgeon research trip, which netted $875. Other trips, such as the white-fronted geese survey and the rooster pheasant release, sold for less than $100 each.

Co-sponsored by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the 20th annual auction offered such a unique variety of outdoor adventures that perhaps other state's might consider hosting such an auction, as a way to provide some much needed revenue to bolster education programs and interest in the outdoors.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Children participate in the songbird banding and raptor trapping trip, one of 42 outdoor opportunities up for auction. Credit: Idaho Fish and Game

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U.S. registers sharp drop in shark attacks last year

Shark3

Surfers and other ocean-sport enthusiasts might find solace in the news that shark attacks in the United States declined in 2009, according to a University of Florida report released Monday.

"The big story is that the number of attacks in the United States dropped dramatically from 41 in 2008 to 28 in 2009," said George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the university. "Considering there were 50 attacks in 2007, we may have a bit of a trend, but only time will tell."

One possibility for the decline of attacks in U.S. coastal waters may be that fewer people visited the shore due to the recession.

"Florida's population hasn't gone down, so I suppose the economy could have had an effect on how many times people can afford to put gas in their cars and go to the beach," added Burgess.

Worldwide is a different story, however, with attacks edging up ever so slightly, from 60 in 2008 to 61 in 2009.

"More than half the attacks -- 33 out of 61 -- were surfers and this continues a trend that we've been seeing for quite awhile," said Burgess.

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Marina del Rey Halibut Derby put on one-year hiatus

James Muro of Woodland Hills won top honors in 2009 with his 41.1 pound halibut. The annual Marina del Rey Halibut Derby has been put on hiatus for one year in an effort to help halibut populations increase in the Santa Monica Bay, where the tournament is held.

"We want to make sure our MDR Halibut Derby is good for thousands of loyal participants as well as our beloved halibut," said Josh Gerson, incoming president of Marina del Rey Anglers, the nonprofit fishing and conservation organization that hosts the event.

Although the sustainability of California halibut is good along the state's coastline, the club's board of directors is concerned about the health of the Santa Monica Bay and the halibut population in it.

"Our first obligation is to the Santa Monica Bay, the marine environments, our local halibut fishery and the communities we serve," Gerson said. "We hope to be back in full force in 2011."

Normally scheduled for April or May, the event has been held since 1974, with proceeds funding marine environmental and conservation programs as well as youth fishing programs.

Members of Marina del Rey Anglers are working with groups such as the California Department of Fish and Game, United Anglers of Southern California, Heal the Bay and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, trying to determine why there seems to be a decline of halibut in the bay.

"This past year we invited top marine fishery and environmental scientists from various government and non-government agencies to address our club in our attempt to understand why the halibut may not be visiting our Santa Monica Bay in their historical numbers," said Bob Godfrey, the group's secretary and past president. "We are going to keep looking at the question and for this coming year give our local Santa Monica Bay halibut a rest."

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: James Muro of Woodland Hills won top honors in 2009 with his 41.1 pound halibut. Credit: Anna Diaz / Marina del Rey Anglers

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ASP surfing? There's an app for that

The new iPhone application, ASPtogo, allows users to check out the world’s best surfers in all ASP circuit events.

Just in time for the start of the ASP World Tour, surfing fans won't have to worry about missing a minute of news and results, thanks to a new application recently launched for the iPhone and iPod Touch.

ASPtogo offers users live scores and heat results, plus photos and videos. It also provides the ability to connect to live video feeds of events.

"The ASP iPhone application is the latest development we’re activating to bring the world’s best surfers to our global audience wherever they may be," Brodie Carr, chief executive of ASP International, said in a news release.

The application costs $4.99 and allows access to all ASP events, from the ASP World Tour through the ASP Junior circuits.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: The new iPhone application, ASPtogo, allows users to check out the world’s best surfers in all ASP circuit events. Credit: © ASP / SCHOLTZ

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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.



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