Many Palm Beach County anglers know that mutton snapper linger in shallow water during the summer months, waiting for baby sea turtles to enter the water from the beach.
Dana Cook of Boynton Beach, a lifelong angler and fly-tier who holds a degree in fine arts from Florida Atlantic University, knows that many ocean fish eat sea turtle hatchlings. Watching a documentary on the hatchling sea turtle feeding frenzy led Cook to develop the Sea Turtle Hatcher, an imitation sea turtle lure made from a “leather-like” material tied to a 9/0 circle hook. Cook says his lures will catch snook, tarpon, snappers and groupers along with pelagic fish that feed along the offshore mats of floating sargassum, where hatchling sea turtles spend the first year or more of their lives. “Grouper have been caught on them. Sailfish have been caught on them. Pelagics love them,” Cook said. Cook said the imitation sea turtle lures feature legs that move independent of the body, giving the Hatchers a realistic appearance in the water. Once saturated, the sea turtle lure suspends in the water and moves up when the angler’s rod tip is lifted.
Cook grew up tying flies in Philadelphia. After moving to Boca Raton, where he attended high school, he started fishing more and continued to create fish-catching lures on his fly-tying vise. At one point in the early 1990s, Cook worked as a mate on the Two Georges drift boat, where he sold his buck-tail streamers, a drifting jig made with double hooks designed for catching kingfish with dead sardines. Cook’s marketing plan for the Sea Turtle Hatcher goes beyond selling to American tackle shops. He says the lure can prevent poaching of real sea turtle hatchlings that are used as bait.
“My ultimate success is going to be selling to countries like Trinidad that are in dire need of an alternative to prevent poaching,” Cook said, adding that he’s contacting government officials in the Bahamas, Belize and the Dominican Republic about his imitation sea turtle lure. Daniel Evans, research specialist for the Gainesville-based Sea Turtle Conservancy, said people catching sea turtles for bait might pose a threat to hatchlings in some areas, but “it is certainly not a major threat to sea turtles on a regional or global scale.” But Evans noted that tarpon, dolphinfish, jacks, snook and “pretty much any large predatory fish found in tropical and subtropical waters” will eat sea turtle hatchlings.
The Sea Turtle Hatchers are available through Cook’s website, www.dcclures.com, along with trolling darts, snapper lures, two imitation shrimp, buck-tail streamers and an imitation field mouse for freshwater anglers trying to fool largemouth bass.
Still in development: life-size spiny lobster and stingray lures for large grouper and snapper.