Captain's Blog # 4
Bluesails Sportfishing has always been aware of the impact that big game fishing can have on the marine environment in general, and on the health and mortality of billfish in particular. We therefore make a concerted effort to ensure that this impact is kept to a minimum, while still enabling our guests to enjoy this adrenalin-filled sport. We hope that the experience of catching and handling your very own Sail or Marlin will help you to appreciate the incredible beauty of these fish and increase your awareness of the importance of a safe and healthy release.
The experts remind us that using inadequate tackle or too-light tackle extends a fish fight & can increase mortality rates. Over time & under stress, billfish suffer from lactic acid and carbon-dioxide build-up, that can prove fatal. Longer fights can also make billfish more susceptible to predators after they’ve been released.
Without a doubt, hauling a Sailfish onboard can damage the fish, & more often than not way too much time is taken to satisfy the many cameras onboard wielded by over-zealous anglers. A common-sense approach should be taken and a single camera or two used to avoid subjecting the fish to longer stress. Always have your video or camera ready, and if you want your mate to take shots for you, be sure he/she knows how to operate your camera beforehand. Releasing the fish safely and quickly is the first priority for Bluesails Sportfishing and will take precedence over trophy shots.
Stress is further increased with a fish that’s thrashing & rubbing off its layer of acidic slime which protects it from parasites. Larger fish are very likely to sustain internal-organ & skeletal damage caused by gravity when their weight is no longer supported by the water. Always ensure that the fish is fully supported especially the mid-section if you’re going to haul it onboard for a quick photo. An in-water release is always encouraged.
We believe that it’s not just about being a good angler but also a responsible angler to prevent fish succumbing to unnecessary stress & exhaustion. Bluesails Sportfishing has a policy that in the event a billfish is declared DOA, it will still be released back into the sea after every effort has been made to revive it. We have a strict dead or alive release policy because we strongly believe that it is sacrilegious to even contemplate eating a Sailfish or Marlin.
In addition, we believe that not all circle hooks are created equal, with several brands available commercially. There has been strong scientific evidence that mortality rates are lower with fish caught & released on circle hooks in conjunction with live or dead-bait fishing. The circle hook of choice should be as circular as possible with no off-set configuration. Circle hooks with no off-set configuration have long tips that point back perpendicular toward the shank, and almost always end up snug in the hinge or corner of the jaw, making for a clean, easy release. So a perfect hook-set would be a hook that catches the upper or lower jaw, slides into the corner & becomes impaled in the hinge of the jaw. Researchers have shown that fish hooked any deeper than the corner of the mouth will most likely die. Circle hooks which are not off-set will minimize, not only gut-hooking but foul-hooking as well. For the fish’s sake the sooner the hook’s out safely & the fish is released, the better.
The concept of catch and release and the use of circle hooks has been around for at least a decade and circle hooks are required by federal regulations during fishing tournaments, but we hope that more fishing charters around the world will start to recognise the advantages of using circle hooks for fish conservation, outside of fishing tournaments.