This page represents my ramblings on various topics affecting marlin fishing and fishermen. Today's topic: a better way ...
Anyone who knows me knows that I strongly support the
policy of tag and release. To me, it is an essential step
if we hope to preserve this sport for our children. And,
as anyone who has released a fish knows, the act itself
provides a joy and satisfaction you simply cannot achieve
with a gaff.
But tag and release is not gun control or immigration
reform or abortion rights. What we're talking about here
is sport. Our desire to enforce tag and release really belongs
in the same category as the fight to bring back instant
replay in football. So that's where we need to take the
fight ... to the Super Bowl of our sport, the big money
We've all seen pictures from marlin tournaments around
the world and, except for the location, they're all the
same. A couple of sweaty anglers, a couple of bikini-clad
girls, lots of smiles and a dead fish. Everyone goes out,
kills their marlin and the the guy lucky enough to have
the biggest one bite wins. Of course, a hundred marlin may
have been killed to determine that winner. But, hey - that's
the way it's always been, and the way it'll always be, right?
Not necessarily ...
I have an idea: let's take one of the big money tournaments
... any of them ... and make it release-only. Same prizes,
same money, just no dead fish. Now, I know what you're thinking
... how do we determine a winner without a weight slip,
and how do we prevent cheating. Many of the local clubs
in Southern California determine their tournament winners
using a point system that rewards anglers who challenge
themselves with lighter lines and quicker releases. Those
that do include killed fish adjust the point values to favor
releasing fish; that way, only the very large fish will
be killed and the remainder released. The winner is thus
determined by the skill of the fight, and not just the luck
of the bite.
In this technological age, cheating is easily foiled.
You'd like to see the participants police themselves, but
that's too tempting. Instead, each team could be composed
of 5 members - 4 anglers and an observer. Each observer
would be given a videocamera and shifted one team to the
right, giving each boat an onboard observer who has a vested
interest in preventing cheating. Or the tournament could
provide volunteer observers ... heck, recruit extra trophy
girls and use them to film the action! Whatever method
is used, the fish would have to be filmed. Just as
a taken fish doesn't count until it is weighed, so would
a released fish not count until the video was verified.
In the Los Pescadores tournament, bonus points are awarded
to anyone who shoots a picture of their released marlin
with a bagel on its bill. If that can be done (and I did
it), then video of released marlin can be taken.
Certainly, there are challenges to overcome. The rules
must be developed in a way that keeps the anglers interested
and the sponsors happy. But an all-release big money tournament
can be done successfully ... if someone is willing
to do it first. So which tournament is it going to be ...
who's going to take that big step? Just don't wait too long,
or the only tournament marlin left will be those already
caught on film.
Until next time ...
Tight lines and blind strikes,
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