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End Of The Line


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 tournaments.

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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