By The Mark …

This month we publish our Sport Fishing Preview and list the tournaments taking place from May to the end of the year. Sport fishing fascinates me. How anglers catch fighting fish weighing hundreds of pounds on 30-pound test line, when I have had small dorados snap a trolling line made of strong cord, remains a mystery. Game fish are truly beautiful and watching them burst from the water in a rainbow of spray is a joy to behold. In a world of dwindling resources, after fighting a large billfish and bringing it to the boat, tagging and releasing it is to be admired. This is interactive conservation that works.

Organizations like The Billfish Foundation (TBF) pioneered Tag and Release in 1990. Conventional tagging, which provides science with information about migrations, billfish densities, growth rates, and other important life history characteristics, has taken a step forward with the introduction of satellite tags. These tags, which cost around $4000 each, provide real time information of fish travels and the oceanographic conditions they favor. By understanding the movements of billfish and areas of particular importance to feeding, spawning, and other activities, TBF claim they are able to provide policy makers with persuasive evidence for targeted conservation. Although the technology of satellite tags increases the scope of observations, the Foundation insists they cannot replace traditional tagging or its importance to conservation.

Reports of fish being tagged, released and caught again five years later proves that the scheme works.

As an incentive, members of TBF receive official release certificates for every billfish they tag and or release. These certificates feature marine artist Carey Chen’s depiction of the world’s billfish species. That an angler would rather see a handsome framed certificate on the wall of their home or office instead of a magnificent billfish hanging flyblown from the gallows, speaks volumes for those in the sport.

For more information about tag and release and TBF, visit: www.tagbillfish.org

I sometimes wonder, as I write this editorial, if our readers think I’m a dinosaur, a Luddite, someone who can’t shake off the past and embrace the age of marine technology like everyone else, goodness knows, even Cap’n Fatty Goodlander is now sailing around with more gadgets and gilhickies than a space shuttle. So, what has tweaked my jib this time? Well, it’s our review of the latest fish finders and sonars as described by Glenn Hayes on page 44. Side scan sonar, forward facing transducers, split screens in full color; it’s a boating geek’s wet dream. Up to a few years ago, this kind of technology could only be found on warships and survey vessels and here we are able to buy it over the counter at our local marine store, and the whole thing is the size of a box of saltine crackers.

At the risk of sounding like a sketch from Monty Python, sailors today are lucky, because ‘when I were a lad’ we had a lump of lead on a piece of string … I kid you not, right up to the late 80s I was still taking soundings using a lead line.

My lead line was the real thing with a hole in the bottom for loading it with tallow (If you are lubberly enough not to know why you load tallow into a lead line, then there is no hope for you). Entering an anchorage or working our way through shoals, my wife and I took turns at casting the lead. Of course it was useless in really shallow water because the lead hit bottom at the same time as the keel. And in the dark, if you swung it really hard and threw it as far forward as you could and heard it bounce off something solid, well, you didn’t have much time to take avoiding action. Shouting “By the mark …” followed by a loud crunch is not an experience I would like to repeat.

We had almost as much fun with the chip line … but perhaps I’ve said enough.

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