Billfish do survive release, and Capt. Gary Clifford, of True Blue Sportfishing out of St. George’s, Grenada, can prove it. Clifford’s fish story started on January 3 of this year when he took a couple of Canadian visitors out aboard his 31-foot Innovator, Yes Aye, for a half-day afternoon charter. “They had some success along the 3000-foot contour, with angler Rick Smolander, tagging and releasing a nice 50-pound sailfish,” Clifford explains.
Fast-forward to May 30th, a day Capt. Jake Perry, at the helm of his 28-foot center console, Mean Green, of Mean Green Fishing Charters out of Key West, Florida, went out to do some live bait drinking along another drop off. Perry’s angler, Gary Chotiner, also had success, catching and releasing what turned out to be the same sailfish that Yes Aye had released five months earlier.
“They removed the tag, took a photo and released the fish again,” says Clifford. “That fish had traveled an amazing 1600 miles at minimum to get to Florida. Although the percentage of tagged fish that are recaptured is small, this fish proves for certain that at least some of them survive and live to give another angler pleasure another day. The conclusion we should draw from that is to keep on releasing whenever possible. Conservation works if we all co-operate on an international level.”
TAG & RELEASE REPORT FINDINGS
In 2006, The Billfish Foundation, headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, carried out a review of all tag, recapture, and release data for the 2005 calendar year in an effort to address requests for information on what anglers, captains and mates are reporting each year. Key points of the report included:
● 11,261 billfish reports were received of which 3,881 were releases of billfish without a tag.
● 29 tags were recovered through recapture.
● Sailfish made up the majority of recaptures.
● 5,242 tag reports identified hook type. Of those, 49% were circle hooks and 51% J hooks.
● The longest period at large for a recapture was 2,580 days (seven years) for a blue marlin tagged and recaptured in Puerto Rico
Source: The Billfish Foundation, 2161 E. Commercial Blvd., 2nd Floor, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, 33308. Web: www.billfish.org