Tuesday, August 26, 2008

by Robin

First, let me preface my story to say that I can find only one true species of sailfish, Istiophorus platypterus; however, I tend to see two, sometimes three, differences as I check out the web.... Atlantic Sailfish and the Indo-Pacific Sailfish. There seems to be a lot of controversy over this species because of the variation of weight & color depending on what coast they're found on.
http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/gallery/thumb.asp (copyrighted pictures of baby sailfish from the FL Museum of Natural History)

This article will explain more on sailfish characteristics and I love the picture at the end of a white sailfish, which is a first for me. Not a true albino but definitely white with some blue flecking.
Now onto my story:

Here is the sailfish that we caught last month. He weighed approx 65 lbs. We had only one line out as we just started trolling. He slashed the naked ballyhoo with his sword a couple times before Jack free-spooled the line out since it wasn't hooked up to an outrigger yet. That gave the sailfish enough time to go back for what he thought was dead kill still in the water and swallow it. We were trolling in approx 90 ft of water, east of Port Canaveral.

Anyhow, the colors were vivid as he lit up for the fight. It took only 10 minutes for us to bring him to the boat. I took hold of the business end, which was crazy but I'm thoroughly proud of myself for not wimping out and begging Jack to handle it for me.

I learned many new things during this experience. First, breath deep and don't panic. If you lose it, ok so you lost it. You were going to release it anyhow. Secondly, when Jack says to catch up with the fish before he gets spooled (loses all the line on the reel), that doesn't mean to hit the throttles at full speed, turn on a dime and nearly toss Jack out of the boat. It really means, bump it in gear and slowly turn the boat towards the fish as Jack reels line in as humanly fast as possible. Don't outrun your angler's ability to reel. ha ha.

Third, give the fish plenty of time to chill out & get done jumping. This ol' boy gave me two heart attacks as he decided to jump back up at the same time as my intent was to bend over and grab his bill. Fishermen have been gored before and I didn't want to be on that statistics list.

Fourth, grab that sword and don't let go as if (and it does!) your life depends on it. He's going to shake so just know that ahead of time. If you've followed my 3rd point, this should shorten your time shaking and lessen the risk of injury. This of this act as if you're the late Steve Irwin jumping on a gator's back, covering the eyes. Once you grab it, you're committed. Hesitancy and indecisiveness will kill or injure you. If you have the least bit of doubt, don't do it.

Fifth, after your fishing partner grabs the tail (this may take a couple attempts as well) and you lift the fish up for great photo ops, don't attempt to lay the fish in the floor of the boat. While I don't advocate yelling at your spouse, I'm very glad Jack yelled to stop me before I let go of that bill. We throw every other fish on the cockpit floor to catch our breath & wear them out; but, this is one that would be tricky to recatch. Maybe, .........possibly, deadly to you and possibly deadly to the fish.

While I'm on the subject of killing a sailfish, the rumor goes like this. You are allowed to legally take one sailfish per boat, as long as you report it to the "authorities" as soon as you dock your boat. My sport fish book says to not take one home unless you've inadvertently killed it. However, in the world of fishing, many recreational fishermen are conservationist-at-heart and know billfish numbers are dwindling. They have set a personal standard for catch & releasing these fish without having government limits put in place. It makes me feel pretty good about the sport & my community of fellow anglers. So, we don't handle the fish harshly, take pictures quickly and then release after reviving it in the water.

In this pic, I'm about to put its mouth under the water to run the water through the gills. Jack has lightly bumped the boat in gear to gently force water through, not drown it. It takes less than 30 seconds if the fish isn't too exhausted and then they take off swimming.

Finally, give plenty of high-5's to your crew. You only have moments to share this rare experience. When I was reviving this fish, I really didn't want to let go of the moment or the fish. What a magnificient and majestic creature, uniquely formed and brilliant in color. I wanted to study it, gaze at it, touch it and make it my own. But, his home is the open ocean. It's a bit like that butterfly that you have to set free if you love it, only more dramatic. You can see butterflies at sanctuaries. I've never seen a sailfish at an aquarium. It's a special gift to see one up close. I imagine people who go to Africa and see wild animals or those who dive with Great Whites must feel the same way I do. You're blessed to see one and you're more blessed if they don't kill you in the process of seeing them. It's a special appreciation and deep respect for God's creation.

Here is a sailfish caught in Costa Rica by a customer of Jack's. Look at the size of that big daddy!! He is a deep-dark coloration and a solid 30-40 lbs more than our fish. Look at that sail!

Here is one more photo of another sailfish around Costa Rica that has the same coloration but much larger than our fish. I'm guess at least another foot or two larger. I'd love to one day fish the Caribbean waters.
Happy Fishing!!
Looks like Jack may be fishing with Mike on Friday. I'm staying behind because of appointments. Hurricane Gustav will probably ruin the waters after that.

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