18 PLAY­ERS

Marlin - - CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS -

Were you born and raised in Florida?

Nope, I was born in Stone Moun­tain, Ge­or­gia, and moved to Gulf Breeze, Florida, in 1999. My fa­ther grew up in Pen­sacola, and I’d been go­ing down there ever since I was a kid. I liked that area — it gave me ac­cess to do the things I wanted to do out­doors, like fish­ing.

You played base­ball at a high level, right?

It feels like a life­time ago now, but I played through col­lege at NC State and UNC Char­lotte, which led to pro ball for a cou­ple of years af­ter col­lege. Then I blew out my shoul­der for the first time in col­lege and dealt with it again my sec­ond year of play­ing pro­fes­sion­ally.

And you had planned on mak­ing base­ball a ca­reer?

It was the only thing I knew. When you play from the time you’re 4 or 5 years old — re­gard­less of what­ever they tell you in col­lege — mak­ing it pro­fes­sion­ally is al­ways the plan.

Did you find time to fish when you were play­ing?

Oh yeah, any pond, pud­dle or stream that I passed by — I used to carry fish­ing rods on the team bus. One time, my grand­fa­ther had for­got­ten to give me back my rods af­ter a fish­ing trip. He chased down the bus in his car, pulled in front and stopped us on the way to a game to give me back my fish­ing rods.

Did he in­tro­duce you to fish­ing for mar­lin and sails in the Pan­han­dle?

No, I ac­tu­ally caught my first mar­lin in the Keys. I was down there for a lit­tle while, bar­tend­ing at night and fish­ing dur­ing the day. I was dol­phin fish­ing in my lit­tle 19-foot Key West, and I caught a small blue. Catch­ing bill­fish wasn’t some­thing I grew up with — my grand­fa­ther fished in fresh water.

You’re the cur­rent chair­man of The Bill­fish Foun­da­tion — how did you be­come in­volved?

I knew a gen­tle­man named Bill Gooch, who was on the board at TBF, and he and I had talked about con­ser­va­tion and what was be­ing done to fur­ther those goals. He came to me and said there was an open spot, and I told TBF that I was in­ter­ested in be­com­ing more in­volved.

Do you see in­creas­ing aware­ness in con­ser­va­tion th­ese days?

Peo­ple are more aware now than ever be­fore. Twenty years ago, ev­ery mar­lin got thrown on the dock. It was a tro­phy, and you had to show your friends. Now, very few fish are taken, out­side of tour­na­ments. The next big step is how to prop­erly han­dle a fish prior to re­lease.

What are some of the changes you’ve been in­volved with?

I fish a lot of the Gulf Coast tour­na­ments; I have

for years, and it’s im­por­tant to me. I felt like there was a lot of room for im­prove­ment to in­crease the min­i­mum­size length for blue mar­lin. And it’s not like I don’t un­der­stand where the tour­na­ment di­rec­tors are com­ing from: They want fish on the docks be­cause it draws a crowd. But even for them, the ideal cir­cum­stance is not 10 dead fish. Ide­ally, you’d want only two or three re­ally big mar­lin that wow the crowd and make a mem­o­rable im­pres­sion on ev­ery­one.

How else can we fur­ther en­hance con­ser­va­tion ef­forts?

I want to re­move inches from the equa­tion. Tour­na­ments should go to a min­i­mum weight for mar­lin. It forces the own­ers, cap­tains and crew to be more con­ser­va­tive. They’ll be less likely to take a chance on a mar­lin that might be un­der the min­i­mum. It’s a touchy sub­ject, but we all know peo­ple who will pull a fish aboard and mea­sure it; if it doesn’t make it, they’ll push it back out the door. We want to elim­i­nate deck-checking fish. The goal is not to elim­i­nate the tak­ing of mar­lin — that’s not what we’re ad­vo­cat­ing. It’s a more re­spon­si­ble way of go­ing about it. When you take it, you own it. I’m tired of, “Oh, it’s a 107-inch min­i­mum but we couldn’t tell, so we pulled a 105-inch fish in the boat, and then slid it back out be­cause it was un­der.” I want to elim­i­nate that from tour­na­ment fish­ing.

Got any­thing else in the pipe­line?

I would love to see some­thing like what Chris Fis­cher is do­ing with shark tag­ging im­ple­mented with bill­fish. Who knows? Maybe that will be my next pro­ject. It’s go­ing to hap­pen, sooner or later. — Austin Coit

Keith English tosses in his son Bryce for a cer­e­mo­nial dunk­ing af­ter Bryce re­leased his first blue mar­lin ear­lier this year off the Do­mini­can Repub­lic.

The English fam­ily wel­comed Anita Grace (top) on June 10. A color­ful se­lec­tion of tour­na­ment con­tenders.

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