BIG­GER, FASTER … BET­TER?

Marlin - - EDITOR’S LETTER - Sam White Edi­tor-in-Chief

We are in the midst of a mod­ern-day arms race in sport fish­ing. It’s a show­down to see who can out­run, out-fish and out-tech the next guy. Take the dredge, for ex­am­ple. It started off as a six-armed con­trap­tion with some big sil­ver mul­let on each arm. Then came a dou­ble-stacked dredge. Mud­flaps. Squids. Skirts. Back to nat­u­ral baits again. Triple tiers with dozens of baits. Pretty soon, the bait bud­get for the dredges ri­vals what we used to spend on fuel. And these are just the teasers — you don’t ac­tu­ally catch a damn thing with them.

The boats are get­ting faster too. It wasn’t that long ago when a 26-knot cruise was con­sid­ered pretty quick, but those days are re­ced­ing faster than my hair­line. Go to a boat show to­day and nearly ev­ery man­u­fac­turer touts its boats as hav­ing 30-knot-plus cruis­ing speeds, with top ends ap­proach­ing — or well over — 40 knots. It’s amaz­ing that a 60-ton hunk of wood and fiber­glass can go that fast ( just don’t ask how much fuel they’re burn­ing along the way). You have the need for speed? Gotcha cov­ered.

Elec­tron­ics are on the cut­ting edge. There is a good chance that what­ever you buy to­day will be out­dated in three years. Those same fast new boats are equipped with the lat­est in search­light sonar, 100-mile high-def­i­ni­tion radar, night vi­sion and gi­ant elec­tron­ics dis­plays. We study all kinds of data from satel­lites that or­bit Earth, hop­ing to pick up the small­est vari­a­tions in tem­per­a­ture change, chloro­phyll and salin­ity to find the hot bite be­fore the next guy does.

Boat­builders are clam­or­ing for higher-horse­power en­gines, look­ing to break the 50-knot barrier. Higher speeds open up dis­tant fish­eries like the North­east canyons and Costa Ri­can seamounts, let­ting us go farther and faster than we ever have in the past. One day, our elec­tron­ics will ad­vance to the point where the au­topi­lot will just drive the boat to an area on the chart plot­ter that says “Fish here!” in flash­ing red let­ters.

But just as some things change with the tides, others will al­ways re­main the same. We fish for the ex­pe­ri­ences we share with our fam­i­lies and friends, and for the sheer fun and beauty of it all. To see the sun rise over a slick-calm ocean. That first sip of hot cof­fee, tinged with a lit­tle salt spray in the air. For the sight of a tail-walk­ing sail­fish, or a blue mar­lin blast­ing a teaser in an ex­plo­sion of vi­o­lence and white wa­ter. No­body fishes in tour­na­ments for the money, but rather to share in the in­cred­i­ble ca­ma­raderie of go­ing head to head against others who share the same pas­sion.

One thing we can all agree on is the need for im­proved con­ser­va­tion mea­sures for bill­fish and other pelagic species. We have a del­i­cate bal­ance be­tween com­mer­cial and recre­ational fish­ing in­ter­ests. Com­mer­cial fish­ing isn’t the en­emy; their liveli­hood de­pends on healthy fish stocks. If you haven’t al­ready done so, I en­cour­age you to join The Bill­fish Foun­da­tion. With the world’s largest pri­vate tag­ging data­base, a ro­bust ad­vo­cacy and out­reach pro­gram and strong in­ter­na­tional ties with or­ga­ni­za­tions like ICCAT, TBF is do­ing good work ev­ery day. Health­ier bill­fish stocks world­wide? No mat­ter which side of the tech­no­log­i­cal arms race you’re on, that’s some­thing we can all get be­hind.

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