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It was a busy fishing week for me. It started out drifting eels for large rockfish at Cape Charles. Danny Forehand caught our largest fish which weighed in at 42 pounds 4 ounces for the on-going Bishop Bait and Tackle/PSWSFA Rockfish Tournament. We had Gabe Sava's dad fishing with us. He is one an adventure movie could be made of his life, escaping from behind the Iron Curtain and stuff. He has a different perspective than most of us who always lived here. Freedom is not something he takes for granted. Also, he was not really interested in getting a release citation for his big rockfish. For him, a big fish is not a piece of paper, it is a good dinner.

The next day, I hopped on a plane to Venezuela with Dr. John Graves. We were after blue marlin to place pop-up satellite tags in. This study is being done, in large part, due to white marlin. Their stocks were very depressed, a law suit was filed to have them listed as endangered, and a previous study by Dr. Graves showed that about 37% of white marlin caught and released on J-hooks died where there was almost no mortality with white marlin caught and released on circle hooks.

Most of our offshore fishing is a mix-bagged fishery where we troll for tuna, dolphin, wahoo, and billfish all at the same time. Circle hooks don't work great for some of this. The NMFS decided that anglers are targeting billfish if they are in a billfish tournament so they passed a rule that while in a billfish tournament we must use circle hooks when using natural baits. You can still you J-hooks when trolling lures but they said that you have to use circle hooks if you are using a lure/natural bait combination. That is a problem.

Trolling lure/bait combinations is one of the most popular blue marlin techniques. Anglers like to troll something like a horse ballyhoo behind an Ilander or a Spanish Mackerel behind an Express rigged on a big J-hook. This is especially common here in the mid-Atlantic. Arguments were made that these large baits are not targeting white marlin, if you do happen to catch a white on it is not deep-hooked, and that blue marlin are not white marlin. They are not being killed by these combination baits.

Well, NMFS postponed their rule for a year, re-instituted it the following year and commissioned this study to look at these combination baits versus circle hooks on blue marlin release mortality. So here we are, placing 60 pop-up tags in blue marlin. When I say "we", I don't mean Dr. Graves and me, I mean Dr. Graves and a good number of people. He has kind of a Who's-Who list of some of the best offshore fishermen helping with this study. 60 blue marlin are a lot of fish to tag in a few months time. Fish are being tagged off Virginia, North Carolina, Virgin Islands, Bahamas, Brazil, and of course, Venezuela.

We fished with Captains Jimmy Grant and Bubba Carter and this time the "we" does mean John and I. We were it down there. Gorgeous weather, great blue marlin fishing and nobody is down there fishing. We fished 4 days and saw multiple blue marlin each day. I think we saw a slam every day but never caught a white marlin. We were pulling blue marlin baits and never really had a good shot at any of the few whites which came into the spread. There were good numbers of sailfish around and they messed with our blue marlin baits also. We missed almost all of them but did manage to catch a couple. John caught a big dolphin and we had some wahoo bite-offs. Mostly it was blue marlin. Our best day, we caught 4 and lost, missed, saw plenty more. At one time, we had a triple hook-up with at least a couple more in the spread. One of the mates pulled the hook on his so we had a double. I gave the mate my fish and I went and got two tags activated and ready. I grabbed my camera and went out of the cabin. I'm always trying to get photos but with just John and I, I really did not have much photo time. I missed a lot of photo-ops. I still got some though. Anyway, when I came out of the cabin, only John was fighting a fish. What happened? Well, with the mate's limited English and my more limited Spanish it took me awhile to understand that they had just thrown the rod overboard. Sure enough, there was an orange buoy floating away. We caught John's fish and then went back and got the other one. Fun stuff.

As of yesterday, 42 of the 60 tags have been deployed. It is still going on but the early results are that blue marlin are not white marlin. So far, the release mortality is very low. I'm guessing we killed one on this trip as we had a deep-hooked fish bleeding pretty good from the gills. Actually, I think we killed 2 as I know we killed 1. A circle-hook fish got tail-wrapped and came up dead so that one got eaten by the locals. 18 more tags to go but so far, these blue marlin are tough creatures.

We got back last night. It sure is a lot colder here in Virginia than it was down there. I guess it is time for me to get back after those rockfish.







































 

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Very nice shots - Not trying to hijack your thread but here are some shots of Blue Marlin we caught in Venezuela using circle hook/chugger combos. The percentage was about the same as nakeds but the hook placement seemed to be off a bit.







Couldn't help but think the heads might have something to do with it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Very nice shots - Not trying to hijack your thread but here are some shots of Blue Marlin we caught in Venezuela using circle hook/chugger combos. The percentage was about the same as nakeds but the hook placement seemed to be off a bit.







Couldn't help but think the heads might have something to do with it.
I expect that you are right. They could change how the hook turns or it could alter how the fish is processing the bait. What I think that we need is...more research :D

Nice shots.
 
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