Big-game fishing

From Academic Kids

Big-game fishing, sometimes called offshore sport fishing or offshore game fishing, is a form of recreational fishing, targeting large bony fish such as tuna and marlin in the open sea, often some distance from land and, in some fishing grounds, out of sight of land. It is conducted recreationally, as well as in competitions; see sport fishing for details on fishing competitions.

It is conducted in a variety of locations around the world where such fish are located - off the eastern coastline of Australia, through the Caribbean and near Mexico, and in South America, amongst other places. It is a common pattern for these fish to be found along the continental shelf, thus determining the distance offshore where boats commonly operate.

Offshore game fishing requires a boat of considerable capacity, seaworthiness, speed, stability and range to transport a crew out to sea some distance, carry the large amount of equipment required, remain stable when fighting fish which, in extreme circumstances, can weigh over 500 kilograms, and safely carry the crew back in possibly unfavourable weather and sea conditions. These requirements are met by only the largest of trailerable boats; many game fishing crews use larger vessels of 9 to 15 metres (30 to 50 feet) in length.

Fish are enticed by trolling fishing lures (the most common form are designed to resemble squid) or baited hooks behind the boat. Multiple lines are used. To spread the lines widely, outriggers - long poles with fittings designed to hold the line out, then allow it to run free when a fish bites, are attached to the sides of the boat, and spread once fishing commences. Some fishing captains have adopted some of the technology of commercial fishermen, including forward-scanning sonar, water temperature measurements, and even satellite-provided sea temperature charts, to attempt to narrow down the search for fish. Some of this technology is extremely expensive.

Once a fish is properly hooked on a line, a somewhat tricky task as often initial nibbles only partly hook the fish, one of the fishermen attempts to reel them in. The captain assists by manoeuvering the boat so that the fish remains astern (behind the boat), while other members of the crew race to reel in the other lines so as to avoid tangling with the angler catching the fish.

Most of the time, the fishing line used for sport fishing has a breaking strain less than the maximum force the fish can apply to the line. The fishing reels therefore have sophisticated drag mechanisms which allow the line to escape if the fish pulls on it, but keep the specified tension on the line. When hooked, most fish will circulate in different directions, and when they are not pulling away from the boat the fisherman can take the opportunity to reel in some of the line. Eventually, if the fish tires and has not broken the line, they will be reeled in; however, the challenge does not end there. Hauling a heavy, powerful, and still very much alive fish on board the boat represents a considerable challenge (and not performed if the fish is to be tagged and released).

Two main methods are used to fight the fish. With a game chair, the angler sits in a specially-designed chair at the stern of the boat, and places the butt of the rod into a gimballed mount. Rods used in this manner are quite long and have a bent rod butt to be on a convenient angle to fighting the fish once placed in the mount. With large fish, this can still represent a considerable challenge, but "stand-up" game fishing, without the assistance of a chair and with the seat mount replaced by a harness, requires a good deal of strength and endurance, as well as body mass.

The capital costs of a suitable boat, electronics, rod, reels, line, lures, and the running costs of the fuel and other consumable is very substantial - it is quite common for an enthusiast to spend upwards of 20,000 USD on fishing tackle alone. Consequently, many game fishermen prefer to use charter services where they hire the use of a boat and equipment, and the fish-finding expertise of a captain, in preference to maintaining their own. Either way, game fishing can be an extremely expensive hobby and one in which the super-rich feature prominently.

Amateur offshore big-game fishing began in the last years of the 19th century off the east coast of the United States.

References

  • History of game fishing (http://www9.boot.de/cgi-bin/md_boot/custom/pub/content.cgi?lang=2&ticket=g_u_e_s_t&oid=8067*)
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