By The Numbers

By The Numbers4

It is hard to believe that another year has come and gone as we head into the 2019 tournament season. The Gulf of Mexico saw some incredible fishing last summer, and hopefully this year will not disappoint! Fishing at the highest competitive level requires a lot of experience as well as knowledge about our fishery here in the Gulf of Mexico. A great way to be successful in the future is to have a good understanding of what transpired in the past. Let us look back and review the 2018 season by the numbers.

Speaking only of the five major Triple Crown sanctioned tournaments, we saw a mean average of 746 pounds for a first place blue marlin; these are extraordinary times. Second place finishes in the marlin division saw a mean average of 629 pounds, followed by a 578 pound mean average for third place finishes.

By The Numbers 1

There has been no indication that the Gulf of Mexico is slowing down to yield big fish, or numbers of fish. Boats continue to catch more fish than ever before as the mean average of first place finishes in the release division stands at 3.4 blue marlin releases.

Mississippi canyon produced all but one of the first place blue marlin last year. The one exception was “Reel Addiction’s” 796 pound blue marlin caught on the north side of Green Canyon at the 921 platform. Green water gave the fleet trouble for the majority of the season last year, as a good bit of popular rigs were what many consider to be “unfishable”. There was one platform that produced good numbers of fish, as well as some very big fish; Independence Hub.

Situated 133 miles southwest of Orange Beach, and on the southeast side of Mississippi Canyon, this rig stands alone and isolated with the next closest platform over 20 miles away. It is the easternmost platform in the Gulf of Mexico and is hit with a predominately southeast current driven by the loop current. In theory this current is what brings fish into the Gulf, so Independence Hub is the first platform that they swim to upon reaching the northern Gulf.

By The Numbers2

Of the 1st place through 3rd place finishes in the blue marlin kill division only, we look at 15 tournament grade fish. Independence Hub produced FIVE of them. Two of those fish finished in 1st place (699 pound “Wynsong” fish and the 798 pound “Shock Wave” fish), two were 2nd place finishers (545 “Reel Addiction” fish and the 739 pound “Team Supreme” fish), and one was a 3rd place finisher, the 649 pound “You Never Know!” Fish. It is notable that during the Cajun Canyons tournament, first place blue marlin, second place release and first place tuna were all won at Independence Hub by the “Wynsong”.

There were several more reports of big fish being hooked and lost, and in one case, caught at an inopportune time (a team already had a smaller fish boated) at this rig. The rest of the winners were spread out across the Mississippi canyon area.

By The Numbers3

Looking back, speed and range were the big advantages that separated the top teams from the rest of the fleet over the last two decades. These advantages have plateaued out as today’s average tournament boat is 65 feet in length or more, holds plenty of fuel and cruises 30 plus knots. It wasn’t long ago when tuna tubes were homemade and very few boats were dedicated to live baiting for blue marlin. 

A few boats would carry 55 gallon fuel drums in the cockpit whereas today everyone has fuel bladders. If you were to go back 20 years and take a walk down the dock at a major tournament, you would have been hard pressed to find a single boat outfitted with tuna tubes or a boat carrying extra fuel, whereas today it is common practice.

Technology is playing a hand in the ever evolving fishery here in the Gulf. There are boats equipped with side scan sonar that takes fishing to another level. Many consider this technology to be an unfair advantage, but the successful teams over the years have always been on the cutting edge when it comes to tackle, technology, etc. When the skipper at the helm is a good fisherman without a sonar, and is then given one to work with, he or she is going to become a lot better.

It takes a lot of the guessing and luck out of the game. Just like having a boat that has the speed and range, tuna tubes, sea keepers and fancy fuel bladders, side scan sonar is here to stay and will become common in sport fishing boats of the future. The game has always evolved and will continue to do so as long as people keep fishing. One must either keep up or get left behind in this day and age!

All in all fishing was productive and exciting in 2018. Let’s hope 2019 is another great year as well. We hope all fishing teams are blessed with good weather and good fishing conditions with a dash of luck thrown in.  Stay safe and we will see you at the Orange beach Billfish Classic weigh in!