Privileged and Humbled

Privileged and Humbled article

Another year has come to pass since our 25th anniversary, and we are set to start the 2022 tournament season with great optimism. I would like to take a moment to reflect on how great it is to be participating in the sport that we love so much, in a country that allows us the liberties and freedoms to do so. We are truly privileged. A look to the east at the Ukraine situation puts things into perspective. There are a lot of people over there going through great hardships that we as Americans (currently) do not have to deal with. Gearing up for a summer of thrilling offshore fishing is not on the minds of Ukrainians and many others around the world that are less fortunate. Times like these make me feel humbled to be an American, and it is a privilege to take the liberties that we have to do what we love. With all that being said, I would like to look back over the 2021 season. This not only excites us about the coming season, it helps compare our last year to the years before to see how our fishery is evolving. It is educational and helps us understand if our management approach here on the gulf tournament circuit is headed in the right direction.

It seems that this is a golden age for the sport fishing industry. Never before have we had the boats and tools that are available to us today to pursue the coveted blue marlin. In the not-so-distant past, 2 blue marlin releases in a tournament 9 out of 10 times would land you in the chips. Today, 9 times out of 10, if you have only 2 blue marlin releases, you do not even make the trip to the video verification booth as it wouldn’t be worth your time. It is not uncommon today for a few boats to have 4 or 5 blue marlin releases in a tournament. There are a number of factors that are accountable for today’s successful fishing. Boats are bigger and faster with more range than ever. Live baiting around the rigs was once a type of fishing only implemented by a select few; now it is the most common way that boats fish in a tournament. And now, boats have sonars. Just a few years ago little was known about sonar fishing and the benefits from it were held close to the vest by those who had them. Just as with live baiting, sonars are now becoming mainstream. You would be hard pressed today to find a boat that fishes at least 3 tournaments that doesn’t have the following capabilities;

  • Range of at least 400 miles (running)
  • 30 knot cruising speed
  • Sonar
  • Seakeeper
  • Transom full of tuna tubes

The above features of modern day sport fishing boats represent just a few of the many significant changes to boats over the last decade. It is a fact that we are catching more and bigger fish than ever before in the Gulf of Mexico. Some will argue that our approach to management with things like higher minimum lengths for harvest and circle hook fishing have helped the fishery by allowing more fish to survive an encounter with a boat. Others will argue that the fish have been here all along, and we have only just now capitalized on them because of the tools available to us. One thing that everyone can agree on is that keeping the long liners out of critical areas in the gulf has had a major impact on multiple fisheries. Today the conservation minded tournament teams that fish the OBBC enjoy spectacular sword fishing, white marlin fishing, and tuna fishing in addition to the world class blue marlin fishery here in the Gulf of Mexico. It is an honor to be able to give to an organization such as The Billfish Foundation so that they can have the funds to fight for and preserve our fishery.

Last year we saw another great tournament season for quality blue marlin. There were no fish that won a tournament last year under 500 pounds. In fact, there was only one fish under 500 pound that even placed in a tournament last year and that was in the Emerald Coast Blue Marlin Classic with a 472.2 pounder from Devotion. A 472 pound fish is a respectable one and the fact that fish like this rarely win or even place in tournaments speaks volumes to the fishery we have here. We must make strives to keep and promote conservation here in the gulf so that generations to come may continue to experience what we are fortunate enough to be experiencing today. In my view, as long as we keep seeing these big fish hit the scales and boats letting more fish go than ever before, we are taking the right steps to preserve this sport that was all love so much. When the numbers go down, in regards to size or amount, we may need to revisit our approach. Until that happens, let’s responsibly enjoy what we have here in the gulf and cherish every minute of it! Good luck to all this year, and we look forward to seeing everyone together again for great camaraderie and competition!

-Travis Dorland