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Hook Games: Deepsea Sportfishing

Larry Olmsted
From the Print Edition:
Wayne Gretzky, Mar/Apr 97

(continued from page 4)

The crew typically provides coolers full of ice, and it is up to you to bring lunch, beverages and cigars. Sometimes soda is provided, but many customers bring beer. In rare cases, it is the local custom for the charterer to provide lunch for the crew as well, so ask in advance to avoid an awkward situation. While a responsible crew will not share your beer, they may well share your cigars, so bring plenty.

Sunscreen is a must, as are polarized sunglasses. If you do not have experience at sea, motion sickness medication is a good idea. Captain Morrow estimates that on nearly half his charters, someone gets seasick.

One of the most important questions to ask up front is: "Who gets to keep the fish?" This helps to defuse a potentially explosive situation. Large fish are typically released, but smaller tunas or mahi mahi are quite edible and may be kept for food or bait. Often the crew will carve a fish into steaks for you to take back and grill. Ritchie advises checking rates and local policies. In some areas you may pay more for the charter fee but get to keep the fish. In other venues, the crew will keep the catch, but fees are usually lower.

Light tackle fishing is one of the reasons for the resurgence of the sport. The popularity of freshwater fly fishing has led many of its disciples to the ocean, as well as conventional offshore anglers looking for new challenges. Using very light rods, reels and lines, they attempt to land the same fish that are so difficult to catch on heavy equipment, giving their prey even more opportunity to break free. Light tackle fishermen also stand, using a harness to hold the butt of the rod rather than the fighting chair.

This form of sportfishing requires a skilled crew, and if you are interested, inquire as to their experience with light tackle. Some crews may not own this equipment, and many serious anglers bring their own rods and reels.

If you are concerned with potential record catches, make sure the crew adheres to IGFA regulations, or your catch may be voided. Fishing has as many rules as golf, and sharing your rod with another angler or a mate during the long fight will void your record. Tournaments have different policies about the mates' roles, including whether they can bait lines or set hooks.

Tournaments are often open even to inexperienced anglers, and can be a lot of fun, as well as extremely lucrative. Some are steeped in tradition, others in cash. There are no cash prizes at Club Náutico's prestigious tournament, for instance, but the mere $1,000 entry fee provides four full days of fishing on well-appointed boats, meals and nightly parties, awards banquet and all the rum and beer you can consume. A BMW is awarded to anyone who can break the tournament record; the current mark of 719 pounds was set in 1976.

At the other end of the spectrum is the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 in Cape May, New Jersey, which, despite its name, awarded $1,133,000 in prizes last [NOTE: 1996] year. Big-money sportfishing tournaments are going on constantly all over the world.

Sportfishing is a simple hobby that can easily turn into an obsession. What may begin as a day here or there during your vacations can quickly turn into weeklong trips to fishing lodges in Guatemala, Panama and Costa Rica. Quality sportfishing boats are highly specialized and easily run into the seven figures. The most ardent anglers pursue sportfishing's ultimate accomplishment, the grand slam, catching one of each of the four species of billfish in a single day.

Larry Olmsted writes frequently on sports and travel for Investors Business Daily. The World's Best Sportfishing

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