Billfish Bill Morphology

Rostrum: a funny word used by scientists to describe the “upper jaw prolonged into a long stout spear with round cross-section.” To anglers, it’s known as a bill and is what makes marlin, sailfish (Istiophorids) and swordfish such incredible creatures. Fossil records date the first signs of an elongated upper jaw in fish to more than 20 million years ago. The evolution of the bill clearly gave the species a great advantage in catching prey and has led them to be the extremely effective hunters they are today. How exactly the bill is used varies by the species and this unique adaptation has also gotten a few billfish stuck in some curious situations.

Witnessing a bait ball being consumed by a pack of ravenous sailfish is one of the most spectacular scenes in the natural world. Pitching up their sails to corral their prey, lighting up in iridescent colors, they take their turns picking off baits with the accuracy of a heat guided missile. Recent studies conducted off of Isla Mujeres, Mexico, have documented the feeding patterns of Atlantic sailfish preying on schools of sardines to reveal some amazing insights. Researchers concluded that sailfish display a series of actions as part of a distinct feeding pattern. This predation first begins with what is referred to as ‘slashing’, as the sailfish initially approaches the school and thrashes its bill into the school to stun or kill the bait. This is then followed by the sailfish re-approaching the school, honing in on a dead or weakened bait (known as imminent contact), prey contact,  and ‘handling’ of the prey as the sail uses its bill to direct the sardine towards its mouth. The study also recorded sailfish bills slashing bait at some of the highest lateral accelerations of any aquatic vertebrate. Using their dorsal fins for stability, sailfish thrash their heads with such force that they are capable of accelerating their bills underwater at the same rate a person swings a baseball bat through the air! The slashing of the bill happens so rapidly and violently that the sardines have no way to avoid being attacked.

While the term ‘slashing’ evokes thoughts of chaos and calamity, the reality is that sailfish actually exhibit great exactitude and preference towards singling out an individual prey item. In the same study off Isla Mujeres, high speed cameras revealed that once sailfish honed in on an individual prey, they are able to penetrate the bait ball and pick off a single fish so quickly that their bills go undetected by the rest of the fish! Billfish scientists hypothesize that targeting individual fish may be the preferred strategy because it is more energy efficient than slashing, which can require twice the time and effort. Striped marlin in particular are known for demonstrating this behavior. The efficient use of their bill however, is only possible because of rough sandpaper like protrusions on the bill known as denticles. Those of you that have ever made the mistake of billing a fish without gloves on can thank these denticles for the road rash left on your palms.

The term slashing is perhaps best associated with swordfish, which wield a real weapon on their business end. Compared to marlin or sailfish, a swordfish bill is flatter, broader (hence the common name, broadbill) and are much longer in proportion to the length of the fish. These amazing animals certainly do not fail to meet up to their scientific name, Xiphias gladius, as most prey found in swordfish stomachs have large gashes or strike marks from swordfish using their bills to slash, impale and stun prey.

Considering the speeds that a sailfish bill can reach, one has to imagine how much raw power must be behind bigger species like blue marlin or swordfish. There are numerous black and white pictures of bills sticking out of wooden boats and this still happens occasionally today in fiberglass sportfishers (it should also be noted that there have been many instances of marlin or sailfish caught with a broken or deformed bill which may indicate they are still able to effectively catch prey without their bills). Catching small dolphin with bill marks and seeing tuna sprayed into the air is further evidence that big marlin attack with tremendous brute force. Unfortunately for a few billfish, this approach has also gotten them into some trouble.  In March of 2014, one blue marlin made headlines by striking an oil pipe off Angola. The marlin struck with such force it was able to penetrate the heavy, thick outer rubber of the pipe, causing the temporary stoppage of oil production and the losses totaling in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Interestingly, this is not the first time that a billfish in Angolan waters has caused problems for oil producers when in another incident a swordfish became lodged in the structure of an oil rig. Oil production had to be stopped and deep water submersibles had to be used to remove the swordfish from the structure (you’ll be glad to hear it swam away in good health). Perhaps most well-known is the instance of swordfish that “attacked and rammed” the deep water submersible, ALVIN, in 1967. During a dive off of Florida, a swordfish became lodged in the sub shortly after it reached the bottom at 2,000 feet. The 196 lb. swordfish struck with such force and caused enough damage that it even created a leak in the sub! The sub and its operators made it through the ordeal safely, while the swordfish however, ended up as dinner for the crew.

Swordfish are ferocious predators, but it seems doubtful that one would “attack” a giant submersible and see it as a potential meal. Like the other billfish who have gotten their bills stuck, chances are that these fish were pursuing prey who took to these man-made structures for cover. Just like being caught on a hook, it was a big appetite and a bill that got these fish into trouble! The distinctive morphology and evolution of billfish is what makes them amazing predators. The evolution of a pointy spear on the front of a fierce, hard fighting creature is also another reason they are so revered and respected by anglers!

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Rum Bum Racing Scores Podium at Sebring International Raceway

Sebring, Fla. (20 March 2015) – Rum Bum Racing continued its championship momentum at Sebring International Raceway on Friday as Hugh Plumb and Matt Plumb combined to take third at the iconic Florida road course. The event marked Round 2 of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and after claiming victory in the opening round at Daytona, Luis Bacardi’s Rum Bum Racing team remains well positioned in the 2015 championship standings.

It took a mix of strategy, teamwork, and hard driving to deliver the podium performance and there was a big crowd of supporters on hand as Jennifer Bacardi and her family celebrated with the team following the race.

Hugh Plumb opened the event after qualifying the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche fifth on the grid for the 2.5-hour race. It was a hot and balmy Florida afternoon which made for some brutal conditions behind the wheel of the racecar. But undeterred by the heat of the day, Hugh Plumb drove a strong first stint before handing the car over to his brother Matt Plumb with just under an hour remaining.

When Rum Bum Racing called Matt Plumb to pit lane for the team’s final pit stop under green flag conditions, he had made his way up to third in the running order. The squad made quick work of adding fuel and tires to the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche and Plumb returned to the fray 13th in line.

In traditional Matt Plumb fashion, he wheeled the Porsche all the way up to third in the final segment and developed a significant gap over fourth place. Despite pushing the Porsche to its limit, the 3.74-mile Sebring road course favors the V8 machines of the Stevenson Camaros who ran 1-2, and the No. 13 Porsche was unable to catch them with Matt Plumb taking third at the checkered flag.

“Congrats to Stevenson Motorsports – they are a professional team and they’ve got great drivers, there’s no reason they shouldn’t finish 1-2,” said Team Manager and driver Matt Plumb. “I would have liked to be a little bit closer to them in the end, but it’s alright, we’ll get them next time. The team was flawless and the car ran perfectly.”

“Once again we did everything we could do given what we have,” echoed Hugh Plumb. “The Rum Bum Racing guys (crew chief) Joe Varde, Matt (Plumb) and (Technical Director) Nick Longhi, once again just did an awesome job. We just didn’t have the overall pace that the Camaros did. I’m so happy for the team, a first (at Daytona) and a third, what more can I say? The Bacardi family makes this possible. My thanks goes out to them for making this happen, what a great opportunity for me.”

Next up, Rum Bum Racing will travel across the country to California for Round 3 of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca which takes place May 2.

Rum Bum Racing fans can catch the Sebring International Raceway event on FOX Sports 1 at 9:00 AM ET on Sunday, April 5.

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On a Winning Roll, Rum Bum Racing Returns to Sebring International Raceway

Orlando, Fla. (16 March 2015) – In Round 1, the Rum Bum Racing magic mix of talent and hard work generated another huge victory for the team at Daytona, and the squad is looking to repeat the feat this Friday.

When Luis Bacardi’s Rum Bum Racing travels to Sebring International Raceway for Round 2 of the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Championship, the team won’t have far to go. The Florida road course is as close to home as it gets for the championship team, located just 90 miles south of the Rum Bum Racing shop in Orlando.

Rum Bum Racing opened the season with a big victory at the team’s “other” home track, as Daytona International Speedway is just an hour’s drive north of the race shop. Drivers, and brothers, Matt Plumb and Hugh Plumb led 34 laps in the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche to claim the Daytona victory and are targeting a repeat performance in the 2.5-hour Visual Studio 150 (FOX Sports 1 broadcast, April 5 9:00 AM ET).


The Florida team showed podium potential in its Sebring Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge debut last year, only to settle for a 10th place result following a trivial pit call that ended up having a huge affect on the result. Though Hugh Plumb will take his first competitive laps in the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche around Sebring this year, he teamed with Matt Plumb as well as Jan Heylan and Madison Snow last year when Rum Bum Racing campaigned the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GTD class with a run to ninth place in the iconic race.

In the two months since the Daytona victory, Rum Bum Racing has been hard at work during the break and is well-prepared to take on one of the toughest tracks on the 2015 calendar. The 3.74-mile, 17-turn former airport road course is a very bumpy and physically demanding circuit which requires not only strong racecraft, but also strong car preparation.

“It was just incredible to open this year with a win and it was the perfect way to launch the season,” said Plumb. “But we saw in Daytona how this series has gotten even more competitive—which is something I didn’t think was possible. So we know after winning the first race that we’ll have targets on us and the Camaros and Mustangs will be strong. Racing in Florida, in front of the fans that you only find at Sebring, is a blast for us and we’d love to add to the Bacardi’s history of doing so well in the home state!”

Rum Bum Racing Crew Chief Joe Varde, who is well known in the IMSA paddock for his leadership atop the pit box, is a five-time IMSA Champion and has a long history at Sebring. He has several victories at the Sebring circuit which included the GTU class victory in the 1994 running of the 12 Hours of Sebring while driving a Porsche. will carry a LIVE broadcast of the Sebring event beginning at 1:05 PM ET on Friday as well as timing and scoring throughout the weekend.

FOX Sports 1 will televise the race on Sunday, April 5 at 9:00 AM ET.

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Captain’s Tips & Tricks

We are asking some of the top captains in the world for some of their tricks/tips, and this month, Capt. Chris Sheeder from Casa Vieja Lodge, a Tag & Release Program Sponsor, will talk about hooking up multiples…

Courtesy of Capt. Chris Sheeder.

There are only a handful of captains that can say they have more than a thousand billfish releases under their belt. For a captain to even come close to reaching those kind of numbers takes certain combination of effort from the crew, great fishing conditions, and a skilled captain to bring them all together. This means making the most of every fish that comes into your spread and always being ready for the next one to show up. At Casa Vieja Lodge, Captain Chris Sheeder (2014 Top Overall Tagging Captain, Top Tagging Captain Pacific Sailfish) has released an amazing 20,000 plus billfish (with more than 5,000 caught on fly! Chris was nice enough to share with our readers some of his tips for hooking and more importantly, releasing multiple fish.

Sheeder, like most captains will tell you, “the best time to be fishing for doubles, triples or quads is when you have one on!” Often times when a billfish shows up in your spread, it’s not alone and perhaps the best teaser you can have in your spread is another billfish. After the first fish is hooked, Sheeder then turns the boat in the direction of whatever side the fish is hooked on and brings in the other teasers. Many captains have a preference for electric teaser reels because of the ability to preset the position of your teasers. With just a push of a button, a captain can bring in the teasers while keeping both hands free to drive and not have a tangled mess of fishing line to get snagged on. After teasers are cleared, Sheeder will pitch baits on the side the boat is circling toward to avoid tangles and try to raise a second, third or fourth fish in large circles until the fish stop biting.

Photo courtesy of Capt Chris. Sheeder

Once multiple fish have been hooked up and the bite shuts off, boat-handling skills are really put to the test and a captain then must prioritize which fish to pursue first. Sheeder does this by thinking of the hooked fish “as a line of fish” and chases them down one by one, “going from the closest fish to the farthest, keeping them all in a line for ease.” Of course, during a fight fish change directions and their position in relation to the boat is constantly changing. However, a hooked fish racing toward the bow can be easily managed with some quick boat maneuvering. “If one gets towards the bow as you are backing up, that one now becomes the first one in the line and starting fish. Always go to the closest fish first, until one happens to get towards your bow and then that becomes priority. If a second fish gets up in front of the bow, just be aggressive toward the first and then drive forward to the second while you throw a bait or whatever in the water. Driving forward to the hook fish as much as possible also allows you to fish as much as possible.”

Tournament winning boats not only have the skill to turn a single bite into a double, triple or quad, but a sound game plan for making sure they release every fish they hook. Hooking multiple fish is always on the mind of anglers, but when the chaos of triple header unfolds a captain needs a proven plan of attack. t is the Think of how many times during a tournament you hear a last minute double or triple come across the radio; it can come down to just that one extra fish. As Sheeder will tell you, “remember; always fish as much as you can while you have one on.”


Another Helpful Tagging Tip….

As an extra precaution to secure a tag on the tag applicator, most crews wrap a rubber band around the tag to keep it snug against the tag stopper. Loading a new tag on the applicator can be tricky though once the rubber band gets wet and difficult to grip. The crews down at Casa Vieja Lodge have come up with the simple solution of tying a piece of floss around the rubber band. Simply wrap the floss around the band with a few half hitches and and leave a short thread of floss that can easily be gripped to slide a new tag under the rubber band. This easy fix only takes seconds, but will save valuable time, especially when releasing multiple fish!


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TBF/Seakeepers Joint Event

Over 100 guests attended the exclusive member’s only The Billfish Foundation (TBF) and International Seakeepers Society joint event to promote  membership and announce a partnership between both organizations to collaborate on billfish conservation.

The event, free for all TBF & SeaKeepers members, was hosted during the Miami Yacht & Brokerage Show on Thursday, February 12th on the Golfito Marina Village and Denison Dock. Art work and furniture from Tony Ludovico was prominently featured, appetizers were sponsored by Savvy Graphics, and drinks were sponsored by Sailfish Brewery & ORCA coolers were enjoyed by all.

TBF and Seakeepers will be planning several more member’s only events in south Florida throughout the year so be sure your membership is active to either or both and check back to learn when the next event will be.


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TBF’s International Tag & Release Awards 2014 Award Winners

Each year, TBF relies on the sportfishing community across the world to report their billfish tag and release information. Since it began in 1990, TBF’s Tag & Release Program anglers, captains and mates worldwide have made this program the largest private billfish tagging database in the world with over 220,000 tag and release records.  This valuable data is needed to further billfish science and ensure that fishing opportunities are available for future generations. Without the dedication of these individuals around the world, what is known about billfish science and the advances in conservation, would not be possible today. To recognize their efforts’, each year TBF’s International Tag & Release Competition rewards captains, anglers, and mates and brings out the best in the sportfishing arena.

On February 13, 2015, TBF honored over 30 winners from around the globe with their 2014 International Tag & Release Awards at Miami’s Jungle Island Treetop Ballroom. Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund (BFWCF) sponsored the 25th annual award ceremony and the awards were presented by King Sailfish Mounts. These two companies are part of TBF’s 2014 Tagging Program sponsors; the others include Costa Sunglasses, Pelagic Gear, Casa Vieja Lodge & Simrad, who all make this program such a success. Sailfish Brewery supplied guests with delicious local craft beers. All award winners received trophies courtesy of King Sailfish Mounts; overall winners also received lures from Fathom Offshore as well as Fishtrack premium memberships. Winners also received sunglasses from TBF Conservation Partner & program sponsor Costa. Guests had the chance to participate in the raffle that included products from ORCA, Fathom Offshore, Troll Pro, Costa, Pelagic, King Sailfish Mounts, FishTrack, Alutecnos, Bluefin USA, Wines for Humanity, and artwork by Yellowfin Unlimited. Every guest received a goody bag filled with items and information from all of TBF sponsors.

2014 was a remarkable year for billfishing and the numbers don’t lie. In both the Atlantic and Pacific, tag and release records for blue marlin were smashed. Famous grounds like Cape Verde, Costa Rica and the Great Barrier Reef produced unbelievable fishing that has not been seen in decades. TBF was also greatly pleased to receive a significant increase in data reported from areas like Western Australia and Western Africa and see billfish conservation growing alongside the sport in other hot-spots. Fortunately for TBF, these record setting boats were on board with TBF and reported their catches from some amazing seasons.

Top Overall Tagging (combined total of all billfish species tagged) Angler was awarded to Keith Brandner and Top Tagging Lady Angler to Sandra MacMillan. Brandner, fishing aboard the “Carol Libby” with Capt. Josh Temple (Top Tagging Captain Pacific Blue Marlin), managed to tag an astonishing 594 Pacific blue marlin, the most ever in a single season. Rivaling their record season was the “Sea Spud” with Top Overall and Top Release Angler Pacific Blue Marlin, Pat McCotter with his Captain, Pete Rae who took home Top Overall Release Captain Pacific Blue Marlin. As in many years past, Guatemala led the pack and was home port for multiple award winners including Top Overall Tagging Captain, Chris Sheeder, Top Overall Release Captain, Chris “Kiwi” Van Leeuwen and Top Overall Release Lady Angler, Tiffany Day. To little surprise, Gray Ingram and Capt. Ronnie Fields on the “Big Oh” fishing out of Cape Verde walked away from the award ceremony with their arms full. In another record breaking season, Ingram and Fields released a total of 404 Atlantic blue marlin for Top Release and Tag Angler and Captain (Atlantic blue marlin) respectively.

It is never too early to instill the conservation ethic in a child. Youth anglers are the future of the sport and in 2001, TBF began its Youth Program. Rounding out top overall categories were Top Overall Release Youth Angler, Gregory Benn and Top Overall Tagging Youth Angler, Shawn MacMullin. As a youth angler, Benn even managed to tally the most white marlin releases than any other adult for Top Release Angler Atlantic White Marlin.

For 2014 we also introduced our first Gulf of Mexico regional award. This recognizes those anglers and crews in the Gulf, who tag the most marlin during the season (May 1 – September 31st). This inaugural competition counted tags for both blue marlin and white marlin in the Gulf of Mexico (West of the 82 W Longitude) and awards were given to captains, anglers, and boats. Tags submitted to TBF are automatically counted towards this competition, but only TBF members have the opportunity to win.  This year Top Tagging Captain for blue marlin belongs to Al Roper who fished on “Michi” and the Top Tagging Captain for white marlin was Don Trasher on “Business Interruption. The Top Overall Tagging Captain came from the Top Overall Tagging boat, Jimmy Crochet on on “Conundrum.”

The 2015 competition began Nov.1, 2014 and will wrap up on Oct. 31, 20145.  TBF members from more than 70 countries are invited to participate and ‘Tag Data Reports’ and ‘Release Notifications’ can be submitted to TBF using either the traditional hard copies or reported online at Separate categories currently exist for each the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans with additional categories being considered for the 2015 competition. To be eligible to receive an award active TBF members must have tagged and/or released five or more of a species to qualify.  Youth anglers are only required a three fish minimum for both tag and release categories. For complete rules, categories and more on TBF’s annual Tag & Release program please visit or call 954-938-0150 for Peter Chaibongsai (ext. 107) or Michael Kelly (ext. 102).

TBF would like to once again thank our 2014 Tagging Program sponsors: Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund, Costa Sunglasses, Pelagic Gear, King Sailfish Mounts, Casa Vieja Lodge & Simrad. Their constant support proves their commitment to conservation.

 Click here to see entire gallery

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Cuban Evolution

No doubt, as the political debate increases over pros and cons of the United States normalizing relations with Cuba, anglers want to move forward to fish in Cuban waters. While taking your own boat remains ILLEGAL, Americans can book a fishing trip in Cuba so long as the anglers are part of permitted groups fishing within one of 12 authorized categories, but local boats must be used. This past year, permitted American groups fished the Hemingway International Billfish Tournament at the Hemingway International Yacht Club of Cuba, which has 2339 members from 63 countries and has friendly relations with more than 600 yacht clubs. Last year’s 64th Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Tournament (EHIBFT) had 22 teams participate from the United States, Sweden, France, England, Italy, Canada, Mexico, Latvia, Spain, Russia and Cuba, which tagged and released, in four days of fishing, twenty blue marlin and six white marlin. Club members have been tagging and releasing since 1996 and were also taught the importance of using non-offset circle hooks. TBF has 544 tag reports from Cuban anglers and 116 recapture reports. Commodore Escrich says he “looks forward to the day when U.S. anglers can bring their sportfishing vessels to Cuba legally and fish the tournament.”

TBF desires to further tagging research in Cuba and would like to distribute more dart tags to anglers to generate recapture data for inclusion in the stock assessments conducted by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT.) Just recently, the Chairman of ICCAT‘s Enhanced Research Program for Billfish, Dr. David Die, from Miami, visited Cuba to discuss possible billfish research options. Other fish scientists are eager to further billfish research with Cuban scientists and universities. Deploying 10 to 15 satellite tags on marlin within a few days would provide greater insight into the movement trajectories and the vertical use of the marine habitat by billfish around Cuba. Tagging is just one method for collecting scientific data, but many other fisheries research collaborations will likely be presented soon to Cuban scientists.

The close proximity of the U.S. and Cuba to one another, as well as the Bahamas, essentially means we share a large marine ecosystem in the management and conservation of highly migratory marlin and tuna. These fish enter, exit and cross national and international boundaries with no regard for political lines or any governmental measures. Harmonizing management and conservation strategies, or at least making them compatible between the three nations, could help improve the status of the species and fishing.

A quick search on the internet reflects Cuba has charter boats available for a variety of sportfishing, including fishing for marlin, bonefish and tarpon. As stated earlier, the Club’s successful 2014 tounrament indicates marlin fishing can be good. However, with the nation’s longline boats continuing to fish the local waters, billfish abundance could be scarce at times.

While the Cuban government does not yet recognize the economic benefits that can flow from a sportfishing eco-tourism trade for billfish, a study documenting the potential could prove very persuasive in getting some future protections for billfish. The economic positives would outweigh the economic returns from longline vessels. A live released marlin can draw lots of tourists, which is compatible with sustaining marine resources and generating economic growth. TBF has shared with Commodore Escrich it’s earlier commissioned socio-economic studies for billfishing in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and the survey in Colombia. Tourism projections for Cuba indicate very high numbers, some of which will be billfish anglers willing to spend money for the opportunity to tag and release a large marlin.

The Cuban commercial fishing industry remains dynamic after transitions from the days of Russian support through cheap fuel for distant-water longline, purse seine and trawler fleets. But in the early 1990,s when the Soviet Union fell apart, support ended, which prompted the Cuban government to reorganize its commercial fishing industry. The initial efforts proved inefficient, but the next attempt remains in place today and decentralizes much of the day to day operations to fishing industry associations. With the economic restraints under which Cuba now operates, the primary value of fish, including billfish, remains as a consumable commodity sold in markets. Until the potential economic benefits are identified that can flow from sportfishing eco-tourism in a primarily catch and release fishery, the conservation of billfish may be viewed at this time by the government as a conservation luxury they cannot afford.

U.S. environmental organizations, including the U.S. based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), are on the island working with locals. Keep in mind this is the same environmental organization pushing for significant management changes for red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico, which are not supportive of recreational fishing. Hopefully, the international nature of the highly migratory billfish will keep their management primarily at the international level and before ICCAT, thus, not subject to as many influences from extreme environmental organizations.

It is speculated that the growth in tourism to Cuba from the U.S. will be huge, which raises the question whether the nation’s infrastructure, especially for visiting boats, is capable of handling the surge. A delegation including NMMA (National Marine Manufacturers Association) officials completed two trips to Cuba last year, during which “we were able to assess some of the existing infrastructure and establish some key contacts that we hope will be of value to our members. When the time is appropriate, we will work to prepare the recreational boating industry for any opportunities that may arise,” says Julie Balzano of NMMA. As reported, in a January 2015 issue of Soundings Trade Only Today, Daily News for Marine Professionals, by Richard Graves and Associates, marina consultants, “Although there are only 15 marinas with 789 slips, there are plans to add 23 more marinas with more than 5,000 slips.” Earlier in the same publication it was reported that Bill Lane of Caterpillar, Inc. had said to the Wall Street Journal that “Cuba needs everything we make in the United States,” and he added that “the company hopes to soon install a dealership in Cuba that can sell agricultural, construction and mining equipment.” Hopefully marine services will become available before long.

When the “gates open”, we want U.S. boaters and anglers to be prepared to meet legal requirements for bringing their own boat into Cuban waters. In addition boat owners will need knowledge of secure dockage, fishing licenses, fuel, vessel permits if needed, as well as an understanding of whether their vessel insurance will remain in place while there. Being prepared will make for a positive and efficient boating and angling experience in Cuba one day. TBF will continue to share information with our members as the Cuban sportfishing eco-tourism evolution grows. To learn more about obtaining a permit to travel to Cuba:

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Captain’s Tips

Rigging Kite Baits

By Capt. Scott Leon from Sandman Fishing team

There are two approaches to rigging kite baits that both have their positives and negatives making the choice ultimately up to each boat.

The “traditional” or “back rig” way to rig a kite bait was with a rubber band through the back or “shoulder” of the bait holding the hook in an upright position on the back of the bait.  This type of rigging minimizes the chances of the hook doubling back into the bait and optimizes the exposure of the hook while feeding the fish.  This style of rigging also makes if easier for the angler to keep the bait in the water during windy conditions.

The issue that many crews run into with this style of rigging is proper presentation of the bait while fighting a fish.  The back rig creates a plainer-like action with the bait and anglers are constantly pulling the bait out of the kite clip.  The angler now has to clear that line which minimizes additional hookups as well as fishing time.

To combat that problem, crews have switched from the “traditional” style of rigging to what is called “nose” rigging.  Here, the hook is kept on the nose of the bait by threading the rubber band through the hard part of the nose.  Many captains believe that constant movement creates more bites.  “Nose” rigging allows the bait to be pulled in a natural way while moving.  This is extremely helpful while maneuvering on a fish because this style of rigging allows the angler to keep their bait under the kite with ease no matter how short or long the fight goes on.

As good as “nose” rigging sounds, there are many captains that refuse to rig baits that way. One reason is the chances of the hook doubling back into the bait increases tremendously, which guarantees that the angler will miss the fish when the bait gets bit.  Another issue many anglers have is the difficulty of keeping the bait in the water during rough sea conditions.  Crews are forced to use heavier weights to keep the bait in position for a bite and without a perfected feeding technique, the heavy lead can hit the fish and scare off before it eats the bait.

Which style of rigging do you use? Whatever approach you use we’d love to hear why and in what condition you use them in (recreationally and/or for tournaments).

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Family Fun Fest

Family Fun Fest at Biscayne Bay National Park

The Billfish Foundation (TBF) is always looking for new avenues to engage the public on its programs, especially young people.  TBF had a unique opportunity to educate over 400 children and adults about the Tag & Release program during Biscayne Bay National Park’s Family Fun Fest on February 8th. The event gave TBF a venue to show how citizen sciencedrives the program and contributes to science and conservation.

At the TBF station, participants learned about billfish through photos and larval fish samples. Following a brief discussion on the importance of the tagging program for billfish conservation, they were armed with a Billfish Foundation tag card and they went out “fishing” (wandering) through the park in search of “billfish”. When they encountered a “billfish” (a person with a special t-shirt, a flag, GPS unit), they were able to “catch” the fish by interviewing it: what kind of fish are you, how much do you weigh, how long are you, what is your tag number and what is your current GPS location? Participants recorded all of this data on the Tag card and returned to the TBF station where the data was processed and plotted on Google Earth. Participants saw exactly on the map where their “fish” was caught, as well as all previous locations where that same fish was caught. The combined data created a map showing how the “fish” moved around the park.

For real world applications, TBF displayed real recapture tracks, even some from Biscayne Bay, showing how far these fish can travel and grow.  The public was amazed to learn about billfish, the program, and that they now know more about these biologically and economically important fish for south Florida. To learn more about TBF’s education programs or to have TBF come to an event please contact us at

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The Offshore Fishing League – Pro Series

Very much like NASCAR or a professional sports team, large investment opportunities and top notch fishing skills are heading offshore with the creation and launching of the Offshore Fishing League (OFL). The OFL is the world’s first professional big-game sportfishing competition.

“OFL investors see the sport, with over 45 million U.S. anglers, ready for prime time,” said Carlos Suito, CEO, “watching tough battles on the high seas, adrenaline-pumping action by the anglers working with the captain and team members while fighting large blue marlin to the boat, where they must be tagged and successfully released.” The equipment sponsors and repair experts for electronics, rods, lures, line, props and engines will have to be ready for action themselves—with 10 tournaments in eight locations spread over 5,000 nautical miles across the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, something is bound to break even on multi-million dollar battlewagons. These glistening machines must be kept in top condition, for otherwise one missed tournament can mean the difference of winning and losing. By the end of each season, one team will survive and earn the title of OFL World Champion.

The Offshore Fishing League concept was unveiled in November at an elaborate launch party at the top of Hyatt Pier 66 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Serving as Commissioner of the OFL is the world-renowned sportfishing captain Peter B. Wright, who is assisted by a cadre of the sport’s top names including Legendary Captains Ron Hamlin, Bark Garnsey and Charles Perry, as well as Capt. George Sawley. Sam White serves the league as Championship Director and will coordinate all tournament competition.
Investment and sponsorship opportunities abound with this new high profile league. A team owner may be a boat owner or he or she may not even be an angler, who certainly doesn’t have to leave shore.

Just like in football where Jerry Jones does not take the field except for trophy and ring presentations, the same is expected in the OFL with many teams. Success is dependent upon each team member on board, just as in the Americas Cup competition, completing assigned tasks in an exacting and orchestrated manner and at times quickly, just like pit crews perform for auto racing. The engine and equipment experts must also be kept readily available on shore should a serious need arise.

The OFL has captured the attention of NBC Sports Network, which will air the 2015 OFL season to more than 85 million homes. The telecasting on NBCSN presents a new platform for sponsors and advertisers to reach the vast number of fishing enthusiasts and fans including a complementary online fan zone.

Unique OFL angling rules will encourage the use of lighter line classes to increase the point value resulting in accurate, real-world demonstration of skills by the captains and anglers. No doubt success will be achieved with finding the right balance. The average boat length will likely exceed 60 feet; the OFL fleet will be an impressive sight fishing the tournament circuit.

With a strong commitment to fish conservation, the Offshore Fishing League will feature a 100-percent tag and release format. A portion of the League’s proceeds will be donated to The Billfish Foundation to help ensure great sportfishing with healthy billfish stocks. “The OFL will be an advocate for billfish conservation,” said Suito. “Our goal is to share the best passionate and responsible sportfishing performed by the world’s best teams for the rest of the world to watch.” The OFL will work closely with The Billfish Foundation to best insure conservation and responsible fishing practices are followed. For more information please visit

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Another Big Day for Luis Bacardi’s Rum Bum Racing at Daytona

Media Notes:
– Third win for Rum Bum Racing at Daytona, 16th overall IMSA win
– Matt Plumb ties Sylvain Tremblay for most wins in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge series (20)

Daytona Beach, Fla. (23 January 2015) – It was a familiar sight for fans of Luis Bacardi’s hometown team at Daytona International Speedway, as brothers Matt and Hugh Plumb delivered Rum Bum Racing its third victory at the 3.56-mile road course. The result kicked off the 2015 IMSA Continental SportsCar Challenge in a big way for the championship winning organization who won back-to-back championships in 2012 & 2013.

The victory marked Rum Bum Racing’s 16th overall win as Matt Plumb firmly planted his name in the record books by tying Sylvain Tremblay for the most wins in IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge competition.

“Our boss Mr. Bacardi puts so much faith in us, so much trust in us, making this plan work,” said Matt Plumb, who also serves as Rum Bum Racing’s Team Manager. “We had a rough season last year, and he stuck with us. We’re just so glad we could win this for him.”

Hugh Plumb opened the 2.5-hour race at the iconic track from the front row after a strong qualifying run on Thursday. In an effort to err on the side of caution as the GS class field funneled down into Turn 1, the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche slipped to fourth in line.

While maintaining the focus of keeping the car out of trouble through the opening stint, Hugh Plumb carefully worked his way up to the top spot as he led the field for 20 laps before pitting under green to hand the car over to his brother Matt.Matt Plumb returned to the order with just over an hour and 20 minutes remaining in the race and ran fifth in line. It wasn’t long before he had maneuvered the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche back up into the second spot as he chased down the leader.Once the leader took to pit lane, Plumb took over the race lead until a full course caution was displayed with 58 minutes remaining. Crew Chief Joe Varde made the call to bring the car to pit lane under the yellow for fuel and right side tires.

When the race when back to green with 43 minutes to go, Matt Plumb restarted fourth and once again made his way forward as he ran second with half an hour remaining. He spent several laps sandwiched between the V8s of the Mustang and Camaro as the top-four cars battled for the point position.

As the race entered its final stages, a light sprinkle began to fall around the Daytona circuit and Matt Plumb, who enjoys racing in the tricky conditions that come with the rain, used that to his advantage as he utilized the draft on the Daytona high banks to once gain regain the race lead with just over 20 minutes to go.

He never looked back, eventually extending his winning margin to nearly seven seconds.“What an unbelievable stint he put together,” said Hugh Plumb of his brother’s run to the checkered flag. “We’ve raced together for a long time but I’ve never, ever seen him drive that well. He is a very talented driver. It’s great to be a part of this Rum Bum Racing team. Luis Bacardi, Rum Bum, the whole team, make this happen. I couldn’t be more pleased.”The win was all the more special for Matt and Hugh Plumb, who celebrated together in victory lane for the first time since 2008 and were eager to share the news with their mom at home as she is convalescing from routine surgery.

“Having to do this week in and week out with Hugh being on another team for so long, to be able to join together as a team is very special,” said Matt Plumb. “It’s not a typical brotherly relationship, it’s very professional. He does a good job and he makes me want to do a good job.

“I think certainly with the Porsche the top speed at the end of the straightaway helps us a little bit but we

 have to be in clean air and we have to be out in front so it’s really the crew’s responsibility for our success,” added Matt Plumb. “If I had been stuck in traffic, it would have been very difficult for me to keep moving forward. Hugh with an amazing driver handoff made it so much easier. The biggest plus for us today was toward the end of the race when it started to sprinkle. It was just enough to make the driving conditions a little tricky. As soon as that happened, I knew we were golden. Our car has always been very good in the wet and I very much enjoy driving in the rain.”

The IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge sees a six week break in race action before heading to Sebring International Raceway for Round 2 of the Championship.

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Rum Bum Racing on the Front Row for Daytona Season-Opener

Daytona Beach, Fla. (22 January 2014) – When Luis Bacardi’s Rum Bum Racing takes the green flag for the Daytona 200 on Friday, starting driver Hugh Plumb will have a prime view after he qualified the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche on the front row for tomorrow’s 2.5-hour IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race.

A 15-minute Thursday afternoon qualifying session saw Plumb post a fast time of 1:56.779-seconds on his first flying lap as his ‘eyes in the sky’ Nick Longhi coached him for a good gap in traffic.

The No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche scored good draft on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway, helping Plumb score some precious tenths on the way to his fastest lap of the weekend so far. The effort was enough to secure second on the grid for 2015 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season-opening event.

“With this sort of team, I expect to be on the front row and I think if it was anything less, I would have let the team down,” said Hugh Plumb. “Thank you to the Bacardis, Rum Bum, and the whole team for making this happen.

Luckily, I was able to find a car to help us out on that lap because our car is good in the draft. And that’s what we needed. I think we’ll be right there at the front again tomorrow.. The plan is to give the car to Matt (Plumb) without a scratch and we’ll be all good.”

Hugh Plumb will open the race before handing the car over to his brother Matt Plumb, who also serves as Rum Bum Racing Team Manager, to take to the checkered flag.

Daytona International Speedway serves as Rum Bum Racing’s home track, with the team shop based in nearby Orlando, Florida. Having won the Daytona event twice before, the Rum Bum Racing squad is eager to return to Gatorade Victory Lane for a third time in front of their hometown fans.

“We didn’t have the car we really wanted after the practice sessions on Wednesday, but the guys put a ton of work in overnight to make a lot of changes, and that was clear in Hugh’s quick times,” said Matt Plumb. “It’s great to be starting with good track position and hopefully we can come out of here with a big result to kick off the year.”

The race will be streamed LIVE tomorrow on beginning at 1:45 PM ET.

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Recreational HMS Economic Contributions from Mid-Atlantic to Maine

Whether it is billfish, tuna, or sharks, fishing for HMS species means finding blue water far offshore from the dock. Venturing offshore and pursuing big game fish requires larger boats, heavier tackle and presents challenges on the scale of the fish that anglers target. Of course, the bigger boats, specialized equipment, and more fuel needed means offshore anglers pursing species like billfish spend more than the average saltwater angler. For HMS fisheries in the Mid-Atlantic and New England region where fishing grounds can be 30-100 miles offshore and multiday trips are the norm this is especially true. When all of the expenses of an offshore trip are added up, offshore anglers can be a significant economic driver in some regions. While it is certainly not news to charter captains or boat owners that offshore anglers spend a lot of money to catch HMS species, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has just released the economic impacts of HMS anglers in the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions that highlights the importance of offshore anglers. It is important to recognize that this study only analyzed the expenditures of private boat owners, excluding charter boats and additional offshore anglers and only reveals a portion of the true impact that recreational HMS fishing have in the region.

In 2011, NMFS surveyed close to 3,800 HMS Angling Permit holders registered in coastal states from Maine to North Carolina via mail and email. Permit holders were asked questions about fishing related purchases such as boats and tackle (deemed durable goods) as well as additional expenses associated with their last trip offshore (fuel, food, hotel, travel expenses etc.). From the results of the survey, NMFS estimates that in 2011, HMS Angling Permit holders spent $23.2 million on trip expenses and $151 million on durable goods. These expenditures are estimated to have a total economic output of $266 million, generate $153 million (value added outputs), and $96 million in salaries for the more than 1,800 jobs created by recreational HMS fishing from Maine to North Carolina. This may seem like a low value, but it is important to recognize that only HMS Permit Holders were surveyed for this study. Therefore, these results only reflect the economic contribution of private vessel owners because only the vessel owner is required to purchase a HMS permit. The estimate from this study does not include out the expenditure of other offshore anglers who do not own a vessel (i.e. guests on board), but still spend money on trip expenses, as well as the HMS for-hire (charter) sector. Taking this into account, recreational HMS fisheries make a far greater economic contribution than is reflected in this study.

HMS Permit Holders Expenditures in Mid-Atlantic to Maine in 2011

  • $151 million on boats, tackle and other durable goods
  • Total economic output of $266 million
  • Generates $96 million in salaries and more than 1,800 jobs

Billfishing in Mid-Atlantic to Maine in 2011

  • Private boat owners spent $4.6 million over 5,123 days (average of $900/day)
  • Spent on average $10,092 in 2011- average saltwater angler for all other saltwater species spent $1,312

Billfishermen will also be interested to learn that this study has quantified the fact that billfish anglers are indeed a “dedicated following of specialized anglers.” More than half of all fishing trips made by billfish anglers are in pursuit of HMS species unlike anglers targeting tuna or sharks (other HMS) for which HMS trips make up less than a third of all fishing trips. Permit holders pursuing billfish are estimated to have spent $4.6 million over 5,123 days, spending on average more money ($900/day) on durable goods than anglers targeting tuna or sharks. While the total economic output of HMS anglers in the region is only a small fraction of what was generated by all other saltwater anglers in the region, HMS anglers on average spent more than ten times the amount of that spent by anglers targeting all other marine species in 2011.

It’s not exactly news to billfishermen that going after swordfish, sailfish or marlin is inherently expensive, but what use is this information? Socioeconomic studies like this are an invaluable tool for showing the importance of sportfishing and establishing policy that favors recreational anglers. The average congressmen may not have even seen a billfish before, never mind be familiar with the offshore fishing industry. One thing all policy makers understand are dollars and cents. As is put forth in the Magnuson Stevens Act (the guiding legislation for US fisheries) obtaining the maximum economic benefits is an important factor to be taken into account and used to weigh management options. The Billfish Foundation (TBF) has utilized socioeconomic studies in places like Costa Rica, Los Cabos, and Panama. This data was vital in helping these governments recognizing the tremendous benefits coming from sportfishing which was crucial in helping to establish closed areas for longlines and purse seiners and giving visiting anglers an even better fishing experience.

This important data is a tool for anglers and policy makers to promote sportfishing by allowing more access and opportunities for anglers to pursue HMS species. Currently, comments for the Recreational Fishing Policy are being submitted and groups like the Center for Coastal Conservation, an alliance of sportfishing groups to which TBF is a member, are advocating for using economic valuation to determine the best management practices. This vital socioeconomic information is just one way groups like TBF can help ensure that the important contributions of anglers are not overlooked, but recognized and promoted as the sustainable, economic engine that it is. Currently, TBF is working with other parties to obtain funding for a socioeconomic study of offshore, sportfishing in the Gulf of Mexico, another important offshore fishery. For more information on the Mid-Atlantic HMS study or to inquire about the GOM study, please contact TBF at The complete Mid-Atlantic study can be found online, here.

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2014 Tag & Release Winners!

The tag and release reports are in and the results have finally been tallied. This year was truly a record year for billfish anglers and for TBF’s Tag & Release Program. Below are some of the top anglers and captains from across the world at the apex of this amazing sport. Congratulations to all the winners and we hope to see everyone at our awards ceremony on Friday, February 13 in the Treetop Ballroom at Jungle Island during the 2015 Miami International Boat Show. See below for more information. Winners are asked to RSVP for the event by Monday January 12. 

Every year, The Billfish Foundation (TBF) recognizes the captains, mates and anglers (including youth and ladies) who tag and release the most billfish in each of the world’s oceans. The competition is categorized by billfish species, ocean, and whether the fish were tagged or released untagged.  Award winners are recognized at TBF’s Annual Tag & Release Awards Ceremony held during the Miami International Boat Show presented by the TBF’s 2014 Tag and Release Sponsors: Bisbee’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund, Casa Vieja Lodge, Costa Sunglasses, PELAGIC, King Sailfish Mounts and SIMRAD.

The Billfish Foundation’s Annual Tag and Release Ceremony will be held Friday, February 13, 2015, in the Treetop Ballroom at Jungle Island. The evening will kick off at 6:30 PM with cocktails followed by the award presentation and dinner. Proceeds benefit TBF’s tag and release program. Get your tickets for the 2015 Tag & Release Award Ceremony here.

Please note that for all anglers, captains and mates to receive their awards they must be current TBF members. You can join or renew your memberships online. 

Top Overall Tag & Release Winners

Overall Release Captain – Chris Van Leeuwen

Overall Tagging Captain- Chris Sheeder

Overall Release Angler – Pat McCotter

Overall Tagging Angler – Keith Brandner

Overall Release Lady Angler – Tiffany Sisolak

Overall Tagging Lady Angler – Sandra MacMillan

Overall Release Youth Angler – Gregory Benn

Overall Tagging Youth Angler  Shawn MacMullin

Top Tagging Angler- Atlantic Ocean

Blue Marlin – Gray Ingram

Sailfish – Kasey Swan

Swordfish – Matt Bierley

White Marlin – Laurent Sahyoun

Top Release Angler- Atlantic Ocean

Blue Marlin – Gray Ingram

Sailfish – Gray Ingram

White Marlin – Gregory Benn

Top Tagging Captain- Atlantic Ocean

Blue Marlin – Ronnie Fields

Sailfish – Fin Gaddy

Swordfish – Mark Pagano

White Marlin – Christian Benazeth

Top Release Captain- Atlantic Ocean

Blue Marlin - Ronnie Fields

Sailfish – Dean Panos

White Marlin – John Mumford

Top Tagging Angler- Pacific Ocean

Black Marlin – Brady Wild

Blue Marlin – Keith Brandner

Sailfish – Darryl Schroeder

Striped Marlin – Robert Hendricks

Top Release Angler- Pacific Ocean

Black Marlin – Barry Alty

Blue Marlin – Pat McCotter

Sailfish – Bill Easum

Striped Marlin – John “Jack” Duvall

Swordfish –  John Gregory

Top Tagging Captain- Pacific Ocean

Black Marlin – Tim Richardson

Blue Marlin – Josh Temple

Sailfish – Chris Sheeder

Spearfish-  Gene Vander Hoek

Striped Marlin – Jaime Gonzalez

Top Release Captain- Pacific Ocean

Black Marlin – Brett Alty

Blue Marlin – Pete Rae

Sailfish – Chris Van Leeuwen

Striped Marlin – Chris Bays

Swordfish – John Gregory

Top Tagging Angler – Indian Ocean

Black Marlin – Scott MacGowan

Sailfish – Jo-Ann Riley

Top Release Angler – Indian Ocean

 Black Marlin – Murray Teasdale

Sailfish – Henry Riggs-Miller

Top Tagging Captain- Indian Ocean

Black Marlin – Eddy Lawler

Blue Marlin – Eddy Lawler

Sailfish – Jourdain Ellens

Striped Marlin – Eddy Lawler

Top Release Captain – Indian Ocean

Black Marlin – Eddy Lawler

Blue Marlin – Ross Newton

Sailfish – Rolly Pierre

Youth Tag Divisions

8 and Under
Charles Gaddy & Kyler Swan (TIE)
Runner-up – Caden Alexander

Aidan Burke
Runner-up – Kasey Ray Swan

William Stark

Runner-up Kaleb Richardson

Shawn MacMullin
Runner-up – Bo Ingram

Nick Brackmann

Youth Release Divisions

8 & Under
Brown Gaddy

Jonathan Gaskill

13 – 15
Bo Ingram
Runner-up- Shawn MacMullin

Gregory Benn
Runner-up Curtis Englert

GOM Marlin Tagging Competition

Top Tagging Captain Blue Marlin
Al Roper- Michi

Top Tagging Captain White Marlin
Don Thrasher – Business Interruption

Top Overall Tagging Captain
Jimmy Crochet – Conundrum

Top Overall Tagging Boat
Conundrum – Capt. Jimmy Crochet

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Costa/TBF Release Report Challenge

“Anglers are the ones who can truly make a difference for the future of our billfish species. They’re the ones out there, every day, in all kinds of conditions and climates, catching and releasing fish, watching their patterns, noting their movements. Imagine how much data about highly migratory fish species we could study if we could gather every tournament anglers’ catch reports during the Quest for the Crest tournament series?” asked Amanda Perryman, marketing manager with Costa Sunglasses.

The Billfish Foundation (TBF) and Costa wanted to find out the answer to that question together. So they created the Release Report Challenge, asking teams competing in each Quest for the Crest tournament to return their completed Release Report cards with information about each catch to TBF for a chance to win a Costa/TBF prize pack.

The prize pack includes: Costa sunglasses and gear, a Costa-branded YETI cooler, a TBF complete tagging kit and more. Each release reported counts as one entry, with the prize pack winner announced after each tournament leg. One grand prize winner will be selected at the awards ceremony of the Final Sail Tournament in April to win an all-expense paid trip to Casa Vieja Lodge in Guatemala.

Teams will receive their Release Report Challenge cards when they pick up their tournament packs prior to each event. Costa and TBF representatives will be on hand at each event to hand out more cards, as needed. Qualifying fish species include sailfish, white marlin, spearfish and blue marlin. Teams only have to report information about the catch on the card – they don’t actually have to place a tag into the released fish.

“There are typically more than 50 teams competing across the Quest for the Crest series, with thousands of billfish caught during that time,” said Peter Chaibongsai, director of science and policy for TBF. “Working together with the anglers, captains and crews, we’d like to capture the data they’re finding from each catch – including weather conditions, bait used, fish size, and overall health. The information we gather together will uncover critical understanding about billfish stocks and their habitats in and around South Florida, so we can inform sound policy to protect them for generations to come.”

All fish releases reported throughout the Quest for the Crest series also qualify anglers for TBF’s SoFlo Sailfish Regional competition, as well as its annual international Tag and Release competition. For more information, visit

The Quest for the Crest tournament series includes:
Operation Sailfish, December 10 – 14, 2014

Sailfish 400, January 14 – 18, 2015

Sailfish Challenge, February 5 – 8, 2015

Final Sail, April 15 – 19, 2015

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Finalized Amendment 7 Measure for Bluefin Tuna

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) released the final regulations for the domestic management of western Atlantic bluefin tuna with Amendment 7 to the 2006 Consolidated HMS Fishery Management Plan.  Anglers in the Gulf of Mexico and Florida will applaud the decision to maintain closed zones and to allocate a portion of the trophy bluefin quota to Gulf anglers. These new regulations were developed to reduce the amount of dead discards, increase accountability and reporting requirements, and ensure regulations are consistent with international management goals. Maximizing fishing opportunity is also a major objective of the amendment to help the US maintain its quota of bluefin, which if not utilized, could be allocated to other countries with less stringent regulations or regards for conservation.

In January of 2014, TBF submitted comments opposing alternatives that would allow longlines access to closed zones and pushed for longer closure periods in both the Gulf of Mexico and the Mid-Atlantic. Not only would this achieve the goal of reducing bluefin dead discards, but it would also have a significant impact on reducing dead billfish discards. Since the establishment of these closed zones in 2000, billfish discards have been reduced by as much as 74%. Opening these areas back up for longlines would certainly be a step in the wrong direction for the conservation benefits gained would be lost. It could also spell the loss of the tremendous socioeconomic benefits generated by sportfishing in the region.

Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Area. Courtesy of National Marine Fisheries Service.

In its final decision, NMFS chose several alternatives that will have both good and bad outcomes for anglers. In the Gulf of Mexico Gear Restricted Areas (which encompasses the waters in and around the Desoto Canyon) closed zones were slightly altered from the original proposal and will prohibit pelagic longlines from making sets during the peak of the bluefin spawning season in April-May. Longlines will still be prohibited in the closed area off of Florida as well. However, in the Cape Hatteras Gear Restricted Area (which was also slightly modified after public comment) only longline vessels that meet certain criteria will be granted conditional access to fish the area from December to April, but the area will be closed to vessels that do not qualify.

All longline vessels are now required to retain all legal sized bluefin to increase accountability and provide incentive for reducing catches of bluefin. This will also be achieved through the establishment of individual bluefin quota (IBQ) program, that will limit the number of bluefin that can be retained (a ‘catch cap’) at the vessel and fleet level. Once the quota for a vessel or fleet is reached, the longline fishery is to be closed by NMFS, but permitted vessels will be allowed to switch to more selective fishing gear such as green stick. These accountability measures will also be complimented by the adoption of more rigorous requirements for reporting catches, landings, and the mandatory use of vessel monitoring systems.

The reallocation of bluefin quota amongst the various sectors was also a highly contested issue. Previously, the trophy subquota allocated 1.4 metric tons to the Northern category (waters north of Egg Harbor, NJ) and 2.8 metric tons to the Southern subquota (which includes the Gulf of Mexico). Many anglers in the South and Gulf of Mexico were frustrated with having little chance to retain bluefin given the short period of time they have before the Southern category closes in April. In its comments, TBF advocated for greater opportunity for anglers in the Gulf of Mexico to retain any bluefin that are incidentally caught by redistributing the recreational, trophy bluefin subquota. TBF comments suggested quotas of 50% for the South, 33% for the North, and 17% for the Gulf of Mexico. Ultimately, NMFS chose an alternative that will divide the trophy subquota evenly amongst each region, meaning roughly 8 trophy sized bluefin can be retained by recreational anglers annually in each sector.

Over the past decade, implementation of the rebuilding plan for bluefin at the international management level has allowed for Western Atlantic bluefin stocks to rebound from historically low levels to a healthier state. This year the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) decided to increase the total allowable catch for western bluefin from 1,750 to 2,000 metric tons. Stock assessments estimate that the spawning stock biomass has increased by as much as 70% since 1998, which many scientists attribute to more stringent regulations, particularly measures taken by the US to reduce catches of juvenile tuna and more selective fishing practices. However, much debate and uncertainty still surrounds these assessments and the US is taking steps for the stock to continue to grow. The new regulations put forth by Amendment 7 will ensure that the US continues its best management practices while maintaining opportunities for anglers to pursue bluefin, one of the most iconic fish in the sea.

For complete details and more information including compliance guides and impact statements, please see the NMFS website.

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ICCAT Highlights – November 2014 Genoa, Italy

The 19th Special meeting of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) met November 2014 in Genoa, Italy to consider changes in management and conservation measures for Atlantic highly migratory fish. Forty two of the forty nine member nations gathered for another “bluefin tuna” year.

Atlantic bluefin tuna landing quotas for both the western Atlantic and the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean fish were raised based on recent stock assessments that indicated a continuing increase in abundance. The quota for the western stock increased from 1750 metric tons to 2000 metric tons, and the eastern stock increased by 20% a year for three years. The increases will still allow the stocks to continue growing based on the most recent stock assessments.

Atlantic white marlin and blue marlin were not on the agenda this year, but in the Compliance Committee the United States pointed out that Trinidad and Tobago had significantly exceeded their authorized landing’s limit in their commercial fishery for both species. This violation will generate a Letter of Concern from ICCAT to the government of Trinidad and Tobago. Hopefully anglers in Trinidad and Tobago will bring attention of the excesses in killing marlin to government authorities higher than its fishery minister. Likely the fishing and landings are being made by a distant-water-fishing nation that has permission to fish under the flag and name of Trinidad and Tobago and possibly in the nations waters. Marlin are far too valuable to island nations for sportfishing eco-tourism than to allow distant-water-fishing nations to kill them in the island nation’s name. Such transgressions give tourism in Trinidad and Tobago a bad image; certainly traveling anglers will seek other destinations

The fleets of distant-water-fishing nations have the capability to fish great expanses of water even following fish, whereas most island fishers and anglers do not have such means. The result is that local individuals and businesses lose.

Curacao, another Caribbean island nation, made news by coming on board as an ICCAT member. Its representative shared words of optimism about the nation’s commitment to managing its fishery in the most sustainable manner, fulfilling all rules and applying control mechanism. No mention of the value of sportfishing to the nation was mention, but perhaps anglers and related sportfishing eco-tourism businesses will encourage their government to include a sportfishing delegate on the nation’s ICCAT delegations in the future. Hopefully joining ICCAT is not an indication that the nation has or will enter agreements with distant-water-fishing nations to fish under Curacao’s fly and allow the transgressions of killing excessive numbers of marlin to take place as has occurred under the flag of Trinidad and Tobago.

Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs) received some attention during the meeting with delegations agreeing to establish an ad hoc Working Group on FADs. Each nation is now required to submit an annual Management Plan for the use of FADs if fishing with purse seine gear or from a baitboat for bigeye, yellowfin and skipjack tunas. By 2016 all entangling FADs, which can entangle sharks, turtles and other non-targeted species, must be changed to non-entangling FADs. All nations are encouraged to advance research on the use of FADs. No limits were set. The impact commercial fishing will make on fish stocks by fishing of FADs is a story yet to be fully understood.


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Gulf & Caribbean Fisheries Institute Holds 67th Annual Conference

The Billfish Foundation (TBF) regularly seeks out and participates in conferences to learn and discuss regional fisheries issues with scientists, policy makers, and local communities. In early November, TBF attended the 67th Gulf & Caribbean Fisheries Institute Conference (GFCI) in Barbados. This annual event provides a perfect forum for scientists, students, government representatives, fishery managers, and conservation organizations from the region to present and discuss their research findings and concerns.

Peter Chaibongsai and Roxane De Waegh represented TBF at the conference. De Waegh presented her work on the collection of fisheries data from all stakeholders for scientists and policy makers in the region. De Waegh spoke on the importance of incorporating all users, like recreational and small-scale fishermen, to collect vital fisheries data and be a part of the decision making process. The paper highlighted the importance of all resource users involved in both the post and pre harvest fishing industry sectors, in hopes of obtaining a baseline of statistical catch data. Without a baseline composed of actual numbers, policy makers and fisheries managers have no way to manage their resources efficiently. De Waegh’s paper also discussed TBF encouragement of active regional participation in fisheries management issues for all users.

During the conference, Chaibongsai and De Waegh had the opportunity to speak with the government officials from numerous nations like Colombia, Japan, Netherland Antilles, and Panama, as well as non-profit organization representatives, research institutions and regional fishermen. TBF’s Chaibongsai said, “This conference consistently provides TBF with a good venue to discuss current and future problems with a multitude of stakeholders in the region.”

The conference again provided an excellent opportunity for TBF to network with a wide variety of interests in the beautiful and culturally diverse Gulf and Caribbean Basin. TBF is looking forward to attend the next conference in Panama in 2015. To learn more about this event go to:

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Safe Handling Practices

Photo courtesy of Laurent Cherubin

Did you know that removing a billfish from the water not only causes unnecessary harm to the fish, but in the Atlantic it is illegal to remove any highly migratory fish from the water that is  not harvested. Learn how to ensure safe, healthy billfish release and  still get great pictures of your catch without harming the fish.

Keep Them in the Water and Keep Them Alive

Can you remember the first billfish you caught? For those lucky enough to have caught a marlin, sailfish, or swordfish, the memory of the first billfish is perhaps one of the most coveted experiences for any angler. For most, it’s a memory full of the smell of diesel, spray of the water, and sore arms pumping as the captain backs down on a lit up fish, greyhounding and fighting with all its might. Although a memory that will last forever, many anglers want a photo with their first billfish. Pulling billfish out of the water is illegal in U.S. Atlantic waters unless the fish is going to be harvested. Unfortunately, more and more photos of people holding up sailfish or small marlin or stretching them across the covering boards are posted on websites, sent via social media and published in fishing magazines.

Removing billfish from the water puts additional stress on their body after the initial stress caused by the fight. Contact with the fish removes the slime that protects it from parasites and infections. Just like a person whose immune system is weakened after a hectic or traumatic experience, billfish are more susceptible to infections or diseases when stressed. A billfish’s skeleton is designed for buoyant conditions of the ocean, so when removed from the water the skeleton and internal organs come under the strain of gravity, which can cause serious harm to the fish. While some research is complete on the effects non-offset circle hooks have in reducing billfish post release mortality, less research is complete on assessing effects of fight times and other fishing stressors. In studies by students at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) 22 pop-up satellite archival tags (PSATs) were deployed on white marlin caught using circle hooks. As part of the study, blood samples were taken from the fish requiring removal of the marlin from the water. Data from the PSATs indicated that 21% of those white marlin died immediately after release. In a separate, similar study also conducted by VIMS, 30 white marlin were tagged withoutbeing removed from the water and resulted in only 2% post release mortality. It was hypothesized that the significantly different mortality rates could be due to the additional stress put on the white marlin when removed from the water. It’s also interesting to note that the white marlin that did not survive, did not experience the longest fight times. Researchers hypothesize that a short fight time before being removed from the water for blood samples may be equivalent to a human sprinting for as long and hard as possible, then being forced to hold their breath! Results from PSATs studies also show that it can take billfish as long as 14 days to recover and resume normal behavior.

Photo courtesy of Eric Orbesen- NOAA


It is well known that stress caused by fight time makes a fish more vulnerable to predation and commercial fishing pressure. Anglers should strive to keep the billfish from getting injured, especially when deploying a $4,000 PSAT, to gather valuable data. The scientists took every precaution during the research to ensure the survival of the fish, but even so some died, perhaps due to the additional stress from being hauled aboard a boat, being deprived of oxygen and having blood taken.

For anglers, the condition of the hooked billfish should be a priority. Injury can be mitigated by using non-offset, circle hooks with all natural baits, proper hook removal, and using tackle to match the size of your query. Taking the time to rig baits, spectacular boat handling, and world-class angling is all null if the fish is pulled from the water and injured.

Photo Courtesy of Brittney Novalsky

If an angler wants a photo with his or her fish, TBF recommends safe handling practices be followed. Once the fish is alongside the boat, keep it in gear with the fish’s lower jaw in the water to ensure oxygenated water passes over the gills. Then the angler can lean over the gunnel while someone snaps photos. Taking the time to ensure a safe release is the mark of a real sportsman, not just the number of flags flying from outriggers, or pictures on a wall. The next time someone wants to pull a billfish out of the water for a photo, ask that person if the photo is worth the life of the fish. A photo may be worth a thousand words, but it is not worth killing a billfish.

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Sailfishing Tips from Sailsmen Fishing Team

Winter is approaching and that means one thing for us down here in South Florida, the return of the world class sailfish bite. Anglers begin to anticipate the onset of the season’s first cold snaps and along with that, the annual migration of Atlantic Sailfish down the coast. Some anglers let us know how a finesse game can not only help keep you in the money, but be better for the fish as well.

The beauty of this near shore fishery is that just about anyone can get in on the action; however some   anglers take this season a bit more serious than others. These hardcore tournament fishing teams know what it takes to put up numbers and may run forty plus miles in heavy seas from their home inlet in search of a bite.

We caught up with one such team recently to pick their brains a bit about what they feel contributes to their repeated success and some of the measures they take to keep up with an ever-growing fleet of competitors. What we learned encouraged TBF in regards to the direction this fishery is going.

Team Sailsmen, formerly known as team “Advanced Roofing,” has been competitively fishing in the south Florida area for over 15 years. This group of friends, who have been fishing together since high school, have mastered their craft. To them the change of season means time to ready their tackle in preparation for the upcoming tournament schedule. With many top finishes and over 1 million dollars in career tournament winnings, we figured we were talking to the right guys.

“You have to constantly be stepping up your game…” team captain Jeff Scott states. “The competition has gotten so good out there that we constantly have to be looking for ways to elevate ours. We can’t control how many fish are going to show up and where” says Scott, “but it’s important to make it count in the areas you do have control over, like our tackle.”

“One thing that’s changed over the years is tackle” says Mike Calabrese, another member of the team. “It seems like just a few years ago guys were using J hooks and big, 60 lb. leader material. Now, not only are crews using circle hooks, we’re using really small ones at that.” In addition to the small, lightweight hooks, the guys have downsized their leader material as well. “30 lb. fluoro. That’s it.” Scott says. “You have to try pretty hard to break it and if you do, you probably did something wrong.”

How do the guys feel about these adjustments? “We’re all for it” says Scott. “Smaller hooks penetrate easier and also help to present the bait in a more natural manner.”

“For our kite fishing, we’re using a 5/0 hook” Calabrese says. “I like a little bigger if I’m trolling, say a 6/0 or 7/0.”

Still, those hooks are considered small by most standards. “The best part about all that,” Calabrese proclaims “Is that we’re letting these fish go with hardly anything left on them.”  “A quick grab of the 30lb. and it usually parts inches from the hook where the leader was chaffed. And they’re off…Just remember to make sure you have photo or video verification of your catch before doing so” he adds.

Both guys agree that since the shift, they have seen far fewer deep hooked and bleeding fish. “I think it’s safe to say that virtually all of our fish we let go swim off in great shape” explains Scott.

Another detail the “Roofers”(as they are so affectionately known as by their peers) have adapted is the use of a lighter main line as well.“Everyone used to use 20 lb.” says team owner, Michael Kornharens. “Now, we’ve realized we don’t need that heavy of line.”

“There are numerous benefits. We get more line capacity using 17 lb. and experience less belly in the line when it is in the air through the kite clip or in the water when we are fighting a fish,” explains Kornharens. The added capacity is also beneficial when the team hooks up to multiple fish that head off in different directions.

The anglers also agree that with the lighter line and decreased drag pressure, the sailfish tend to stay higher up in the water column when hooked.

“It’s not for everyone…” Scott adds. “You have to have good anglers who know when to back off and know when to push it up. Ultimately though, if you can do it and chase these fish with the boat and get a quick release, everybody wins.I’d say we average a 2-4 minute release time for each fish. It enables us to get our baits back out quickly and the fish usually take off like nothing happened” he adds.

“When you catch fish quickly, you are able to hopefully stay with that body of fish that has just moved upon you,” says Calabrese. “The positioning of the boat and where you set back up after a release is really what can make or break a tournament for you. Catching them quick is the only way to go.”

While the Sailsmen and TBF both advocate tagging measures for billfish, it should be added that tagging fish during a tournament may not be the best time to do so. “We carry tags onboard and attempt to deploy them when the time is right” says team member David Collier. “In the heat of a tournament is usually no time to attempt to properly place a tag. Instead we will try to get our tags out while pre-fishing when we have a little more time to ensure the tag is placed in a good spot on the fish,”he explains.

The main thing is you do not have to be in a tournament or be a professional to attempt a transition in your tackle for both your sake and the fish’s. Use smaller hooks and make a conscious effort to go after your hooked billfish and reduce the fight time. “Bottom line, the smaller the hook you use, the less force required for it to penetrate and the better chance you have it will stick. The quicker you catch and release your fish while leaving as little as possible behind, the better for the fishery” adds Scott.

With all the evidence pointing towards mutual benefits for all involved, there is hope for a great sailfish bite off South Florida for years to come.


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Results of Public Consultation on the Future of Bermuda’s EEZ

Public Input on the Future of Bermuda’s EEZ

In 2013, the Bermudian government began the ongoing process of evaluating options for the future management of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). From September 3rd to October 31st of 2013 public consultation was conducted and the results of this consultation have recently been released by the Sustainable Development Department. The report, The Future of Bermuda’s Exclusive Economic Zone: Outcome of the Public Consultation reflects the diversity of opinions held by stakeholders. Most of all, the report emphasizes the need for the government of Bermuda to identify and evaluate the many important ecological, social, cultural and economic issues to be further addressed before any decisions about the future of its EEZ can be made.

Photo credit: Bonnier

In surveys distributed by the Sustainable Development Department, the public was asked to weigh in on options including the establishment of no-take marine reserve (MR) covering roughly 80% of its EEZ, developing an offshore commercial fishery, seabed exploration, and mineral extraction from the seabed. Survey responses and comments submitted ranged from advocating for strict protection of Bermuda’s EEZ to activities that “fully explore” the natural resources within Bermuda’s EEZ. The government has stated it wishes to show its commitment to the international community while fully considering the socioeconomic impacts that may arise including foreign investment and the creation of new jobs and industries. Unfortunately, the Bermudian government is lacking any “sound economic profiles” for the potential options they are considering.

Fortunately, TBF has been involved with this process since news of a possible MR was announced. By participating in public meetings, distributing TBF reports to the public and meeting with government officials, TBF stressed the importance of sportfishing and that the many benefits it generates to Bermuda are not overlooked. Government administrators obviously understood input from TBF about the significant deterrent that a marine reserve would have for anglers wanting to fish for fishing would be prohibited. Not being able to fish during the long trip to Bermuda or explore new fishing grounds could result in fewer visiting anglers. Current statistics that visiting boat owners and guests spend on average $150,00 and $4,000 respectively compared to the average visitor coming by air or cruise ship that spend on average $1,100 and under $200 respectively. Previous socioeconomic studies conducted by TBF in other fishing destinations also indicate that visiting anglers participating in billfish tournaments generate $40 million USD annually in Bermuda alone. For Bermuda to retain its self-proclaimed title as the “blue marlin capital of the Atlantic” and the millions of dollars its economy currently receives from sportfishing tourism, shutting out the economic benefits generated by anglers would not be a wise decision. In Bermuda, billfishing is almost an entirely non-extractive activity and 98% of all billfish caught in tournaments from 2010-2013 were released. Establish a MR and prohibiting sportfishing from up to 70% of Bermuda’s water would do little to protect highly migratory species that face intensive commercial fishing pressure. Officials from Bermuda have also stated that the high costs of enforcement for such a large, offshore area is another significant challenge in maintaining an effective MR and quite often anglers are responsible for reporting illegal activities. Prohibiting anglers from these areas would mean the loss of an invaluable aid to enforcement efforts while providing virtually no benefit to Bermuda’s marine resources.

Though planning and managing a MR, like managing all marine resources, benefits from public input, sound decision making requires detailed, substantiated facts and statistics. Assessing the economic impacts of establishing a MR necessitates socio-economic studies. In an address to the Bermuda House of Assembly, the Premier, Michael Dunkley, acknowledged that “perceptions of biased and unreliable information, shallow due diligence and subjective assertions out not to be relied upon to make such an important decision.” Like Bermuda, the initial design and public consultation for Australia’s national system of marine reserves was also heavily influenced by powerful environmental organizations. For Australia, the failure to fully account for all of the potential impacts and not working with important stakeholders like anglers throughout the creation of its marine reserves resulted in tremendous controversy and the government having to repeat the entire process of consultation and creation of these reserves. These are all efforts and resources that take could be put toward better utilizing the strong, proven management practices that Bermuda already has in place.

“Planning for the future of our EEZ is probably one of the most complex and capacious opportunities that the Government and people of Bermuda have ever been presented with.” This statement made by the government of Bermuda in its consultation report shows that Bermuda has a lot of work in front of them to establish effective management of its marine environment that does not erode the current economic benefits from sportfishing. Going forward, Bermuda plans to investigate options for conducting independent socioeconomic assessments and TBF posts will follow.

To learn more about the issues in Bermuda, see TBF’s News Section for previous articles.

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Rum Bum Racing’s Matt Plumb voted into Road Racing Drivers Club

Plumb was among 15 new members who were voted for the honor by current Road Racing Drivers Club members.

Orlando, Fla. – Having scored multiple championships and a category-leading count of race wins, Rum Bum Racing driver and Team Manager Matt Plumb recently earned a new accolade as he was voted into the Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC) as a member of the 2014 class. Plumb was among 15 new members who were voted for the honor by current Road Racing Drivers Club members.

“This year’s lineup of new Regular Members includes professional racing champions past and present, amateur racing champions, and drivers with stellar racing credentials,” offered RRDC president Bobby Rahal. “And, of course, each driver has demonstrated his or her outstanding conduct on and off the track, a quality the RRDC members take into consideration when voting in new members.”………

To read more visit from the link below:


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Tag & Release Standings – 11/1/14

Every year, The Billfish Foundation (TBF) recognizes the captains, mates and anglers (including youth and ladies) who tag and release the most billfish in each of the world’s oceans. The competition is categorized by billfish species, ocean, and whether the fish were tagged or released untagged.  Award winners are recognized at TBF’s Annual Tag & Release Awards Ceremony held during the Miami International Boat Show presented by the TBF Tag and Release Sponsors: Bisbee’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Fund, Casa Vieja Lodge, Costa Sunglasses, Pelagic, and SIMRAD.

The Billfish Foundation’s Annual Tag and Release Ceremony will be held Friday, February 13, 2015, in the Treetop Ballroom at Jungle Island. The evening will kick off at 6:30 PM with cocktails followed by the award presentation and dinner. Proceeds benefit TBF’s tag and release program.Get your tickets for the 2015 Tag & Release Award Ceremony here.

Honoring our Tag & Release sponsors (in order from left to right) Casa Vieja Lodge, Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Foundation, PELAGIC, and Costa.

Please remember the deadline for TBF to receive your tag and release data is November 15th!  You can either submit them via snail mail or online via

The standings below reflect Tag and Release Cards entered into the TBF Database as of 11/1/2014.

Overall Release Captain

1 Pete Rae
2 Josh Temple
3 Chris Van Leeuwen
4 Manuel Diaz
5 Dean Panos

Overall Tagging Captain

1 Josh Temple
2 Chris Sheeder
3 Ronnie Fields
4 Eddy Lawler
5 Francisco Alvarenga

Overall Release Angler

1 Pat McCotter
2 Keith Brandner
3 Bill Easum
4 John Duvall
5 Tiffany Sisolak

Overall Tagging Angler

1 Keith Brandner
2 Gray Ingram
3 Darryl Schroeder
4 Sandra MacMillan
5 Alejandro Gonzalez

Overall Release Lady Angler

1 Tiffany Sisolak
2 Sandra MacMillan
3 Joan Verrnon
4 Sally Kurz
5 Martha Macnab

 Overall Tagging Lady Angler

1 Sandra MacMillan
2 Jo-Ann Riley
3 Kumie Saegusa
4 Martha Macnab
5 Sandra Hiler

Overall Release Youth Angler

1 Bo Ingram
2 Shawn MacMullin
3 Jonathan Gaskill
4 Brown Gaddy
5 Charles Gaddy

Overall Tagging Youth Angler

1 Shawn MacMullin
2 Bo Ingram
3 Nick Brackman
4 Aidan Burke
5 Josh Golden

Top Tagging Angler- Atlantic Ocean

Blue Marlin

1 Gray Ingram
2 Bo Ingram
3 Sandra MacMillan
4 Chris Haley
5 Mario Frering


1 Kasey Swan
2 Sandra MacMillan
3 Andy Southwell
4 Kerry Dyer
5 Dawn Samuels


1 Rick Gudoian

White Marlin

1 Laurent Sahyoun
2 Sandra MacMillan
3 Jeff Citron
4 Jefferey Stolarz
5 James Allement

Top Release Angler- Atlantic Ocean

Blue Marlin

1 Gray Ingram
2 Sandra MacMillan
3 Bo Ingram
4 James Weir
5 James Turner


1 Gray Ingram
2 Chris Kubik
3 Andy Southwell
4 Rob DeYoung
5 Wesley Davis

White Marlin

1 Sandra MacMillan
2 Tommy Montague
3 Willo Rubi
4 Will Stark
5 James Turner

Top Tagging Captain- Atlantic Ocean

Blue Marlin

1 Ronnie Fields
2 Chris Hood
3 Olaf Grimkowski
4 Antonio Amaral
5 Ben Horning


1 Fin Gaddy
2 Bouncer Smith
3 Rom Whitaker
4 Danny Ford
5 Gary Clifford


1 Mark Pagano
2 Sean O’Connor
3 Bouncer Smith

White Marlin

1 Christian Benazeth
2 Gary Richardson
3 Jerry Lanzerotti
4 Scott Leon
5 Tim Richardson

Top Release Captain- Atlantic Ocean

Blue Marlin

1 Ronnie Fields
2 Scott Leon
3 Matt Mauldwin
4 Tim Richardson
5 Bertrand Bouchard


1 Dean Panos
2 Fin Gaddy
3 Rom Whitaker
4 George Wells
5 Dennis Endee

 White Marlin

1 Scott Leon
2 Dennis Endee
3 Tim Richardson
4 Fin Gaddy
5 Mickey Foster

Top Tagging Angler- Pacific Ocean

Black Marlin

1 Brady Wild

Blue Marlin

1 Keith Brandner
2 James Brown
3 Tony Carpenter
4 Ron Kawaja
5. Greg Brandner


1 Darryl Schroeder
2 Alejandro Gonzalez
3 Melanie Gregory
4 Scott Kozak
5 Shawn MacMullin

Striped Marlin

1 Martha Macnab
2 Kumie Saegusa
3 Blake Quinn
4 John “Jack” Duvall
5 Nick Brackmann

Top Release Angler- Pacific Ocean

Black Marlin

1 Barry Alty
2 Bill Pullman

Blue Marlin

1 Pat McCotter
2 Keith Brandner
3 James Brown
4 Tony Carpenter
5 Joan Vernon


1 Bill Easum
2 John Duvall
3 Tiffany Sisolak
4 Gray Ingram
5 Scott Kozak

Striped Marlin

1 T John “Jack” Duvalls
2 Chris Bays
3 Pat McCotter
4 Steve Slawkin

Top Tagging Captain- Pacific Ocean

Black Marlin

1 Tim Richardson

Blue Marlin

1 Josh Temple
2 Chuck Wigzell
3 Sean Holden
4 Skeet Warren
5 Chip Van Mols


1 Chris Sheeder
2 Francisco Alvarenga
3 David Salazar
4 Nicho Alvarenga
5 Richard Chellemi


1 Chuck Wigzell

Striped Marlin

1 Bernabe Ruiz
2 Jaime Gonzalez
3 Sean Holden
4 Tony Araiza
5 Carl Schloederer

Top Release Captain- Pacific Ocean

Black Marlin

1 Brett Alty
2 Tim Richardson
3 Pete Rae

Blue Marlin

1 Pete Rae
2 Josh Temple
3 Chris Bays
3 BC Angel
4 Bubba Carter


1 Chris Van Leeuwen
2 Manuel Diaz
3 Brad Phillips
4 Mike Day
5 Pete Rae

 Striped Marlin

1 Chris Bays
2 Eduardo Cesena Burgoin
3 Pablo Cesena
4 Carlos Ruiz
5 Rafeal (Cha Cha) Sanchez

Top Tagging Angler – Indian Ocean

Black Marlin

1 Scott MacGowan
2 Jo-Ann Riley
3 Chee Meng Yap
4 Peter Nagle
5 Luke Groen


1 Jo-Ann Riley
2 Scott MacGowan
3 Henry Riggs-Miller
4 Steve Palumbo
5 Geoff Ellens

Top Release Angler – Indian Ocean

Black Marlin

1 Murray Teasdace

1 Henry Riggs-Miller

 Top Tagging Captain- Indian Ocean

Black Marlin

1 Eddy Lawler
2 Bernard Vale
3 Scott MacGowan
4 Ross Newton
5 Jo-Ann Riley

Blue Marlin

1 Eddy Lawler
2 Ross Newton
3 Bernard Vale


1 Jourdain Ellens
2 Rolly Pierre
3 Scott MacGowan
4 Eddy Lawler
5 Ross Newton

Striped Marlin

1 Eddy Lawler
2 Bryan Matiba

Top Release Captain – Indian Ocean

Black Marlin

1 Eddy Lawler
2 Ross Newton

Blue Marlin

1 Ross Newton


1 Rolly Pierre

Youth Tag Divisions

8 and under

1 Brown Gaddy
2 Charles Gaddy
3 Caden Alexander


1 Aidan Burke

1 Kaleb Richardson
2 Jonathan Gaskill

13 – 15

1 Shawn MacMullin
2 Bo Ingram
3 Patrick Haley
4 Greer Beasley

16 – 17

1 Nick Brackmann

Youth Release Divisions

8 and under

1 Charles Gaddy
2 Brown Gaddy

13 – 15

1 Bo Ingram
2 Shawn MacMullin

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Rybovich Lifetime Conservation Awards Presented at TBF’s Enchanted Forest Masquerade Ball

The Billfish Foundation’s most prestigious award, the Rybovich Lifetime Conservation Award, is named in honor of the late John Rybovich, a pioneer in billfish conservation and sportfishing vessel design. This year’s winners represent the marine publishing industry, the field of billfish science and an individual advocate and organizer for advancing responsible fishing.

C.M. “Rip” Cunningham – of Boston, Massachusetts began 41 years ago as an associate editor with SaltWater Sportsman magazine where he educated anglers not only on fishing and boating techniques and products, but equally on the importance of participating in the fishery conservation and management processes. His commitment includes serving nine years on the New England Fishery Management Council where he currently serves as Chairman. Before leaving full time employment at SaltWater Sportsman magazine in 2004, he had risen to the position of Editor-in-Chief. Today he continues to contribute his expertise and commitment by writing the magazine’s Conservation Column. “His commitment to sportfishing and conservation is exemplary,” says John Brownlee, TBF Board Member and the current Editor-in-Chief of SaltWater Sportsman magazine.

Dr Julian Pepperell – of Queensland, Australia established the nation’s gamefish tagging program for the New South Wales Fisheries Ministry 40 years ago. The enormous program transitioned Australia’s gamefishing anglers from killing to a predominantly tag-and-release format. Over the years Pepperell has gained distinction as an authority on billfish and other pelagic species, authoring two books and numerous scientific publications. He has had his own research company since 1991 and conducts research in partnership with universities, government, and the private sector. Pepperell also serves as an adjunct professor at several Australian universities. His regular & very popular science column and in-depth features printed in BlueWater Boats and Sportsfishing magazine inform readers about the biology of gamefish and the science relating to their management. Friend and Editor-in-Chief of the magazine, Tim Simpson, says “Pepperell provides a rare gift in his ability to bridge the gap between the scientific community and anglers.”

Herman “Dutch” Prager –of Mandeville, Louisiana returned from submarine duty during World War II and, after seeing a 465.5 pound blue marlin brought to the dock during the Grand Isle Tarpon Rodeo, began a quest to bring big game fishing to his state.  He wanted a big game fishing club established in New Orleans, so with a few other big game fishermen he provided the muscle and drive that in 1961 established the New Orleans Big Game Fishing Club (NOBGFC). The Club’s mission distinguished it from others in that it focused solely on furthering scientific knowledge of big-game fish species by acting as a liaison between anglers and scientists.  Prager was elected President a month later, a position he occupied until 1990, a tenure during which he earned the titles of Club “father, godfather or ramrod.”  In 1962 the Club’s first tournament attracted 46 members and 44 guest anglers and has grown ever since. Dutch and his rules committee established angling rules that are the foundation of the NOBGFC and he insisted that IGFA rules and protocol be strictly followed. TBF is proud to have the NOBGFC as a conservation partner.

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Introducing the TBF SoFlo Sailfish Circuit

Have you ever wondered who the best anglers, captains and crews are here in South Florida? Some boats might have their luck at a two day tournament, but what about every weekend? What about over the entire sailfishing season? With TBF’s SoFlo Sailfish Circuit anglers, captains and crews now have a way to find out!

The goal of TBF’s South Florida Sailfish Regional Competition is to engage anglers in the South Florida billfishing scene and increase participation in TBF’s Tag & Release program through the competitive spirit of anglers. The South Florida Sailfish Regional Competition creates a new region  and categories within TBF’s International Tag & Release Competition to recognize the great billfishing found right here in South Florida. These additional categories and creation of a professional category means that everyone from your professional, tournament winning teams to everyday, weekend-warriors have a chance to win. TBF’s SoFlo Sailfish Circuit offers anglers, captains and crews several opportunities to be recognized for their outstanding fishing accomplishments, contribution to billfish conservation and a chance to win great prizes including trophies from King Sailfish Mounts, Costa Sunglasses, and much more.

Courtesy of Capt. Chris Sheeder.














New SoFL Sailfish Categories

Rules & Eligibility

TBF’s South Florida Sail & Swords Competition will establish a new, South Florida region as part of TBF’s existing International Tag & Release Competition (see following pages for more information). Individual awards will be given to the captains and anglers with the most tag or releases in their respective category. Overall awards are awarded to the anglers and captains with the greatest total number of eligible tags or releases for both species combined. Only TBF tags will count toward the tag category.  Anglers must be 17 years of age or younger as of October 31, 2015 to be qualified as a Junior Angler. A minimum of ten sailfish must be tagged or released by angler or captain to be eligible. Individual award winners (captain and angler categories) must be a current TBF member to receive an award. Award winners must be members at the Sailfish level or above with the exception of junior anglers who are eligible with a youth membership.

Professional Division Eligibility

Hired, for-pay captain and anglers or captains and anglers that have won more than $10,000 in the past three years in tournament winnings (billfish tournaments only) qualify for professional divisions with the exception of junior angler categories. For-hire, charter boat captains are only eligible for professional divisions.

Dates & Eligible Species

November 1, 2014 – October 31st, 2015

All tag and release reports must be sent in to The Billfish Foundation or entered in TBF’s Tag & Release Online Database by November 15 of 2015 to be eligible for the competition. Only sailfish tagged and or released during the dates above are eligible for the competition.


US, Atlantic waters from Fort Pierce to Key West. The area is defined to include anglers and captains fishing from the counties of St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade, and Monroe. See map for specific coordinates (competition area is outlined in green).


Awards will be given during the International Tag & Release award ceremony during the Miami International Boat Show in February of 2016. Awards include trophies provided by King Sailfish Mounts, pair of Costa Sunglasses, and more.


TBF recognizes the valuable contribution of mates in both the release and tagging of billfish. In addition to anglers and captains, mates will also be awarded with a pair of Costa Sunglasses and a plaque for his or her level of achievement. 

Proper Tagging Procedure & Tagging at Tournaments

The post-release survival of billfish is vital and TBF urges that proper tagging procedures are used when tagging any billfish to ensure safe, healthy releases (see TBF’s Tag & Release Program brochure for more information). Improper tag placement, ‘speed tagging’ or using too much force when tagging can result in serious injury or death to the fish. For this reason TBF does not encourage tagging during tournaments. However, if a boat chooses to tag any sailfish during a tournament they will be counted toward the TBF South Florida Sailfish Tag & Release Competition. All participants are encouraged to see TBF’s Tag & Release brochure for information on safe handling and proper tagging procedure.



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TBF’s Masquerade Ball – Get your tickets now!

Don’t miss out on THE sportfishing party of the year!

Click here to get your tickets to TBF’s Masquerade ball!

Eat, drink, and bid on items to help support billfish conservation! Check out some of the pictures and fun everyone had from last year’s “Night Under the Big Top” Party.

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Rum Bum Racing Closes 2014 IMSA Championship on the Podium at Road Atlanta

Braselton, Ga. (3 October 2014) – Beating the odds in an extremely competitive field, Lu Bacardi’s Rum Bum Racing closed out the 2014 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge championship with a third place finish at Road Atlanta on Friday.

Starting in last place due to unfortunate circumstances in qualifying, a combination of gutsy strategy, super-fast pit work, and an ironman performance by Matt Plumb produced a podium finish to end the 2014 season on a positive note.

Crew Chief Joe Varde’s call to pit starting driver Brandon Davis under green on Lap 2 set the team on a strategy that ultimately paid dividends by relying on consistent pace on track and an exceptional set of pit stops by the Rum Bum Racing crew.

“The strength of Rum Bum Racing is knowing that we can rely on the performance of every member and every part of this team” said Team Manager and lead driver Matt Plumb. “It was pretty lonely just putting in the laps early in the race at the back of the field, but unless I’m wrong, we jumped five positions on our first pit stop and six on our second; just a monster performance by our boys. At that point the race was truly on.”

The last 40 minutes turned into one of the most exciting races of the season with exactly the kind of action the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge is known for. Through the chaos the familiar yellow and blue No. 13 Porsche emerged to score a third place finish in the race, and hoist the reigning Drivers’ and two-time Team Champions to fourth place in the 2014 IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Team Championship.

“I’d like to thank all of our fans, supporters, partners, and especially our crew, Joe Varde, and Lu and Jennifer Bacardi for their guidance and support during this past season. It is a such pleasure to work with this awesome group of people, and a privilege to do it with all of our supporters across North America” added Plumb. “We’re already working on 2015 and we can’t wait to get started again in January at Daytona.”

The Road Atlanta event will be televised on Sunday, October 12 at 12:00 PM ET on FOX Sports 1.

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Rum Bum Racing Ready to Move Forward at Road Atlanta

Braselton, Ga. (2 October 2014) – Rum Bum Racing will look to move forward in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at Road Atlanta on Friday after some bad luck caught the team out during qualifying on Thursday.

Brandon Davis, who is debuting with Rum Bum Racing this weekend, was all set to wheel the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche around the quick and challenging 2.54-mile road course during Thursday’s 15-minute qualifying session only to have qualifying go under a red flag for nearly the entire session. Unfortunately the squad wasn’t able to get a lap in and will be forced to start the 2.5-hour race from the rear of the field.

Fortunately, Rum Bum Racing is known for its strategy and that, combined with the driving combination of Team Manager and driver Matt Plumb and sportscar veteran Davis, has the team optimistic about Friday’s race.

“It’s been great working with Rum Bum Racing and I thank them for the opportunity to drive this weekend,” said Davis. “Qualifying didn’t go how we wanted it to. The car was really good and it looked like the one lap that we actually started would have put us right up there. But unfortunately when the red flag came out we hadn’t logged a lap yet so we just have to deal with the consequences of that. It might rain tomorrow which I’m fine with. It’s a great car and these Rum Bum guys do a great job. We’ll have a good car for the race and we’ll just work our way forward and go from there.”

The Road Atlanta event will go green at 1:15 PM ET on Friday and will be streamed LIVE on FOX Sports 2 will televise the race on Sunday, October 12 at 12:00 PM ET.

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Rum Bum Racing Ready for Strong Close

Orlando, Fla. (29 September 2014) – Every team needs a Closer—the guy that everyone can count on to deliver a big performance right at clutch time. Whether that is the last pitch thrown in the World Series, or the final fish caught to make a winning difference in a tournament, Closers always count.

While many Rum Bum Racing fans might fondly recall the way the team burst on to the racing scene with a big victory in the season-opening race at Daytona in 2010, a look at the team trophy case points to an incredible record of performance in the final race of the season for the Luis Bacardi-owned squad.

The team won the final race of the season in 2010 (Salt Lake City), again in 2011 (Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course), and then once again in 2012 (Lime Rock Park) to secure the 2012 Championship.

The 2013 season-finale at Lime Rock Park once again saw a big performance as the team scored third place to lock in a second consecutive IMSA Championship.

So heading to the final race of the 2014 IMSA season this Friday at Road Atlanta, Rum Bum Racing will look to once again play the role of closer.

The 2.5-hour race will mark the end of what has been a frustrating season for the team, which despite a cloud of tough racing luck in 2014, saw the group make multiple front-row starts as well as continue to show themselves to be winners. Of the 690 laps that the team has completed so far this year, Rum Bum Racing led over 20% of them.

Rum Bum Racing drivers Matt Plumb and Brandon Davis will share the No. 13 Porsche Rum Bum Racing entry as Davis makes his debut for the squad. Friday’s race will culminate not only a season of racing, but also a busy four-day stretch of on-track practice and preparation. Longhi qualified the Porsche on pole and led the opening 10 laps for this race in 2013 and will look to continue to have a positive impact on the team this weekend.

“We are looking for Lady Luck to return our phone call this weekend!” said Plumb. “Everything has been business as usual this year, but luck has not been on our side. We have continued to elevate our game in the meantime even more than ever, when things do change on the luck front we will capitalize!”

Rum Bum Racing will have a promoter test day on Tuesday, one practice session on Wednesday as well as practice and qualifying sessions on Thursday with the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche ahead of the Friday race, which will last 2.5-hours starting at 1:15 PM ET. The Road Atlanta event will be streamed LIVE via and will re-air on FOX Sports 1, Sunday October 12 at 12:00 PM ET.

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HOT OFF THE PRESS – 2014 International Billfish Conservation Record

The Billfish Foundation’s 2014 International Billfish Conservation Record is now available for purchase on TBF’s Online Shopping Cart. This publication is dedicated to the late Dr. Russell Nelson, a nationally acclaimed scientist, who served as The Billfish Foundation’s (TBF) Chief Scientist for 12 years. The Conservation Record includes the 2013 Rybovich Lifetime Achievement Award recipients, the 2013 TBF Tag & Release Program participants, summary of all tag, release & recapture data submitted and collected for 2013, map of top locations by species, and much more! TBF thanks our Tagging Program sponsors, Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund, Casa Vieja Lodge, Costa, King Sailfish Mounts & Pelagic Gear, for their support in making this record possible. Please note, all Striped Marlin ($250) members, Blue Marlin ($500) members, Chairman’s Club ($1000) and Legacy ($10000) members will receive a complimentary copy of the 2014 record as part of their TBF member premium. Join or upgrade today!

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