Sportfishing hooks up with social media to share what’s biting – Sun

Last week’s record-shattering Silver Sailfish Derby out of Palm Beach Shores in which 46 boats caught a three-day total of 1,174 sailfish was a testament to the benefits of catch and release fishing.

So was last week’s Pelican Yacht Club Invitational Billfish Tournament out of Fort Pierce in which 29 boats released a record 736 sailfish, all them caught on dead bait.

The releasing of sailfish also has led to bigger fish. Nick Yanuzzi of King Sailfish Mounts in Fort Lauderdale, which makes replicas of fish out of fiberglass, known as release mounts, said that when the business started 20 years ago, a big sailfish was 6 1/2 feet.

“Now they’re getting up to 8 and 9 feet,” Yanuzzi said.

It’s fitting that the West Palm Beach Fishing Club, which conducts the Derby, was a leader in promoting the release of sailfish. In fact, in 1938 the club came up with the red release pennant for boats to fly to show how many sailfish they’d caught and released.

The Billfish Foundation also promotes the release of sailfish, as well as white marlin, blue marlin and swordfish, and encourages anglers to tag their catches. Based in Fort Lauderdale, TBF collects tagging information to help better manage billfish.

Some of that info is fascinating. A white marlin that was tagged and released off Louisiana this past June was recaptured and released 1,650 miles and 83 days later off Virginia.

Recently, TBF came up with a way to allow anglers to access that data as well as keep track of how many billfish they and their friends have caught with a tag and release online database.

Call it sportfishing hooks up with social media.

Billfishtag.org is a free website where both TBF members and non-members can create profiles and “friend” fishing buddies who also have profiles.

“What we’re trying to do is get people re-energized about reporting their catches,” said Peter Chaibongsai, TBF’s Director of Science Policy. “They can enter the information from any Internet access point.”

That means they could enter their catches using a smart phone while they’re fishing. Profiles can be updated with photos of catches.

Then you can invite your fishing buddies to see what you’ve caught and you can see what they’ve been catching. The site has a map feature that uses Google Earth that allows anglers to see data on each fish caught.

Anglers who tag fish can put the information online quickly. Previously, anglers who tagged fish had to fill out and mail in a card that came with their TBF tagging kit. Then they had to wait to hear if their tagged fish was recaptured. Now they can simply go to the website to see not only if their fish was recaptured, but also where the fish was caught again, how big it got and who caught it.

The site also lets TBF more easily collect tagging data.

“It allows us to get the data that we need, the biological information, to help influence the management of billfish.” Chaibongsai said. “We can show how fish are connected locally and internationally to affect policy.”

swaters@tribune.com or 954-356-4648

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