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From Boredom to Big Fish

A good photo is still worth a thousand words

October 13, 2020
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A black and white image of three men standing beside a large marlin hanging from a deck.
Historic images like this one open a door to the history of sport fishing. Courtesy IGFA/igfa.org

While most of us have been sitting at home during this pandemic and wishing we were out there fishing, there has been one small benefit: I have been spending a little more time on social media, and my feed has been full of some great old photos. Some of these have been of very large marlin; some are old charter-boat captains from back in the day; others are photos of some amazing world-record catches; and quite a few are from the younger generation of captains. Then there are the trophy fish: huge wahoos, big mahi, snappers and groupers, even largemouth bass over 10 pounds. Old dock shots lined up with king mackerels, snappers, tunas and wahoos, just to name a few.

There were so many granders from Australia that were weighed in the past, and this really shows you just how many are released today. There were quite a few giant blue marlin from Hawaii, and a few from Tahiti too. The biggest difference between the old photos and the new ones was that there is much more variety: jumping shots, underwater shots, wiring the fish, and people taking photos of other boats fighting large marlin. Between using good digital cameras, our phones and the ever-popular GoPros, we’re able to capture the action like never before.

It’s easy to pick out the old charter-boat photos—shot mostly in black-and-white—with dead, brown-looking fish hanging on racks at the dock. Back then, many of the crews would try to sell the charter a photo of them with the trophy fish—when they succeeded, the photographer would give us a copy or sell it to us for a few bucks. That helped fill out the charter-boat albums we used when trying to book the next trip. And it worked!

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I really enjoyed many of the 10-day/10-photo challenges that a lot of fishermen were called out to post on social media. I just wish there were some stories added along with the photos, even though that wasn’t part of the original concept of the challenge. When I posted mine, I added a short story to each one.

Here’s an example of why I feel those stories are important: Hawaii’s Capt. Chip Van Mols posted an image of a large blue marlin and wrote a brief recap. The team hooked the fish during the HIBT; at some point during the fight, the fish went straight down. They were trying to plane the marlin up because they felt it had died during the fight, instructing the angler to tighten the drag to the maximum. But even that was difficult; the angler apparently did not speak or understand English. Van Mols’ story went on to explain the trouble—and eventual success—they had in getting this fish up through the split currents.

These are the kinds of ­stories that we not only enjoy, but are also ones we can learn from. Photos of the fish were great, but the stories behind them are so much better, especially when the captain, crew or angler is telling the tale from their perspective.

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