OCBS teamed with IGFA and VIMS to study the effect of bait rigging on post release survival of Blue Marlin, and in 2007 the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) implemented a new regulation that require Atlantic billfish tournament participants to use non-offset circle hooks when fishing with natural bait or natural bait/artificial lure. The NMFS measure is intended to increase post-release survival of Atlantic billfishes as demonstrated by previous studies conducted on striped marlin (OCBS project) and white marlin (VIMS project). Atlantic billfish anglers have expressed a strong desire to continue using J-hooks while fishing for Atlantic blue marlin in tournaments and they have suggested that fishing for billfish with J-hooks trolled at high speeds with heavy tackle does not result in high post-release hooking mortalities of Atlantic billfish species.
In response to these concerns, OCBS has teamed up the IGFA and VIMS to study this situation. We will deploy 60 popup satellite tags on Atlantic blue marlin caught by trolling either a natural bait with a circle hook or a “combination rig” consisting of an Ilander lure rigged with a natural bait and J-hook. These treatments were chosen because they are the tackle types most often used by Atlantic anglers pursuing billfish. The popup tags will report after just 10 days, allowing us to assess the health of the fish in the days following release. We’ve already begun tagging blue marlin in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic, and we hope to have some answers in the near future.
MarineCSI gratefully acknowledges the support of the Offield Family Foundation and NMFS.