Glen Booth started game fishing in 1979 and has recently published a comprehensive book on the sport – The Complete Guide To Game Fishing. He introduces us to this exciting sport …
What are the differences between normal fishing and game fishing?
With game fishing, you’re mostly catching pelagic species. That includes Marlin, Tuna, Sharks, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Kingfish, etc. They’re usually very big and very fast.
There’s an organisation called the International Game Fishing Association, and they’re the umbrella organisation that sets the rules for game fishing. There are certain constraints and rules you must follow; for example, there are different line breaking strains and once the fish is on the line, no-one else can help you until the very end. It’s all about the ethics of fishing, so that the fish has got a better than even chance of getting away.
These days, game fishing is mostly tag and release – unless it proves to be something that’s particularly nice to eat, and they get to come on a boat ride!
Tell us about tagging.
Once the fish is unhooked, it’s tagged with a fisheries tag. The tag will have a number on it and a card that corresponds with it. We let the fish go, and the card is entered into the database at NSW Fisheries. If someone else catches that fish, they see the tag, take it out, ring the fisheries, and tell them they’ve caught a fish with ‘this’ tag number. Fisheries will look it up on the database and can see that it was caught in Coffs Harbour 9 months ago, and it has swum 400 km south in that time.
Tagging is great, because you get to have your cake and eat it too. If you recapture a fish with a tag in it, it’s very exciting. You tag all these fish, and off they go – but it’s a big ocean out there, and you wonder where they go.
We’ve also done a bit of PSAT tagging in this area, which is Pop-Up Satellite tagging. Basically, it’s a data recorder that’s a little bit bulkier than the normal tags. You tag the fish in the same manner as usual, and let it go. The tags have a tether on them, which once it’s in contact with saltwater, an electrical current starts and it eats through the tether – and then the tag pops to the surface after a period of time. It’s got a little aerial on it and it sends the data to a satellite, then someone’s computer somewhere in the world will go ‘BEEP’, and all of a sudden there’s everything that fish has done since you let it go. The tag can tell you things like where it’s swum, how fast it’s swum … it generates so much data, that they can’t actually analyse it all with the people they have at their disposal. But it’s just nice to know that when you let the fish go, that it does actually survive.
So I guess it’s as much about monitoring the fish as it is catching them?
Yeah … everyone is fascinated by the science of it all. We know so little, and for many years the only research into game fishing in Australia was pretty much being done by recreational anglers who were tagging fish. Nowadays, it’s a bit bigger deal.
What sort of species do we get around this area?
Black, Blue and Striped Marlin. Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Mahi Mahi, Kingfish. We get Sailfish, Broadbill Swordfish, Big Eyed Tuna … most of the game fish are found here in Coffs. The species do vary with the seasons though … winter is a tougher time to fish.
You’ve recently published your own book: The Complete Guide to Game Fishing. Tell us about that …
Well, there’s a guy called Peter Goadby, who was the guru of game fishing writers. He wrote two game fishing books that we called ‘The Bible’ and ‘The Bible Two’.
The first one was Big Fish in Blue Water, which came out in the ‘70s, and the second was Saltwater Game Fishing, which was 20 odd years ago. We still refer to them all the time, but they’re pretty dated, and I thought, “No-one has done a game fishing book anywhere in the world for over 20 years”.
So I asked a few people to see if it would be worth the effort, and they all thought it should work. I’ve written for fishing magazines before, so some of the stuff in the book had already been published – there’s a chapter that had already been done!
Then I got Alistair McGlashan on board to supply a bit of stuff, and it just went from there. I started seriously writing in November 2010 and finished on 1 February 2011.
The few people who have seen it said I didn’t leave anything out, which was a concern at first; but overall, it’s quite comprehensive. The idea was that, while it’s a bit of a coffee table book, it would still be something that you’ll actually learn something from. It’s something that people will refer back to.
We wanted to produce something that beginners would find useful, but there are also a few things in there that guys who’ve been fishing for a long time could call upon as well.
Thank you Glen.