The Sailfish came early this season. We'll see more of them with each cold front we get.
Over the years many of us have switched to circle hooks. They are supposed to do the least amount of harm to the fish. They are designed to hook the fish in the mouth. This way you can release the fish unharmed, sometimes tired, exhausted, needing to be revived at the side of the boat, but for all intents unharmed.
About twelve days ago we were fishing and ended the day with a Sailfish (catch & release). We fished a few more trips after that without seeing one. Then I took an old client (friend) fishing for a day.
We left the dock at 8 AM and started trolling south. I spoke to a captain friend the day before, he said there was bait (Threadfin Herring) at the Government Cut range marker. On our way south we caught Bonitos, a Skipjack Tuna and a Dolphin. We went to the range marker and loaded the livewell with Herring then went looking for the edge of the Gulf Stream. It was deep, about 320 feet, but it looked real good. The kite was up, the baits were out and in about 20 minutes we had a Sailfish jumping behind the boat. There was another sail there, but that one wasn't hungry. We fought the fish for about 15 minutes caught and released it. Time to do it again! We waited, caught some Dolphin and then, there was Sailfish #2. We fought it for a while. It kept sticking it's head out of the water and looking at us. When we got it close to the boat we could see it was bleeding from it's gills. The circle hook didn't work! We released it immediately. The fish didn't look good. You do everything you can to preserve the fish and the sport and sometimes it isn't enough. We put our live baits back in the water and kept fishing. The Dolphin and Tuna would keep our minds off the wounded Sailfish. About 40 minutes after releasing Sailfish #2, we look to the side of the boat and there was the ugly reminder of how that last fight ended. That Sailfish was floating upside down, dead! We pulled it out of the water, measured it (59" from the lower jaw to the fork in the tail), the overall length of the fish was 80" but still too short to bring back to the dock. Now, the craziest part. Because of it's size we had to put it back in the water to become Shark Food. It just doesn't seem right. We put our baits back in and kept fishing. We were talking about the failure of the circle hook, then we talked about how we've caught sails with the line lassoed around it's tail. No hook in the fish! All of a sudden there was another Sailfish. Sailfish #3 hit hard and ran and ran and ran. When we finally caught up with it, in our amazement, the fish was lassoed just like we were talking about before it hit! We released it, it swam away. We trolled in, caught a Kingfish and called it a day. www.oldhat.com