07. End Play
Between The Lines - Ch: 12 Fighting Fish
Following is what may be considered an ideal fight, though no two fish fight the same, just as no two anglers have identical timing or skills. There are endless combinations and interactions that result in countless possible scenarios. We cannot even hope to scratch the surface as every encounter with gamefish is unique, one of the many reasons why we find this sport so enthralling.
This is it, the end play, there are more emotions pulsing through your veins as the fish comes close, the end is near, the tag pole or gaffs at the ready. The crew is twitching, and everything is now in slow motion. The line quivers as the plait and double near the surface.
The boat is on an interception course with the fish, the fish is tired, but swimming steadily as the boat closes in on an interception course. You don't want the fish pointed at you, as that is just too dangerous; ideally, the fish is parallel with the boat. (Fig 1) Note the boat should not be backed up directly to the fish as the pressure waves from the props and stern may spook the fish, (Fig 2) unless you actually want the fish to head away from the boat for a good tag shot. Rather approach the fish on the corners or side of the boat with the fish parallel to the boat, preferably swimming towards the bow. (Vid 1)
The plait and double vibrate feverishly as they break through the surface, as you near the fish the angler maintains steady pressure with short smooth rod pumps. As soon as the plait is on the reel the angler should grab the double and keep the line coming steadily. If at any time you can get a shot with the tag pole, take it. (Vid 2)
If the leader is too long to get a tag shot without tracing the fish, the angler should step back if using stand-up gear or lift the rod high if in the chair to bring the trace within reach of the traceman. The traceman should only apply as much pressure as necessary and as smoothly as possible to bring the fish closer; any jerking may spook the fish. If the fish comes easily there is no need to take wraps, just pull smoothly on the leader. (Vid 3)
As soon as he can, the angler should wind the swivel to the rod tip and back the drag off to just under a third and be ready in case the traceman dumps the leader. The angler should also be aware of the rod tip position to minimise the risk of the swivel swinging around the rod or leader loops going over the rod and trace man's head. (Vid 4) Through this whole period, the traceman should put excess leader onto the deck and to one side and be sure he doesn't step into the loops.
As stated earlier, take the tag shot as soon as the opportunity arises. Though they should never gaff or tag in front of, or over the leader, rather come in behind the traceman and leader. As soon as the fish is hit by a tag or gaff it will probably surge forward and all should be ready. If the angler is in control, they should not hold wraps on the double and should back off the drag as the tag shot is taken. If the traceman has control, they should be prepared to either hang onto the leader wraps or be prepared to dump them, in which case the angler is at the ready to resume the fight. The skipper should be poised to accelerate with the fish.
Once the tag in the fish is confirmed the crews' yelling is a sign of how much adrenaline has been built up during these final moments.
Congratulations, you have done it! You have won against the fish, but before the celebrations, it is appropriate to care for the fish. The fish is either alongside the boat or has surged away, so regain control and bring it alongside the boat. Remove the hooks with either a hook-out pole or gun. To control the fish prior to removing the hooks you may choose to bill rope the fish and then use a pole or gun to remove the hooks. Do not grab hooks with your hands regardless of how experienced you are. Then as a final gesture swim the fish either on the end of the bill rope, or snooter or by holding its head below the water. Once the fish has regained colour and swimming comfortably let it go swimming to its well-deserved freedom. (Vid 5)