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FEB 2017 VOL 32 ISSUE 2

68 FEATURES

24

THE POWERS THAT BE 60

Outboard Engine Evolution — from Portable to Digital By Chris Woodward

DIGGING DEEP INTO GULF YELLOWFIN 68 How a Unique Partnership Between a State Agency and Universities Has Uncovered New Facts About Yellowfin Tuna in the Gulf of Mexico By Brett Falterman Try Sight-Casting Lures Inshore and Around Shallow Reefs — Flat-Out Fun for an Awesome Array of Game Fish By Julien Lajournade

COST-EFFECTIVE FISHING VACATIONS 84 Nine Examples of Fishing Resorts/Charters That Extend Offseason Bargain Rates By Doug Olander

ON THE COVER A magnificent yellowfin with classic trailing “allison” dorsal and anal fins, photographed by Daniel Goez in the waters of Ascension Island

DEPARTMENTS 8 10 18 24 30 34

EDITORIAL GAME PLAN FISH FACTS GEAR GUIDE NEW PRODUCTS IGFA PENDING RECORDS

38 42 50 54 56

SF BOATS FISHING MACHINES FISH TRIALS ELECTRONICS NEW BOATS BETTER BOATING

98 LAST CAST

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4

FEBRUARY 2017

ADRIAN E. GRAY (TOP)

PLUGGING CARIBBEAN ISLANDS 76


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FEBRUARY 2017

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FEBRUARY 2017 / VOL 32 — ISSUE 2

EDITORIAL

BEDLAM IN BATON ROUGE BY DOUG OLANDER

THE NASTY MESS SERVES AS A VIVID REMINDER OF THE DANGERS OF APPOINTING POLITICAL CRONIES TO RUN SPECIALIZED AGENCIES LIKE THE LDWF.

8

B

y the time these words see the light of day in this issue of Sport Fishing, Charlie Melancon might have been fired. If so, many thousands of folks across Louisiana will be rejoicing. During his one-year tenure, in 2016, as Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries secretary, Melancon has with remarkable efficiency trashed his department, walked back the progress of his highly regarded predecessor, Robert Barham (who approved the impressive LDWF tuna-research program featured on page 68), and destroyed the strong relationships Barham had developed with anglers and the sport-fishing industry. The Great Melancon Mess merits national attention of a state issue for a couple of reasons. For one, Louisiana’s world-class saltwater sport fisheries are of keen interest to anglers all over the country, many of whom come to fish (and spend their money). Second, the whole nasty mess serves as a vivid reminder of the dangers of appointing political cronies rather than qualified, experienced leaders to run specialized agencies like the LDWF. Shortly after assuming the state’s governorship in January 2016, John Bel Edwards appointed Melancon to oversee the state’s fisheries despite Melancon’s lack of qualifications. He has served as a Louisiana state representative and as president of the American Sugar Cane League. Experience with fish and wildlife? Zero. So how has Melancon, in one year, become reviled by pretty much the entire sport-fishing community in Louisiana? A few low points: 1. Melancon suddenly withdrew state support for a federal bill co-sponsored by Louisiana’s Rep. Garret Graves working its way through Congress that would have turned over federal management of red snapper to the five Gulf of Mexico states. The legislation, widely supported by anglers as well as all other Gulf-state governors, offered a red snapper season lasting more than 10 days. But Melancon insisted it would cost the state too much money, a claim Graves denied (prompting Melancon to call the congressman “a Pinocchio” and a liar). Melancon praised the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council for its management

FEBRUARY 2017

of the species. This puts him squarely and inexplicably at odds with his boss, Gov. Edwards, who favors state snapper management. 2. Melancon brought in Toby Gascon as a de facto chief of staff. Gascon, previously a spokesman for the commercial menhaden industry, has ruined relationships with outdoor media around the state and has been widely accused of a transparently anti-recreational bias. The same man has warned of “fanatical big-game angler organizations.” 3. Melancon has been killing off popular recreational-fishing programs, citing cost. After several successful years, the state’s Saltwater Series (redfish tournament) was discontinued. And he ended an ongoing cooperative telemetry study that collected data on speckled trout from fish collected by anglers and implanted with acoustic tags by LDWF scientists in Lake Pontchartrain. 4. Melancon abruptly ended the very popular TAG Louisiana program, claiming the data to be of no value. David Cresson, Louisiana Coastal Conservation Association director, was bewildered by the decision, pointing to 100,000 fish tagged in five years, thousands of recaptures, and “an army of volunteer taggers ready and willing to do more.” Most state fisheries agencies would be thrilled to have such data to work with, Cresson points out. Given the great importance of recreational fishing to this state’s economy, and how many Louisiana voters fish, Melancon’s actions can only hurt Edwards’ chances for staying in office. Perhaps the damage Melancon has done in one year can be reversed in the next three if Edwards replaces him quickly — not with a political hack but rather with an experienced, dedicated fish-andwildlife administrator who actually cares about his or her constituencies. Or maybe by the time you’re reading this, that’s happened. Let’s hope so.


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GAME PLAN

FISH FACTS

GEAR GUIDE

NEW PRODUCTS

UP TO THE TASK: *DPHĆ“VKOLNHPDUOLQ FDQWKUDVKDOHDGHUWKDWĹ?V QRWEXLOWZLWKSUHFLVLRQ :KHWKHUWUROOLQJERWWRP ERXQFLQJRUFDVWLQJ PDNHVXUH\RXUOHDGHULV UHDG\WRSHUIRUP

THE RIGHT LEADER FOR THE JOB DIVERSE OFFSHORE-FISHING STYLES ignited angler resourcefulness throughout the decades to produce innovative leader setups. See a need, ďŹ ll a need. The ingenuity among experienced ďŹ shermen is ongoing, with captains quick to recognize and change tactics whenever better leader options are created. At many ďŹ shing destinations I visit, I often learn a fresh twist or new leader system from a local captain.

Many techniques are versatile, allowing offshore anglers across the globe to utilize the leader setups. Leaders from the past still have value today; new leader systems stretch the capabilities of today’s tackle. You’ll ďŹ nd both in this column. Below, three respected veteran captains describe tried-and-true leaders. At least one of these leaders will almost certainly work for your preferred style of offshore hunting.

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FEBRUARY 2017

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TROLLING FOR MARLIN Capt. Rom Whitaker of Release Sportfishing in Hatteras, North Carolina, targets dolphin, wahoo, marlin and tuna off the Tar Heel coast. I wanted to know his leader rig for catching blue marlin. “The leader combinations we use have been tested and improved many times over the years,” says Whitaker, “but one certainty about fishing is there’s always something new and better coming along, and you had better be ready for change.” Whitaker sets out specific trolling spreads for tunas, white marlin and blue marlin, but here we highlight his tournament-winning blue marlin spread composed solely of lures. Penn International 80s, packed with 130-pound braid and mono, are set out on Whitaker’s long outrigger lines.

300- to 500-pound extra-hard mono leader measures 28 feet

Mold Craft Wide Range

Chafe gear to connect leader to swivel

Heat shrink stiffens connections; electrical tape works too

650-pound cable with larger lures; 400-pound for smaller baits

8/0 to 11/0 J-hook

Specifically, for tournament fishing, he uses a 300-pound snapless ball-bearing swivel, and crimp connections for the main line and leader. “I would recommend to those who use crimps to experiment with different

crimps, crimpers and monofilament to find a combination that works for you,” he says. “There is an obvious difference when you start switching crimps and crimpers. If you put your leaders to the test, you want everything right.”

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ZACH STOVALL (LEFT), JASON ARNOLD / JASONARNOLDPHOTO.COM (OPPOSITE)

CAPT. ROM WHITAKER’S LEADER RIG


FEBRUARY 2016 / VOL 32 — ISSUE 2

ALL-PURPOSE BOTTOMFISHING Fishing in Key West this past October, I noticed the bottomfishing rig that Capt. R.T. Trosset, of Spindrift Fishing, used to catch all types of groupers and snappers. I was lucky enough to join Fin-Nor’s Bob Bagby and Chris Littau on Trosset’s boat one day, testing the new Fin-Nor Primal lever drags (available summer 2017) and Mega Lite spinning reels. The modest leader setup is a beefed-up version of a freshwater dropshot rig. I’ve fished sliding sinker rigs plenty, but this might be the simplest rig ever I’ve used to keep cut baits and live baits near, but not on, the bottom. “My main setup is 30-pound Cortland Master Braid main line connected to 40-pound Ande fluorocarbon leader,” says Trosset. “I tie a spider hitch in the braid and then a

double uni-knot to the fluorocarbon. My leader length varies depending on the type of fish I’m targeting.” For casting baits, Trosset might shorten his leader to the length of the rod. But bottomfishing doesn’t require casting, and extra leader length provides protection against

structure, so he’ll measure off 15 feet of leader material. “My basic bottom leader rig in up to 60 feet of water is 10 to 15 feet of fluoro, with a double overhand loop 3 feet up from the sinker,” says Trosset. “The egg sinker is attached with an improved clinch knot.”

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Whitaker’s leaders start with 300- to 550-pound Momoi Extra Hard, depending on the size of the lure. He keeps leader lengths at a standard 28  feet for tournament conformity. A single-hook cable rig with an 8/0 to 11/0 Owner Jobu or Gamakatsu Blade Point Tuna Hook connected to 650-pound stainless-steel cable finishes the rig. He uses the same leader setup on short and flat lines but swaps out 80s for 130s. Favorite baits include a Black Bart 1656 on the long rigger, a Mold Craft Wide Range on the short rigger, and a Bonz Agitator on the flat line. “I like the bend of the hook to hang out of the skirt a half to three-quarter inches,” Whitaker says. “Depending on the size of lure, I try not to overwhelm the action by rigging too big.”

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Trosset uses a 1/0 to 4/0 short-shank hook (such as a 9175 Mustad) in the Atlantic and a 1/0 to 4/0 circle hook in the Gulf of Mexico. To attach a hook, he pulls the loop through the hook eye, then the hook through the loop. The rig itself is similar to the dropper-loop rig used both offshore or even surf-ďŹ shing. If not familiar with a dropper-loop knot, check out our knot video online to see how the overhand and dropper loop knots are tied. Trosset was able to tie his rigs in a matter of seconds if a ďŹ sh broke off. On our trip, we landed red and black groupers, plus snappers. In some spots, Trosset also landed red snapper regularly on the rig. Minimal tying and minimal effort make this leader setup a cheap but effective option for natural-bait bottom-bouncers.

CASTING FOR TUNAS Capt. Jack Sprengel, who runs East Coast Charters out of various ports in New England, has been jigging, casting

and popping for tunas since 2005. “We knew braided line would be the answer to strength and capacity,� says Sprengel, “but in the early days, I had issues attaching a leader because most knots simply exploded when

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FEBRUARY 2016 / VOL 32 — ISSUE 2

GAME PLAN

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the tension caused braided line to cut through the uorocarbon leader.â€? The number of hookups he could expect in the earlier days was staggering, but the number of ďŹ sh landed was laughable. During that time, Sprengel used 50- to 80-pound braid, connected to the leader via an Albright, Bristol

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or uni-to-uni-knot. Most times the knots would fail under the extreme pressures. He tried a Bimini twist to a swivel, with the leader crimped to the swivel — but the swivel made it hard to cast a long leader. “Next, spliced leaders with hollowcore braid made it possible for us to

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jig with conďŹ dence,â€? says Sprengel. “While these systems were fantastic for vertical jigging, the large loops and the transition of soft loop-to-loop connections to rigid splice points created terrible wind knots when trying to cast through the guides on casts.â€? Finally, Sprengel settled on two knots that seamlessly connect heavy braid to uoro leader: the PR Bobbin and FG knots. “These knots were something out of the future, and initially they were a little intimidating, but they totally revamped the conďŹ dence I had in using a knot to connect my main line to leader,â€? he says. “Over the past few seasons, I have adapted to the quicker method of tying the FG knot, by leaning the rod away for tension and weaving the uoro around the braid.â€? At the end of this leader system, Sprengel ties a Palomar knot to a heavy-duty split ring (with more than 100-pound-test, he uses a crimp). The lure or jig is then added to the split ring. “For targeting all species of tuna in the Northeast, our most consistent approach is a weighted-head-and-softtail combination that allows you to ďŹ sh actively,â€? says Sprengel. “For a long time, jigging and casting offshore was considered less effective than trolling or baiting, but I believe now, when positioned near a biomass of ďŹ sh, jigging and casting is just as effective.â€?

JACK SPRENGEL

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FISH FACTS

GEAR GUIDE

NEW PRODUCTS

FISH FACTS BY DOUG OLANDER / FEBRUARY 2017 / VOL 32 — ISSUE 2

FISH FACTS ARCHIVES

CERO MACKEREL (Scomberomorus regalis)

Though sometimes cero mackerel are mistaken for their smaller cousin, the Spanish mackerel, only the cero has a solid gold line running from just behind the gill cover nearly to the tail. This fabulous light-tackle gamester is limited to clear tropical waters, feeding near the surface around coral reefs throughout the Caribbean and the Florida Keys. The world record of 18 pounds came from Bimini, Bahamas, in June 2013, though the greatest number of cero records is from the Keys.

18

ATLANTIC SHARPNOSE SHARK

MARBLED GROUPER

COASTAL TREVALLY

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20

22

FEBRUARY 2017

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FEBRUARY 2017 / VOL 32 — ISSUE 2

GAME PLAN

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+ GEAR GUIDE + NEW PRODUCTS

Atlantic sharpnose shark

CHALLENGE OUR EXPERTS (And Win Up to 10,800 Yards of Line!) SEND IN YOUR QUESTION

and any relevant photos of your mysterious catch or observation for our experts’ ID and feedback. If we publish your question and you have a shipping address within the United States or Canada, you’ll win a 3-pound spool of Berkley Pro Spec ocean-blue or fluorescentyellow monofilament (1,000 to 10,800 yards, depending on line strength) or a 1,500-yard spool of Spiderwire Stealth braid up to 100-pound-test! Send questions and images via email to fishfacts@sport fishingmag.com (include your hometown) or via post to Sport Fishing Fish Facts, 460 N. Orlando Ave., Suite 200, Winter Park, FL 32789. SPONSORED BY

LOOKING SHARP I caught this small shark (about 3 feet long) off Fort Pierce, Florida. I don’t think I’ve seen one like it before. I’ve seen white spots only on spiny dogfish. This shark’s teeth looked jagged and large. Can you help with an ID?

of grouper but have no idea which. No one we asked down there could identify it, so it must be pretty rare. Ray Douglas Pompano Beach, Florida

Capt. Tim Simos Fort Pierce, Florida

NORTHEAST

Mike Fahay, Sandy Hook Marine Lab, New Jersey SOUTHEAST

Ray Waldner, Ph.D., Palm Beach Atlantic University, Florida GULF OF MEXICO

Bob Shipp, Ph.D., University of South Alabama, bobshipp.com WEST COAST

Milton Love, Ph.D., UCSB, lovelab.id.ucsb.edu FAR PACIFIC

Ben Diggles, Ph.D., Queensland, Australia, GLJVƓVKFRP BLUEWATER PELAGICS

Eric Prince, Ph.D., courtesy of NOAA Fisheries Lab, Miami

MYSTERY MARBLE We caught this fish while deep-jigging near Key West in about 250 feet. I think it’s a species 20

FEBRUARY 2017

Marbled grouper

Ray, you caught a marbled grouper, Dermatolepis inermis (which some ichthyologists place in the genus Epinephelus). This species ranges from North Carolina to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, at depths from 10 to more than 1,000 feet. However, it is not common and is considered Near Threatened. The marbled grouper tops out at approximately 3 feet. The IGFA world record is 30 pounds, 6 ounces, from the Flower Garden Banks off Texas. It’s excellent table fare but doesn’t often appear in markets due to its rarity. — Ray Waldner

GOING COASTAL While fishing reefs in 150 feet of water in the Seychelles, I caught this trevally. Which is this? Frank Yerich Houston

CAPT. TIM SIMOS / BLUEWATERIMAGES.NET (TOP)

SF FISH FACTS EXPERTS

Your shark’s long, pointed snout, white spots, and the area where you caught it give away its identification, Tim. It’s an Atlantic sharpnose shark, Rhizoprionodon terraenovae. This relatively small species grows to a maximum length of not quite 4 feet and is one of the more common coastal sharks, although it also occurs in offshore waters to depths of several hundred feet. Its range extends from Canada through Honduras, including the Gulf of Mexico, but it’s rare north of North Carolina. There is some question whether the Caribbean sharpnose shark, R. porosus — which is found in the Bahamas and Caribbean region and from Honduras to Uruguay — is a distinct species or merely a subspecies of the Atlantic sharpnose. The Atlantic sharpnose is sometimes consumed and is reported to be very good eating. However, as with most sharks, it’s best to soak fillets or steaks in chilled brine or Italian dressing prior to cooking in order to leach out the urea that sharks store in their muscles for osmoregulatory purposes. — Ray Waldner


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What you have there, Frank, is a quality specimen of coastal trevally, Carangoides coeruleopinnatus. Also known as onion trevally, Japanese trevally or bluefin kingfish, this species occurs throughout the tropical Indo-Pacific from eastern Africa, as far north as Japan, and south to Australia. Like other jacks from the family Carangidae, this species has a line of scutes along the caudal peduncle (narrow area just ahead of the tail). Besides the fact that they grow to around 16 to 18 inches long, relatively little else is known about the life history of this species. Despite the name, coastal trevally are rarely encountered close to shore as adults, instead tending to inhabit offshore reefs to depths of around 150 feet. Juveniles, however, are occasionally encountered in estuaries and shallow bays, where they feed mainly on planktonic organisms including shrimp, small fish and squid.

22

FEBRUARY 2017

+ F I S H FA C T S

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Coastal trevally

Immature coastal trevally have a long filament trailing from the second dorsal fin and several dark vertical bands, which fade as the fish mature. Coastal trevally have a shorter body compared with most other similar-size trevallies, and their mouth is relatively soft, as shown by the hook damage in your

photo. The softer mouth of this species is thought to be one of the reasons they tend to feed on smaller prey compared with other trevallies. (My thanks to Jeff Johnson from Australia’s Queensland Museum for helping to confirm the identity of this fish.) — Ben Diggles


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CARRIER COUNTS: The

strand count of your braided main line affects diameter, castability, durability and even tangible feel.

UPGRADE TO EIGHT HAVE YOU COUNTED the fibers in your braided line recently? Yeah, me neither. But even if the naked eye can’t identify different carriers woven together to create polyethylene (PE) fishing line, thread count still matters. Just like men’s suits and bedsheets, right? Consider how braided fishing line is constructed. Polyethylene microfilaments are gel spun (spun together while in partial-liquid form, producing a stronger interchain connection) to create carriers — or strands — often under trade names Dyneema or Spectra. The term “carrier” is sometimes replaced with “end” or “yarn” in braided-line parlance. What’s misleading about the braid moniker is that carriers are actually woven together (a small but specific difference some manufacturers pointed out to me) to create braided line, forming what’s known as “pics” at points where they intersect. For example, Sufix 832 line stands for 8 strands and a pic count of 32 per inch.

24

FEBRUARY 2017

ZACH STOVALL

WHY CARRIER COUNT MATTERS WHEN PICKING BRAIDED LINE


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FEBRUARY 2017 / VOL 32 — ISSUE 2

“Spurred on by interest for eightcarrier braids, producers continue to make smaller polyethylene yarns,” says Dave Burch, president of FINS fishing. “Anglers want thinner and thinner lines for better reel capacity and castability, but the cost is higher for the manufacturer.” The polyethylene used in braided fishing line is almost all chemically identical — the only difference is in the bundles of microfilaments that make up the yarn. Manufacturers’ PE microfilaments might measure differently, say 50 or 100 denier. Denier is a measurement unit for the fineness of yarn, equal to about one single strand of silk. “Let’s say a particular braid requires 800 Dyneema microfibers to reach a certain strength,” says Clay Norris, senior product manager at Berkley Fishing. “It can be created by a four-carrier braid with 200-denier microfilaments or an eight-carrier with 100-denier microfilaments. Both are the same strength, but the eight-carrier is smoother and rounder since the individual fiber bundles are smaller.”

EIGHT-CARRIER ADVANTAGE “Four-carrier is like an off-road tire, able to cut through weeds with rigid strength and brute force,” says Ted  Thibault, TUF-Line’s global sales manager. “Eight-carrier is like a highway tire, with less noise and less friction when used. The four-carrier works well for bottomfishing, while eight-carrier casts better.” Eight-carrier “fully occupied” braids are also known as diamond braids because of their two-over, two-under construction. The higher carrier braid is smoother and more supple than fourcarrier “half-occupied” construction, commonly referred to as basket braid. Basket construction is a one-over, oneunder weave, recognized by nubs on Eight-carrier braid truly shines during the cast. The smoother, quieter line gives anglers increased casting distance plus enhanced sensitivity.

2 6 62 F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7

+ F I S H FA C T S

+ GEAR GUIDE + NEW PRODUCTS

Each different carrier on this machine is used to create eight-strand line, hence eight-carrier’s nickname “fully occupied” braid.

the line’s surface, producing a familiar singing noise when cast through the rod guides. Hold four-carrier and eightcarrier braids in your hand, and you can identify each type by feel alone. “Basket-braid construction typically has more fiber integration, so yarns are held firmly in the line structure for better abrasion resistance,” says Konrad Krauland, founder and president of PowerPro. “The eight-end diamond braids are smoother due to their twill construction, plus quieter through the guides, and more sensitive during the retrieve.” Four- and eight-carrier braids can actually be made on the same machine. Basket braids are made by taking

out half the carriers, hence the term “half-occupied.” Diamond braids are typically fully occupied machines, meaning that each position on the braider has a carrier. “That is not to say that eightend braids will always be diamond braid,” says Krauland. “It is possible to [construct] eight-end basket braid by removing half the carriers from a 16-carrier braiding machine.” The shortcoming with diamond braid is that it is more likely to bury. Typically, basket braid with a better, solid cross section is more cylindrical and resistant to burying into itself in the spool. The eight-carrier constructions are also more expensive than four-end offerings because of the higher cost of the smaller denier yarns.

FISHING EIGHT “Eight-strand braid creates a smoother, quieter and rounder surface that casts farther,” says Dan Quinn, field promotions manager at Sufix’s parent company, Rapala, “plus it still retains abrasion resistance, knot strength and tensile strength. I believe that one main reason

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FEBRUARY 2017 / VOL 32 — ISSUE 2

GAME PLAN

+ F I S H FA C T S

+ GEAR GUIDE + NEW PRODUCTS

EIGHT CARRIERS MODEL

DIAMETER (INCHES)

PE TYPE

POUND-TEST OFFERED

LENGTHS AVAILABLE (YARDS)

PRICE (50-POUND-TEST)

Ande Braid

0.0075 to 0.023

N/A

20, 25, 30, 35, 40, 50, 60, 80, 100, 150

325; 650; 1,300; 3,250

$35 for 325 yards

Berkley ProSpec

0.009 to 0.028

Dyneema

30, 40, 50, 65, 80, 100, 200

500; 2,500

$59.99 for 500 yards

Cortland Master Braid

0.021

Spectra

80

250

$55.95 for 250 yards

Daiwa J-Braid

0.005 to 0.016

Dyneema

8, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 65

165; 330; 550; 1,650

$24.95 for 330 yards

FINS XS

0.009 to 0.017

Spectra

10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 80, 90

150; 300; 500; 1,500; 2,000

$41.95 for 300 yards

Mustad Wish

0.007 to 0.018

Spectra

15, 20, 30, 40, 65, 80

300; 600

$42.99 for 300 yards*

Power Pro Super 8 Slick

0.006 to 0.017

Spectra

10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 65, 80

150; 300; 1,500

$39.99 for 300 yards

Seaguar Smackdown

0.005 to 0.016

Dyneema

10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 65

150

$39.99 for 150 yards

6XĆ“[$GYDQFHG Superline

0.006 to 0.018

Dyneema, Gore

6, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50, 65, 80

150; 300; 600; 1,200; 3,500

$41.49 for 300 yards

Toro Tamer Super Braid

0.011 to 0.020

N/A

40, 50, 60, 80, 100

330; 1,094; 2,734

$34.99 for 330 yards

TUF-LINE Domin8

0.006 to 0.018

Spectra

10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 65, 80

150; 300; 2,500

$31.99 for 300 yards

four-carrier is still around is because of the cheaper price difference.â€? There are situations where a lessexpensive four-strand line still might have advantages. “Here on the West Coast, some of our calico bass fanatics like to run 60- to 80-pound four-strand as a ‘kelp-cutter’ rig,â€? says Mark Smith of Toro Tamer. “With the four-strand line and a short top shot of leader, ďŹ shermen can cut their way out of kelp and ďŹ sh heavier cover, targeting larger bass.â€? Surf-casting, tossing surface irons or ďŹ shing live bait might require a smoother-casting line such as the eightstrand braids. “Different ďŹ shing applications demand different lines,â€? says Smith. “Not all braided lines are produced the same, and better suppliers target their offerings to match speciďŹ c applications.â€? For inshore applications, such as throwing jerkbaits or topwater or softplastic ďŹ shing with uorocarbon leader, Seaguar’s assistant marketing manager Brian Evans recommends eightstrand.  “I feel like four-strand shines An up-close look at the two braided lines shows their differences. Four-carrier braid, right, is a basket weave that produces nubs, or slight peaks. Left, eight-carrier’s diamond weave is smoother.

28

FEBRUARY 2017

anywhere you have to ďŹ sh in heavy grass, cover or mats, and need a line that cuts through the vegetation,â€? he says.

NEXT GEN? The jump from four to eight carriers has obvious beneďŹ ts, so can anglers soon expect 12- or 16-carrier braid that’s not hollow-core? “Sixteen-strand would be incredibly round and castable, but with so many ďŹ bers, the line would have a tendency to cut itself, atten out, and have far less abrasion resistance,â€? says Quinn, “as well as cost roughly three times more than an eight-carrier to produce.â€? Indeed, 16-carrier might be cost

prohibitive in uses besides specialized hollow-core braid applications, points out Thibault. Most current hollow-core braids are 12- or 16-strand construction, but their use remains with anglers who need splicing and ďŹ nger-trap style connections. Instead, manufacturers might research and utilize materials with ďŹ ner denier to replicate the castability characteristics. Burch believes he might have the next evolution in braid with FINS’ latest nine-carrier 40G product. “The center of the line is Spectra High Tenacity ďŹ ber with eight ends of PE wrapped around it,â€? he says. “Spectra HT is 25 percent stronger and 30 percent smaller than traditional deniers of Spectra ďŹ ber. It is the smallest diameter-to-strength ratio we have ever offered.â€? Don’t be surprised to see more combinations of different ďŹ bers blended with polyethylene in the future. SuďŹ x’s 832 brand utilizes a piece of hydrophobic Gore ďŹ ber, along with seven PE ďŹ bers, to provide high strength and water repellency. Mixing and matching ďŹ bers works. Burch utilizes Spectra’s HT ďŹ ber to decrease the 40G’s diameter even further than traditional braids; his 5-pound-test has the diameter of 1-pound mono and an average breaking strength closer to 20 pounds.

ZACH STOVALL

* (65-pound)


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FISH FACTS

GEAR GUIDE

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XQLTXH3XFN,WPRXQWDOORZVDQJOHUVWRDWWDFKWKHVRXQGV\VWHPWRDERDWND\DNRUSDGGOHERDUG0RXQW6WHUHR$FWLYHRQWRSRIDQ$FWLYH6DIH  DFFHVVRU\DQG\RXKDYHDZDWHUSURRIFXEE\IRUVWDVKLQJDVPDUWSKRQHNH\VRURWKHUYDOXDEOHV%RWKSLHFHVŴRDWLIWKH\ōUHGURSSHG RYHUERDUG6WHUHR$FWLYHōVORQJOLIHEDWWHU\DOORZVXSWRKRXUVRIRSHUDWLRQDW\SH$86%SRUWDOORZVSKRQHFKDUJLQJ$YDLODEOHLQEOXHUHG DQGZKLWH6WHUHR$FWLYHFRVWV

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IGFA PENDING WORLD RECORDS A

C

7KHZDWHUVDURXQG*XDGDOXSH,VODQGRII%DMDĹ?VQRUWKHUQ3DFLĆ“FFRDVWSDLG RIIIRUĹ´\URGDQJOHU3DXO&KXNDU7XWXQMLDQRI,UYLQH&DOLIRUQLDWKLVSDVW 6HSWHPEHUZKHQKHFDXJKWD39-pound, 8-ounce California yellowtail [A]RQSRXQGWLSSHW$RQHKRXUEDWWOHHQVXHG7KHFXUUHQWSRXQG WLSSHWUHFRUGLVSRXQGVRXQFHVIURP&HUUDOYR,VODQG%DMD 7HQ\HDUROG'DQLHO/D]DUHYVNLRI0HOERXUQH$XVWUDOLDEDWWOHGD 256-pound, 10-ounce southern bluefin tuna [B] for two and a half KRXUVRII3RUWODQG$XVWUDOLDWKLVSDVW6HSWHPEHUEHIRUHWKHĆ“VKFRXOGEH ERDWHG,IDSSURYHGWKHFDWFKZLOOEORZDZD\WKHFXUUHQWVPDOOIU\UHFRUG RISRXQGVRXQFHVFDXJKWLQ

D

$31-pound, 2-ounce Pacific barrelfish [C]LVSHQGLQJDVWKHDOOWDFNOHUHFRUG IRUWKHVSHFLHV&DXJKWRII$PLQR-DSDQE\7DNDQRUL1DJDVDZDRI2VDNDWKLV SDVW2FWREHURQDPHWDOMLJWKHFDWFKZRXOGEDUHO\GHIHDWWKHFXUUHQWUHFRUGRI SRXQGVRXQFHVWDNHQQHDU0LNXUD,VODQG-DSDQLQ 3HQGLQJDVDQHZUHFRUGLQWKHSRXQGOLQHFODVVLVD406-pound bluefin tuna [D]FDXJKWWKLVSDVW6HSWHPEHUE\&KDQGUD*DYLQRI$QWLJRQLVK1RYD6FRWLD &DQDGDZKLOHĆ“VKLQJ%DOODQW\QH&RYHLQKHUKRPHZDWHUV1RGHWDLOVRIĆ“JKW WLPHRUEDLWDUHDYDLODEOH,IDSSURYHGLWKDQGLO\EHDWVWKHFXUUHQWUHFRUGRI SRXQGVIURP1RUWK&DUROLQDLQ

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FEBRUARY 2017

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FISHING MACHINES + FISH TRIALS + ELECTRONICS + NEW BOATS + BETTER BOATING

BY CHRIS WOODWARD

FOUR GIANT DUAL CONSOLES New Breed of 30-Plus-Foot DCs Truly Marries Fishing and Families

LIKE MANY OF YOU, most likely, I can admit to a history of dismissiveness when it comes to the topic of dual consoles as

fishing boats. I’m a Floridian by birth, and so my admiration focuses on center consoles. But during the past four years, I’ve been amazed, and actually smitten, by the giant duals now on the market. I doubt many of you could step foot aboard the Grady-White Freedom 375 and not be impressed by its overall design and comfort, particularly if you’re “of a certain age.” It’s an express boat without the superstructure. For instance, the 375 — and the three other vessels over 30 feet listed here that I’ve looked at — offer tremendous beam and cockpit space. With their ample LOAs and reasonable deadrise, they perform well offshore. Yes, they come with a design that limits fishing mobility fore and aft, so they’re not going to displace CCs for hardcore anglers. But unless you’re into competition or chasing records, why not enjoy the luxury aspects of these family-friendly designs? To share more details about these boats, I asked all four manufacturers to help explain the best features of their DC giants. The boats are listed by LOA.

WORLD CAT 320DC

SPECS:

LOA: 32 ft. 2 in. • Beam: 10 ft. 6 in. • Transom Deadrise: N/A (catamaran) • Draft: 1 ft. 4 in. Dry Weight: 12,500 lb. (w/ engines) • Max Power: 600 hp • MSRP: $346,391 (w/ twin Yamaha F300s)

Introduced in 2015, this 32-foot catamaran dual console — the largest in a line of four — gave World Cat a chance to leverage the inherent 38

FEBRUARY 2017

advantages of its multihulls (space, storage and stability) in a “do-it-all” boat, says Dave Tuchler, vice president of marketing.

“The 32-foot length and broad 10-foot-6-inch beam, combined with a catamaran’s rectangular deck footprint, make for a huge amount of space, which allows room for a generous entertainment center and lends itself extremely well to hosting a decent-size crowd without any feeling of crowding,” he says. For fishing, the 320DC comes with a 35-gallon livewell, cutting board and knife-and-pliers holder; in-deck 63-gallon fish box; gunwale flush-mount rod holders; side and transom doors; and storage for additional rods above the double berth in the portside console. Other notable standard equipment includes: hot and cold shower; two flat-screen TVs; cushioned seating throughout the vessel, including a sixway portside lounger that transforms into a dining area with a gunwale-inset table or an aft-facing bench to watch lines; an anchor windlass; fiberglass hardtop; Fusion stereo; power-assist steering; air conditioning and heat for


FEBRUARY 2016 / VOL 32 — ISSUE 2

The helm area can accommodate two 12-inch electronics displays and features an adjustable bench seat.

the portside berth, starboard-side head and the cockpit. Yamaha performance testing showed the 320DC with twin F300s and four people aboard reached 30 mph in an impressive 6.69 seconds and topped out at 44.8 mph turning 6,100 rpm. At

cruise — 3,500 rpm and 24.2 mph — the 320 achieved 1.49 mpg. “We don’t see a limit to the size of DCs other than what will fit out the door of our factory,” Tuchler said when asked about the potential for larger models. “We hear consistently that boaters increasingly are looking for versatile boats that can fish one day and cruise the next, and the DC format is a great platform for versatility.”

BOSTON WHALER 320 VANTAGE The 320 Vantage followed on the heels of Whaler’s successful 2012 introduction of 230 and 270 dual consoles. When the 32 was officially presented at the 2015 Miami International Boat Show, it took home the industry’s Innovation Award in the deck-boats category. “What we have witnessed, coming out of the great recession, is a change in boating style. We’ve seen a migration to what we call ‘day boating’; every inch of a dual console can be utilized during the day,” says Jeff Vaughn, Whaler’s vice president of sales. “People want better weather protection, and it’s more of a comfort boat for people who are not necessarily using it for fishing as a primary purpose.” An express boat with similar amenities is dominated by a cabin that’s often used only sporadically, he says. Dual consoles feature a cozy berth generally beneath the portside console, and a well-appointed head and shower beneath the starboard console. In fact, says Vaughn, many customers buying the 320 Vantage are indeed coming

SPECS:

LOA: 33 ft. 6 in. • Beam: 10 ft. 4 in. • Transom Deadrise: 21 deg. • Draft: 1 ft. 10 in. Dry Weight: 9,800 lb. (w/o engines) • Max Power: 700 hp • MSRP: $285,000* * (w/ twin Mercury 250 Verados)

from bigger boats or trading from a similar-size vessel. The 320 comes with a standard 18-gallon livewell and rod holders in the standard hardtop as well as rod storage in the portside console. Option up for the deluxe prep center, and it comes with a 40-gallon well, a convertible forward-seat backrest, and a portside fishing-prep station. An optional fishing package also includes additional rod holders in the transom, raw-water washdown, and toe rails with undergunwale storage. Dual consoles like Whaler’s 320 Vantage offer options for spending a day on the water doing just about anything you wish.

Other notable standard features include an anchor windlass, starboard dive door, transom door and multiple convertible seating arrangements from bow to stern. Mercury performance testing shows the 320 with twin 350 XL Verados reached 30 mph in 9.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 51 mph at 6,350 rpm. The boat achieved its best cruising fuel economy — 1.22 mpg — at 4,500 rpm and 33.7 mph. Asked if 32 feet might be the maximum-size limit for Vantage, Vaughn said Whaler is not looking at a bigger boat of this style. “Once you get past this size, the marketplace will be limited,” he says. SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM

39


FISHING MACHINES + FISH TRIALS + ELECTRONICS + NEW BOATS + BETTER BOATING

PURSUIT DC 325

SPECS:

LOA: 34 ft. 6 in. • Beam: 10 ft. 10 in. • Transom Deadrise: 20 deg. • Draft: 1 ft. 10 in. Dry Weight: 11,775 lb. (w/ engines) • Max Power: 600 hp • MSRP: $272,250 (w/ twin Yamaha F300s)

Talk about popularity. “The DC 325 has been the most successful retail introduction for Pursuit in the past few years,” Pursuit marketing manager David Glenn says. “The demand for a larger dual console from our first DC 265 owners and the shift in product usage in the market are both driving factors for the larger dual console introduction.” Glenn says the 325 features a wide-open cockpit that allows anything from offshore trolling to nearshore

redfishing, and includes a 24-gallon recirculating livewell and insulated fish boxes. When you want to entertain, that space quickly converts by opening the undergunwale seating on the port side and at the transom, and adding the cockpit table. The 325 comes with a few vertical rod holders but does also feature undergunwale storage and rod hangers in the portside console. Option up to the Sportfish group for extra holders on the fiberglass hardtop, Rupp outriggers and

a center transom rod holder. As with all of these DCs, the Pursuit offers numerous seating options throughout the layout. Among its many other comfort and convenience features, this model also comes with a handy 3-horsepower bow thruster, windlass, stereo, head, hot/cold shower and countless cup holders. Equipped with twin Yamaha F300s, the 325 reached 30 mph in 9.62 seconds and set a top speed of 51 mph at 5,800 rpm. At 4,000 rpm and 33.8 mph, the 325 achieved 1.38 mpg. “Pursuit expects to expand this model into larger platforms in the near future,” Glenn says. “The stronger overnight features in the offshore/express style boats will allow them to settle into and grow in their respective markets.” Far left: the portside berth with rod storage. Left: When not fishing, clear the decks and set up a comfortable dining space to grill out, cook up your catch, or opt to pull out the tackle and build some new rigs.

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GRADY-WHITE FREEDOM 375 The largest and actually the first of these 30-plus-foot DCs to appear on the market, the Freedom 375 demonstrates all of the possibilities of this format. In fact, Grady introduced this 36-plusfooter at the Miami boat show in 2013, a year after it debuted a 33-footer. Grady also builds eight other dual console models, including a 30-footer. “The Freedom 335 had been very successful, and we had customers and dealers telling us they were ready for an even bigger dual console, taking the terrific features of the 335 and building on them,” says Shelley Tubaugh, Grady vice president of marketing. In fact, Grady-White has called the 375 the “ultimate transformer.” A few of the top features include an optional large refrigerator/freezer box on the transom, which appeals to anglers and pleasure boaters; a cockpit

galley and wet bar; lush bow seating with its own zonal stereo speakers; and an aft-facing seat in the cockpit to watch the lines. The vessel offers 32 cubic feet of storage for all kinds of tackle, gear and water toys in the floor below the companion-area seating. Its AV2 hardtop enclosure comes with a sunroof, and the boat is offered standard with a Sureshade retractable cover for those summer days in the cockpit. Grady found space at the transom for a 30-gallon livewell and placed a 52-gallon fish box in the deck. The boat also features six flush-mount rod

holders, as well as storage for eight rods beneath the hardtop and more beneath the gunwales. A set of three Yamaha F350s pushes this boat to 52.9 mph; at a cruising speed of 32 (3,800 rpm), it achieves 0.92 mpg. “Certainly we will keep listening to our customers and how they want to use their boats before deciding on whether to go to the next size in a dual console style,” Tubaugh says. “Honestly, since the boat has been out only three years, we haven’t seen customers moving out of them yet. They tell us the ride and the performance are unsurpassed.”

Far right: Rod storage beneath the hardtop helps keep the cockpit tidy. Right: The helm area is expansive; the bench seat, with flipup bolsters, accommodates two and can be electromechanically adjusted.

SPECS:

LOA: 36 ft. 7 in. • Beam: 13 ft. 2 in. • Transom Deadrise: 20 deg. • Draft: 2 ft. 5 in. Dry Weight: 16,250 lb. (w/o engines) • Max Power: 1,050 hp • MSRP: $666,945 (w/ triple Yamaha F300s)

SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM

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BOATS FISHING MACHINES + FISH TRIALS + ELECTRONICS + BETTER BOATING

BY CHRIS WOODWARD

SCOUT 215 XSF

O

One thing about a yacht: It’s not hard to make one look luxurious. Not so with a piece of fiberglass less than 22 feet in length. But when I stepped aboard Scout’s 215XSF for the first time this past October, I saw comforts and conveniences that belied the compact design. Scout’s director of sales and marketing Alan Lang and Capt. James Lavanway (reelfishfinder.com) had met me at a coastal launch ramp just north of the historic city of Charleston, South Carolina. Only two weeks had passed since Hurricane Matthew lashed the Low Country, and Lavanway had just started patterning the bait and the bull redfish. But even if we couldn’t find the fish, we still faced a fine day on the water in a well-appointed

pleasure craft with a forward sun lounge/coffin box and a Fusion Bluetooth stereo: a welcome haven after a destructive storm.

The compact Scout 215 XSF offers cushioned seating for all, plus all the essentials for a fun day of fishing, whether inshore or offshore. 4 2 24 F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7

MAKING WAY Lavanway nudged the 215 up to speed, and we headed southeast toward the mouth of Charleston Harbor. At a comfortable 3,900 rpm,

we cruised at almost 30 mph and achieved 3.8 mpg. Lang did let me know, before I started jotting down performance numbers, that they’d had to temporarily install a larger-than-desired propeller on the Yamaha F200 (due to a national shortage on the correct prop). That became immediately obvious once I timed our acceleration to 30 mph (12.6 seconds) and after we topped out at just 5,400 rpm and

CHRIS WOODWARD (TOP), COURTESY SCOUT (OPPOSITE, 3)

Great Comforts Can Still Come in Small Packages


FEBRUARY 2017 / VOL 32 — ISSUE 2

PERFORMANCE POWER ..............................................Yamaha F200 LOAD ..........Three adults, 45 gal. fuel, full livewell TOP SPEED ....................... 46.1 mph @ 5,400 rpm* TIME TO 30 MPH ....................................12.6 sec.* BEST MPG .......... 3.8 mpg @ 29.5 mph (3,900 rpm) (* Note: Correct prop unavailable. See article.)

HULL LOA ......................................................... 21 ft. 6 in. BEAM .........................................................8 ft. 6 in. DEADRISE ................................................... 20 deg. DRY WEIGHT .......................2,776 lb. (w/o engine) DRAFT .................................................. 1 ft. 3.75 in. FUEL ..............................................................82 gal. MAX POWER ............................................... 250 hp MSRP .......................... $65,464 (w/ Yamaha F200) SCOUT BOATS Summerville, SC 843-821-0068 scoutboats.com

46.1 mph. The same vessel, powered by a smaller F150, reached 30 mph in 6.9 seconds, and at 6,000 rpm, tapped 45 mph — according to Yamaha testing. I’d certainly expect even snappier performance and a top speed of 48 to 50 mph with the right prop and the larger F200 outboard engine. Once we reached the harbor jetties, Lavanway idled, and we prepared to anchor off the south side of the channel. I noted that the anchor locker comes with a recessed hanger for a Danforthstyle hook and swiveling Starboard blocks that secure the stock. Without a sonar unit aboard (the black-acrylic console face can accommodate a 12-inch flush-mount display), he felt more cautious about snuggling up next to the rocks, particularly on a falling tide. But birds crashed the surface nearby and pelicans circled, studying bait schools, so the place looked fishy. Lavanway had already loaded the 21-gallon livewell in the port aft corner with menhaden. He tossed the anchor and set out live and cut pogies under about 8 ounces of weight. He clearly expected some heavy tidal flow.

north jetty. He weighed anchor, idled north, and dropped just outside and well ahead of another vessel. He pulled out a cutting board and a frozen American shad for chum. I walked to the bow as Lavanway set out four rods in vertical holders along the transom — a nice touch for such a small vessel. Placing four rod holders along the aft bulkhead keeps the tackle out of the boat’s living space. (This 21½-footer even comes with a transom door to the starboard swim platform.) The forward seating aboard the 215XSF seems surprisingly large, given the space. An almost semicircular padded lounge and coaming rim the bow. To port and starboard, Scout offers removable backrests so passengers can really relax on the ride to a favorite fishing spot or sandbar. A low-profile bowrail adds security; drink holders and a catch-all ledge lie just aft of the backrests. Add an optional, removable teak bow table for a full picnic setup. Ahead of the console, a cushioned sun pad with armrests fans toward the foredeck. Beneath it lies cavernous Above: The black-acrylic console face can fit a 12-inch electronics display; the leaning post features flip-up bolsters. Below: The forward seating includes a sun pad and a bow full of lounges with backrests.

insulated dry storage, where we had stowed my cameras, all the safety gear, tackle and lunch.

FISHY FISHY Just as I was considering where to plop down to enjoy a cold drink, I saw the portside rod tip arc like a rainbow. Bull reds don’t smash-strike a bait; they pick it up and power away like a tractor. I set up in the port corner, thighs against the coaming pads, and worked

LOUNGE LIVING Almost immediately antsy, Lavanway made a few calls to friends and decided to relocate to a spot just inside the SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM

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FISHING MACHINES + FISH TRIALS + ELECTRONICS + BETTER BOATING

to keep the fish on my side of the outboard and away from the port swim platform. In this aft section, the top of the gunwale measures 22 inches above the deck — higher than today’s popular nearshore hybrids but lower than many offshore battlewagons. Indeed, the 215’s 20-degree transom deadrise also gives it a deeper V than a hybrid, though it’s shallower than a go-fast, and still floats in less than 16 inches of water. I fought the red boat-side, where it lolled as Lavanway gently righted it and removed the hook for a release. Lang picked up the rod for the second fish, while Lavanway and I

easily maneuvered around him to take photos, shoot video and clear lines. Even the space between the leaning post and optional foldaway transom bench seemed ample for our crew. In the cockpit sole, an expansive hatch opens for easy access to the bilge to change pumps or route wiring.

EASY RIDER After our second redfish release, we hauled anchor and headed back to the harbor so I could experience the boat’s handling. We had zero seas, so I created some chop with sharp turns to port and starboard.

A transom bench folds out to create comfortable crew seating but tucks way for fishing. This compact craft also comes with a transom door. In the port aft corner, Scout placed a 21-gallon livewell.

For the 215XSF, Scout employed its NuV3 hull design, which features variable degrees of deadrise from the chines to the keel. The resulting ride feels secure; turns feel balanced, with no sliding or catching. The optional trim tabs helped even the load as crew members moved about, and they aided in creating a quicker hole shot, but otherwise the tabs were not needed. Trimming the outboard up slightly provided a perfect running attitude. The helm seemed comfortable for both Lavanway and me, though we’re of vastly different heights. The cushioned leaning post features lift-up bolsters for standing or sitting while piloting. The nearly vertical console face comes with a single footrest and a tilt-and-lock steering wheel. Lang says Scout built this 21-footer for family fishermen. That describes most boaters today, and it’s a perfect fit for a company that knows how to create style and comfort, while remembering to maintain fishability.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about boats, electronics and accessories, visit VSRUWƓVKLQJPDJFRPQHZERDWV.

4 4 44 F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7

COURTESY SCOUT (BOTTOM), CHRIS WOODWARD (2)

Left: Scout’s Alan Lang wrestles a bull red to the side of the boat. The 22-inch padded gunwale in the aft corner hits him just above the knees. Below: At the mouth of Charleston Harbor, Capt. James Lavanway hoists a redfish for photos before release.


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BOATS FISHING MACHINES + FISH TRIALS + ELECTRONICS + NEW BOATS + BETTER BOATING

BY JIM HENDRIC K S

SEAVEE 390Z

T

The interiors of big, new center console boats increasingly sport cushy amenities such as loungers, dining tables and posh center cabins. These add curb appeal for families but obviously don’t contribute to fishing success. In my Fish Trial of the SeaVee 390Z this past fall, I found few such elements. Save for the supportive helm seats, a perch in front of the console and a pair of beefy fold-out benches bracketing the bow, this boat was custom built for a singular mission: serious saltwater fishing. Greeting me at the dock in Lighthouse Point, Florida, were SeaVee fishing pro Capt. Art Sapp and

The SeaVee 390Z features a fast and efficient stepped hull, a spacious layout, and an 11-foot beam for great stability in choppy seas.

4 6 64 F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7

David Collier Jr., a member of the Sailsmen Fishing Team that competes aboard Advanced Roofing on the South Florida tournament circuit. “You ready to catch some fish?” Sapp asked as he transferred wriggling goggle-eyes from a pair of holding pens to the pressurized 65-gallon central-transom livewell. “Yes sir,” I answered. “It looks like we have

the right boat to get it done.” While the 390Z isn’t brand new, this would be my first time fishing on it. While we utilized only one well, we also could have filled the boat’s optional 140-gallon well under the aft deck or the 80-gallon well under the foredeck, all fed by a sea chest with six pumps.

DAVID COLLIER (TOP), JIM HENDRICKS (2, OPPOSITE)

A Serious Machine Dedicated to Offshore Angling Success


FEBRUARY 2017 / VOL 32 — ISSUE 2

The tuna tower included additional rod holders, as well as a second helm station for spotting birds, breaking fish and weed lines.

The down-sea run in 2-foot seas proved smooth, owing to the superbly engineered running surface. A polycarbonate enclosure wrapping around the top of the console shields the helm from wind blast. There was a solid, quiet feel as we traversed the waves, the result of the robust construction common to all SeaVee models.

PERFORMANCE POWER ........ Four Mercury 350 Verado outboards LOAD ............................... 120 gal. fuel, three crew TOP SPEED 74.8 mph @ 6,500 rpm (outer motors), 6,200 rpm (inner motors) TIME TO 30 MPH ....................................... 6.5 sec. BEST MPG .................. 1.3 @ 37.9 mph (3,500 rpm)

HULL LOA ..................................................................39 ft. BEAM ...............................................................11 ft. DEADRISE ................................................ 22.5 deg. DRY WEIGHT ..................... 9,670 lb. (w/o engines) DRAFT ........................................................2 ft. 2 in. FUEL ............................................................563 gal. MAX POWER ............................................ 1,600 hp MSRP....$355,500 (w/ quad Mercury 350 Verados)

LINES IN

LET’S DANCE As Sapp pulled the big center console away from the dock, I marveled at the amount of deck space in the aft cockpit. “It’s like a dance floor back here,” I said to Collier. Surrounded by padded coaming bolsters, this interior gives crew members plenty of room to do-si-do while manning lines. Thanks to 18 stereo speakers and four subwoofers positioned throughout the interior, the Fusion sound system provides plenty of dance music. (Even serious tournament anglers like their tunes.) As we cleared Hillsboro Inlet, Sapp advanced the throttles, and the quad 350s vaulted the 390Z to plane in about five seconds. The Z is SeaVee’s designation for its stepped hulls, introduced about four years ago after a lengthy process of proprietary computer design, fluid-dynamics modeling and on-water evaluations. The result is a hull that creates remarkable lift with very little bow rise as it accelerates. Two steps usher a cushion of aerated water under the hull to boost efficiency. Our speed rose to about 45 mph as Sapp turned hard to the south at the outer marker. The 390Z responded with comforting predictability.

Sapp pulled the throttles back a couple of miles below the inlet along a distinct edge of blue water. The sonar on one of the two Simrad NSS16 evo2 displays at the helm read bottom at 110 feet. A 10 to 15 mph north breeze was nearly perfect to kite-fish for sails and mahimahi. Collier extracted the kites from a cleverly designed compartment above the helm where you might normally find an overhead electronics box. He placed a pair of electric reels in rod holders abaft the helm seating to fly the kites, then began bridling and sending out goggle-eyes. A rigging center within the seating module offers a large cabinet to secure tackle boxes. A compartment above features a foldout table that’s perfect for keeping small tackle items handy while you’re rigging lines.

SEAVEE BOATS Miami, Florida 305-759-6419 seaveeboats.com

The craftsmanship and beefy construction of the anodized-aluminum tuna tower and second station (which featured a networked Simrad NSS12 evo2 display) impressed me. In a special touch, the bottom rungs of the tower’s ladders also serve as brackets for five-gallon buckets. Rod holders on each stern quarter allowed Collier to place the rods where he could easily access them without the need for tridents. There are eight rod holders total across the transom, with 25 punctuating each gunwale. As we waited for a bite, I poked around and found a fish locker in the

The 390Z’s rigging station offers tackle stowage, rod holders, drink holders and a foldout table. A pullout cooler resides in a recess below the cabinets. SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM

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BOATS FISHING MACHINES + FISH TRIALS + ELECTRONICS + NEW BOATS + BETTER BOATING

Following a sailfish as it circled the boat was easy, thanks to the 390Z’s level deck, grippy nonskid sole and snag-free rail caps.

It slides open to port at the press of a button. Inside is access to immaculate helm rigging. The console proved a convenient dry stowage area for my camera gear and jacket. On the outside, eight rod holders lined each side of the console, with slots in the hardtop for the rods tips.

bow so massive that I could sleep inside, though I might shiver a bit, because it was equipped with a chiller plate that minimizes the need for ice. The cover consists of two smaller hatches, making it easy to slide in a 20-pound mahimahi

without lifting the entire hatch. This 390Z also features an outward-opening door on the port side of the aft cockpit in case you want to haul aboard a big tuna or swordfish. Advance Roofing features SeaVee’s front-opening console.

My inspection was cut short when Sapp spied a sailfish attacking the bait on the left-middle line. I raced astern along level deck and wide walkways aside the console. Sapp handed me the rod. Almost instantly line began peeling off the reel, so I pushed the drag lever forward and began winding. The line grew tight, but the circle hook failed to

Fishing Season: February to May. Peak of the season: March & April.

MCDCFishing MarinaCDCFishingClub

4 8 84 F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7

JIM HENDRICKS (2)

SAIL ATTACK


FEBRUARY 2017 / VOL 32 — ISSUE 2

the inner outboards revving at 6,200. The engines burned 118.2 gph, resulting in 0.6 mpg. The most economical cruising speed came at 3,500 rpm and 37.9 mph, where the four engines burned 29.2 gph for 1.3 mpg. That equates to more than 700 miles of cruising range based on the

boat’s ample 563-gallon fuel capacity. Fact is, you can custom-order a SeaVee 390Z with just about whatever you want, including a wide range of luxury appointments. Yet Advanced Roofing offers few comfy compromises, rendering this SeaVee 390Z, by design, a swift and capable war wagon.

INSPIRED BY PRECISION WHEN BIG MONEY IS ON THE LINE, YOUR LINE SHOULD BE ON AN ANDROS SPECIAL EDITION REEL AND SCT OFFSHORE ROD.

Relatively low, padded gunwales in the aft cockpit facilitated the safe release of this sailfish by Capt. Art Sapp.

find a home, and the sail spit the bait. An inspection of the crushed goggleeye revealed that the hook had turned, preventing it from doing its job. After 30 minutes with no other bites, Sapp decided to move about 2½ miles to the north. The captain stopped the boat in 380 feet of water, and it proved to be a wise choice. Almost instantly, a sail attacked the bait on the left long line, and this one stuck. I battled the acrobatic sail up the starboard side, back down the port side and across the stern before bringing it boat-side for release While we all wanted to stay and catch more fish, the time had come to gather performance data on the 390Z. With 120 gallons of fuel on board, the quad 350 Verados vaulted the SeaVee to plane in 5.2 seconds and reached 30 mph in 6.5 seconds. Top speed was an eye-watering 74.8 mph, with the outside engines turning 6,500 rpm and

ANDROS SPECIAL EDITION REELS The precision carbon fiber drag system is designed to be fished at 3- to 5-pounds of drag. Hyper-fast 6.4:1 gear ratio stays with the fastest fish. A 3-year factory warranty delivers an inspired ownership experience. NEW SCT RODS Begin with agile, 24-Ton carbon blanks. Reinforce the tips with UFR, Unidirectional Fiber Reinforcement for 3X the lifting power. Armor the whole blank with a double helix wrap of pure carbon thread. Welcome to SCT rods, inspired offshore fishing.

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SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM

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FISHING MACHINES + FISH TRIALS + ELECTRONICS + NEW BOATS

+ BETTER BOATING

BY CHRIS WOODWARD

GO LIVE INSTANT SONAR-CHARTING OPTIONS CREATE VIVID, ACCURATE FISHING MAPS When fishing inshore, I usually keep a watchful eye on my sounder as well as my plotter’s charts. The structure I look for can be a subtle dip or channel in otherwise featureless sand. For many years, I couldn’t depend on electronic charts to reveal much; shallow areas are only occasionally surveyed. Those charts were more like guidelines. Then sonar-charting programs debuted in 2012 so anglers could log depth recordings from their regions and upload them to render customized and current charts. Now, at least four electronics companies or partnerships 50

FEBRUARY 2017

— Raymarine/Navionics, Garmin, Humminbird and recently Simrad/Navionics — offer instant, live, 1-foot high-definition bathymetry, which essentially marries the sounder to the plotter. For inshore and offshore fishing, that means an instant depth picture of contours and structure on the fly — one that stays on your plotter as an adjustable transparent overlay. Say a storm comes through and moves the sand around, creating all new bars and drop-offs? No problem. And what if an offshore wreck proves difficult to interpret on sonar? No problem. The detailed

depth changes and sonar picture can appear side by side on the display.

NAVIONICS OPTIONS Live charting originated in summer 2014 with Navionics’ SonarChart Live in mobile app form and with Humminbird’s AutoChart Live, initially for ONIX multifunction displays. AutoChart Live currently works as a free feature with ONIX and Helix 9, 10 and 12 series units. Part of Navionics’ popular Boating app, the SonarChart Live function originally operated via Wi-Fi with a Vexilar SonarPhone T-Box sounder, and later with Raymarine Dragonfly Pro and Wi-Fish units. As of May 2016, SonarChart Live became available for all Raymarine

multifunction displays, from Dragonfly (via the app) through gS Series. In recent we e k s, SonarChart Live began pairing with Simrad GO, GO xse and NSS evo2 units as well as Lowrance HDS Gen3 MFDs via a free software update, which also includes Navionics’ Plotter Sync. (Navionics requires a $99 annual subscription to its Freshest Data club and at least one chart update every 12 months to establish eligibility to use SonarChart Live on Raymarine, Simrad and Lowrance units.) “Originally, the sonar logging was always kind of in the background. You couldn’t do anything but contribute it to Navionics for a chart update,” says Raymarine marketing manager Jim McGowan. “From that anonymous collection to seeing the chart

COURTESY RAYMARINE AND NAVIONICS (TOP)

Above: a nearshore region off South Florida before using Navionics SonarChart Live on a Raymarine display. Left: Minutes later, using the live feature, the same region lights up with contours.


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Humminbird AutoChart Live on an ONIX display shows how depth shading can affect the overall look of the contoured region.

there in front of you with your own eyes is a whole other thing entirely.” In shallow water, users can add depth shading so danger zones show up in red. Otherwise the background appears whitish, and its transparency can be adjusted to show the original chart  information beneath. Navionics  charts come with two chart-view choices: navigation and bathymetric. The logs that users generate apply to the bathymetric view. For Raymarine, SonarChart Live files are stored on the Navionics map card so you can take your data to other compatible MFDs, McGowan says. The system actively manages the size of the files, updating them with the latest recorded data and overwriting older recordings. “It’s extremely unlikely that anyone would ever completely fill up the card with recordings,” he says. If a Raymarine user wants to upload the sonar log and allow Navionics to combine it with other logs from the community, he can take his memory card home and plug it into his computer. Within about 72 hours, he’ll receive the updated SonarChart layer.

PROPRIETARY SYSTEMS Garmin creates its own BlueChart software for use in its multifunction displays and chart plotters. Consequently, it introduced its own live charting via QuickDraw Contours in February 2016. Garmin customers can use QuickDraw on echoMAP, echoMAP CHIRP and many GPSMAP units Simrad recently partnered with Navionics to offer SonarChart Live on many of its current MFDs, and on its sister company’s Lowrance HDS Gen3 units. 52

FEBRUARY 2017

combined with any transducer. However, the company suggests using Panoptix all-seeing technology. “The better the transducer quality, the more detailed the map content can be,” says Carly Hysell, Garmin media-relations manager. “With Panoptix, you can store about 75 hours of sonar logs on a 2 GB card. If you record at an average speed of 10 mph, that’s about 9,000 acres.” Anglers can create the instant logs right on their displays and keep them. They can also store them on any SD or microSD card or on a BlueChart g2 or g2 Vision card. If they want to share sonar logs with others, they can upload the data using the QuickDraw Community (announced in July 2016) and then download an updated chart of the logged region. That combined usergenerated data can be viewed on a Garmin plotter at the same time as the original personal log. Humminbird’s AutoChart Live works with the company’s own LakeMaster charts, available for mostly freshwater locations, and with Navionics+ maps. The live charting is also compatible with i-Pilot Link, which pairs a Minn Kota trolling motor with a Humminbird display. With

+ BETTER BOATING

AutoChart Live on, the i-Pilot Link can tell the motor to troll the contour lines you’ve created. Anglers have access to eight hours of recording time built into their MFDs, but they can purchase a Zero Lines SD card ($99.99) to export the sonar logs to the AutoChart PC program, and then manipulate, store or share their fishing charts.

ALWAYS FORWARD Furuno does not offer a free or low-cost live-charting option yet. However, if you purchase a Timezero Personal Bathymetric Generator ($500) and Timezero charting software ($1,250), you can build your own contour charts on the fly. With the ever-changing nature of the sea, live charting makes perfect sense for saltwater anglers. “You’ve got to look at what NOAA’s reasons are for doing soundings: commercial shipping and boating. Those don’t necessarily overlap with good fishing grounds,” McGowan says, “particularly for guys fishing inshore. NOAA doesn’t have a reason to go in there. This is a way to get a lot of those places mapped for the first time ever.” In other words: Live charting is yet another step toward finally seeing what’s down there, making fishing as close to predictable as it will ever be.


Destination Honda

For destinations found on a map, or ones that are simply a state of mind, trust a reliable Honda outboard to get you there. And back. Find out more at marine.honda.com.

Š 2016 American Honda Motor Co., Inc. Always wear a personal flotation device while boating and read your owner’s manual. All Honda outboards meet EPA and CARB emission levels.


BOATS FISHING MACHINES + FISH TRIALS + ELECTRONICS + NEW BOATS + BETTER BOATING

HELL’S BAY ESTERO 24 BAY HELL’S BAY BOATWORKS

has built ultrafine flats skiffs for the past decade under the helmsmanship of company president Chris Peterson. So it was with some fanfare late last year that Hell’s Bay unveiled to the public its first

bay boat — the Estero 24 Bay. “After a lot of years of soul searching, we decided that Hell’s Bay will build a bay boat, but it’s going to be built the Hell’s Bay way,” Peterson says. “Our skiffs are built to our standards

BY CHRIS WOODW ARD

and really no one else’s.... The boats are a work of art, and the bay boat will fit the same DNA.” The Estero’s silent-hull design includes walkable gunwales, higher freeboard (than most bay boats) and lockable rod storage in compartments deep enough to hold a bucket. The Estero comes with a rigging station, 105-quart cooler on a slide and a 53-gallon livewell with a sea chest. Peterson says the boat tops out in the upper 50 mph range and can accommodate a single 400 hp outboard. The Estero carries 80 gallons of fuel. SPECIFICATIONS LOA ...........................................................24 ft. 10 in. Beam .............................................................8 ft. 6 in. Dry Weight ............................... 3,100 lb. (w/ engine) Draft ..............................................................1 ft. 1 in. Transom Deadrise ......................................... 15 deg. MSRP ......................................... $110,000 (base boat w/ 300 hp outboard and trailer)

WORLD CAT 280CC-X WORLD CAT’S FIRST

X-design catamaran, the 280CC-X, features aggressive new styling that includes a graceful sheer line terminating in a soft tumblehome aft, a swept-back glass dashboard at the console, and a surfboard-edge hardtop. The 280 represents a completely new computer-assisted design from the waterline up, says World Cat president Andrew Brown. “The 280CC-X also offers advanced technology, including a fully customizable digital dash (including CZone digital switching), and a host of functional, comfort and convenience features.” The cockpit offers twin, lockable 89-gallon fish boxes with diaphragm

SPECIFICATIONS LOA .............................................................27 ft. 6 in. Beam .............................................................9 ft. 2 in. Dry Weight ..............................7,500 lb. (w/ engines) Draft ..............................................................1 ft. 2 in. Transom Deadrise ....................................... N/A (cat) MSRP .................... $233,566 (w/ twin Yamaha F300s)

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pumps and rod storage, twin in-floor mechanical rooms with easy bilge access, aft fold-down transom seating and a tuna door. A fiberglass leaning post/tackle center comes standard on the 280 and includes a 30-gallon livewell. The boat’s standard hardtop features a

BY CHRIS WOODW ARD

powder-coated frame with a built-in glass windshield, radio box, spreader lights and color-changing LEDs. Available with up to 600 hp (twin 300s), the 280CC-X carries 220 gallons of fuel. World Cat’s preliminary testing showed a top speed of 59 mph, achieving 1.1 mpg.


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BOATS FISHING MACHINES + FISH TRIALS + ELECTRONICS + NEW BOATS + BETTER BOATING

BY JIM HENDRICKS

would prevent the boat from meeting waves in a seakindly manner; eliminating yaw would interfere with the ability to safely steer the boat.

STABLE AND ABLE BURGEONING GYRO TECHNOLOGY RESULTS IN GREATER ONBOARD STABILITY

My late friend Dick Uranga used to liken a day of offshore fishing to spending eight hours on an exercise machine. Indeed, after returning from many a trip in rough seas, my legs and back ached the next morning, the lingering effects of constantly working muscles to maintain balance. I have a name for the pain: angleover. Yet if Seakeeper has its way, angle-over and even the misery of seasickness will be rare occurrences in the future. This Maryland-based company has staked its claim on gyroscopic stabilization technology to eliminate rolling (side-to-side) motion. There are other brands 56

FEBRUARY 2017

in this field, including Boat Stabilizer Anti Rolling Gyro and Veem Gyro, but none have been as aggressive as Seakeeper in developing new systems. Seakeeper offers a wide range of models for recreational and commercial boats, including its biggest, the Seakeeper 35 for yachts of 85 feet or more in length. Yet, it is the most compact and affordable gyro stabilizer yet — the new Seakeeper 3 (seen above) — that holds the greatest potential for boating anglers. It’s optimized for boats as small as 30 feet in length — a category that represents a big percentage of the saltwater market.

HOW IT WORKS To understand how a gyro stabilizer works, think of a bicycle. When not moving, the bike easily flops from side to side. Yet when you’re riding it, the spinning wheels result in a gyroscopic stabilizing effect to keep it upright and stable, at least for the most part. The same principle is at work with a product such as a the SK3. The motorized gyroscope keeps the boat from rolling, whether at rest or underway. By design, it has no effect on pitch (fore and aft motion) or yaw (lateral movement). Eliminating pitch

I recently had the chance to test the capabilities of the SK3 in the Atlantic Ocean waters off Fort Lauderdale, Florida, aboard a Contender 35 ST. This was my second experience with Seakeeper. A year earlier I had tested the predecessor model, the SK3DC, aboard the same boat and in the same waters. I found the new model to offer an improvement in response time, effectiveness and overall feel. While the older 3DC was powered by 12 volts DC, it used an inverter to convert the battery juice to AC power. The SK3, on the other hand, operates entirely on 12 volts DC, with no need for AC input, such as from an onboard generator. Though the SK3 can operate from the power supplied solely by outboard-engine alternators, the system on the Contender 35 ST test boat was backed up by a bank of three 31-series batteries connected in parallel. “If the engines are not running, the Seakeeper 3 can run four to six hours on the three batteries, depending on sea conditions, and it will shut itself off automatically if

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EASIER TO INSTALL Tipping the scales at 550 pounds with lube and coolant, the SK3 weighs 30 percent less than the previous iteration. It also features a more versatile mounting system. While the 3DC was mounted to the stringers, the new system bolts to the deck. A pocket cutout in the sole is still required because a portion of the new model protrudes below deck. Seakeeper offers an optional leaning post that serves as a housing for the gyro stabilizer aboard center console boats. The SK3 measures 26.8 inches long by 27 inches wide by 22.5 inches tall. The SK3 requires approximately 36 minutes to spin up to operational speed and 50 minutes to its maximumrated 8,450 rpm. Once up to speed, it proved more responsive than the previous system when flipped from off to on, requiring only about two seconds to stabilize the roll. The older model needed about four to five seconds. Seakeeper’s new model also proved more effective in reducing roll in Seakeeper offers an optional seating/ leaning-post module to house the Seakeeper 3 stabilizer. The gyro unit bolts to the deck, simplifying installation versus older models.

5 8 85 F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 7

A small display controls and monitors the new Seakeeper 3 stabilizer. The controls will also integrate with current Raymarine and Simrad multifunction displays.

2- to 3-foot beam seas while at rest, stabilizing the 10- to 15-degree sideto-side movement to between zero and 2  degrees, according to my tests with an inclinometer. The previous system reduced roll to between 2 and 5 degrees in the same kind of sea conditions. The stabilizing effect makes it safer, easier and less tiring for crew to function, keeping everyone sharp throughout an entire day of fishing. Eliminating roll also enhances the ride, preventing the boat from heeling over due to an unbalanced load or propeller torque. Maintaining an even keel also prevents the potential for the dreaded hard landing on a chine after launching off the crest of a wave.

LESS UNNATURAL Not all of my measurements were empirical. One was subjective. I wanted to see how it felt to stand on a stabilized deck on an otherwise rolling sea. As boating anglers, many of us have certain muscle memory resulting in the ability to balance ourselves by anticipating wave action and shifting our weight to compensate for the motion of the deck. Those who have acquired such a second nature are said to possess sea legs. Trouble is, that instinct remains, even when the rolling motion is virtually nil. You spy the approaching waves, and

your conditioned response is to sway with the deck. Yet the deck does not roll; it only pitches. It’s a very unnatural sensation for those with sea legs. Yet it was more comfortable with the SK3. With the previous system, I  could feel the gyro constantly working, tugging the boat from side to side to correct for the wave action. Not so with the SK3. After Elliott turned on the gyro and locked the boat level, the corrective action seemed virtually seamless. Aside from a slight hum, operational noise was nonexistent. The system comes with a control display; it will also integrate with touchscreen displays from Raymarine and Simrad once the SK3 is available in April 2017.

STABILIZING COSTS At $26,900 retail, the SK3 represents the most affordable gyro-stabilization system ever. It’s tough to pinpoint installation cost — too many variables from boat to boat. To give you an idea, however, installation aboard the Contender 35 ST demo boat required 16 hours of labor, though much of the requisite wiring and hoses were already in place from the previous unit. The way I see it, this system and those that follow will become common options, like marine generators and air conditioning, on new center console boats. Why not? It will make days offshore far more enjoyable and safe for those without sea legs … and less painful for those with them.

COURTESY SEAKEEPER (LEFT), JIM HENDRICKS (TOP)

voltage runs too low,” says Capt. Parker Elliott, who assisted with the trial. Maximum draw is 85 amps during spool up, but during operation, the draw decreases to 35 to 75 amps, depending on the sea state.


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OUTBOARD TIMELINE

From this 1909 hand-cranked, singlecylinder Evinrude outboard eventually evolved today’s computer-controlled high-horsepower engines, such as the 2016 Yamaha F350c (right). Top right: Bathing beauties promoted the Mercury Lightning in 1947. Farthest right: A late1990s Suzuki powers a fishing boat in the Keys.

1909 Ole Evinrude builds the first commercial model of a “Detachable Row Boat Motor.”


COURTESY EVINRUDE (OPPOSITE, THIS PAGE TOP), COURTESY YAMAHA (LEFT), COURTESY SUZUKI (LOWER RIGHT)

THE from Portable to Digital BY CHR IS WOODWA R D

1947

1956

1967

Mercury Marine, founded in 1939, introduces the Lightning 10 hp outboard, which offers the most horsepower per pound and per dollar in the industry.

Mercury’s Mark 75 outboard — the Tower of Power — is the industry’s first six-cylinder engine, delivering 60 hp.

Honda introduces its GB25 and GB40 outboards to the U.S. market.

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— Søren Kierkegaard

T

urns out that life is similar to an outboard engine. Only when we look all the way back to this past century’s turn can we really understand how far we’ve come with today’s digital integration, computer-controlled internal-combustion technology and superior power-to-weight ratios.

You don’t have to be an engineer to grasp the basics. Of course it helps if you have a little curiosity and fascination. That’s likely what skilled Wisconsin machinist Ole Evinrude had when he created the first commercially viable Detachable Row Boat Motor in 1909. That 1.5 horsepower, single-cylinder motor worked off dry-cell batteries. Ole cranked it by hand to start, rotating a knobbed flywheel. In the 108 years since, many outboard-engine companies have come and gone. In 1947, for instance, 14 other outboard makers competed with Evinrude in the United States, the company says. But Evinrude and four other major manufacturers — Mercury (1939), Honda (1964), Suzuki (1977) and Yamaha (1983) — eventually emerged

in this country, pushing each other to innovate and dominate the American marine market.

1909: OLE’S WORLD While all early outboard engines could be classified as two-strokes, all current Evinrude E-TECs are also two-strokes. The company has chosen to redefine two-stroke technology rather than switch to four-stroke design. Two-strokes traditionally offered lightweight power, but the older models also lacked fuel efficiency and discharged environmentally damaging smoke and oil. The basic difference between two- and four-stroke engines: A two-stroke completes its cycle with only two movements (one up, one down) of the piston during one

1975

1979

1980

Mercury (175 hp) and OMC (200

Mercury introduces the first 300 hp (V-6) outboard, though it proved to be ahead of its time. Most boats couldn’t handle such power and weight.

Suzuki, which came to the States in 1977, is the first to market with automatic oil injection, which negated the need to premix oil and gas in two-stroke outboards.

V-6 outboards.

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COURTESY HONDA (OPPOSITE)

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

crankshaft revolution; a four-stroke requires four piston movements during two crankshaft revolutions to complete a power cycle. With the current E-TEC G2 twostroke technology, however, Evinrude vastly improved on the original concept. But that didn’t happen overnight. Through the mid-1950s, Evinrude and others struggled to develop outboards that topped 100 hp. In 1956, Mercury’s Mark 75 — the first six-cylinder engine — managed only 60 hp. Even so, in 1960, Evinrude’s four-cylinder Starflite II set a speed record of 114.65 mph. The company followed that innovation with push-button electric shift. In 1975, the first V-6 outboard engines — Evinrude’s 200 and Mercury’s 175 — finally scaled the 100  hp barrier. “There were certainly big sterndrives and inboard engines before then,” says Jason Eckman, Evinrude global product manager. “But if you wanted an outboard, you were stuck at a lower horsepower.” Greater horsepower paved the way for larger outboard-powered vessels, jump-starting the era of recreational boating and fishing for a more diverse cross section of Americans. Leaps and bounds occurred during the 1980s and ’90s, first with the advent of electronic fuel injection, and in 1996 with direct fuel injection from Evinrude’s Ficht technology and Mercury’s Orbital DFI. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency released its emissions standards for outboards and designated a phase-in regulatory approach. But in 2000, Evinrude’s parent, Outboard Marine Corporation, filed for bankruptcy. Bombardier, a Canadian transportation and aerospace company, bought the assets and rolled out Bombardier Recreational Products outboards in 2001.


Honda debuted its BF250 — the company’s largest outboard — in 2011. Honda’s current technologies include Three-Way Cooling and Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control (VTEC).

“Mostly, carbureted two-strokes had to be replaced,” Eckman says. “Some companies chose to go to fourstrokes rather than innovate with two-strokes, but we already had expertise in two-strokes with snowmobiles. Our customer prefers the two-stroke’s power-to-weight ratio and added midrange torque. It made sense to continue to invest in that technology, to meet and eventually exceed the EPA requirements without taking away that torque and fuel economy.” In 2003, Evinrude launched E-TEC, the next generation of two-stroke, direct-fuel-injection technology with the same block as previous two-strokes but with a new cylinder head designed

to accept the fuel injector. “With direct injection, we can change the timing of the fuel injection. During idle, you don’t need the cylinder to be completely full of fuel and air; you need only a little. By injecting fuel directly into the cylinder, we can be more precise.” Evinrude continued to enhance its technology and drive larger E-TEC outboards to market. The company even won an EPA award in 2005 for its emissions control. In 2014, the company launched its second generation of E-TEC outboards, the G2s — “the first time BRP has designed an engine block from scratch to be optimized around direct injection,” Eckman says.

“The main thing was to perfect the combustion by optimizing the air flow. The way the air and fuel mix inside the cylinder to get a perfect ratio, and then the timing of the exhaust so no fuel escapes: It’s almost like a musical instrument.” The G2 stands out in multiple ways. BRP integrated power steering into the engine to offer a better piloting experience, and (though the concept had been done before) the company mounted the oil reservoir inside the cowling to save space. BRP also added iTrim, a system that automatically trims the outboard based on load and rpm, and customizable color panels to match the engine with the hull.

1983

1984

Yamaha introduces its engines to the U.S. market, bringing with it Precision Blend Oil Injection, which varied the rate of oil mixing with gas depending upon load and speed.

Evinrude delivers the first V-8 outboard — the 3.6L XP, producing 275 hp. This engine too proved to be a bit ahead of its time.

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1939: MERCURY MOMENTS Although Mercury Marine introduced its first outboards in 1939, it wasn’t long before the company also dominated the sterndrive market. That side-by-side development gave Mercury expanded capabilities. After its first six-cylinder outboard debuted in 1956 (an in-line-six known fondly as the Tower of Power), Mercury followed in 1975 with one of the first V-6 outboards: the 2L 175 hp Black Max Merc 1750, which company founder Carl Kiekhaefer called “the meanest, toughest, most beautiful machine we’ve ever built.” The Black Max used power porting, a piston design that provided an additional source of fuel and air that increased horsepower without additional new parts. Mercury delivered the first recreational electronic fuel injection in 1987 in its V-6 220 XRi. EFI also ushered in the first electronic-control

modules — essentially a computer brain — to outboards. In 1996, Mercury continued its two-stroke evolution with the directinjection OptiMax. The DFI technology helped Mercury meet the new EPA emissions requirements. OptiMax featured a unique air-assist injection system that employed an air compressor and a lower-pressure fuel injector rather than a high-pressure liquid pump, says David Foulkes, Mercury’s head of product development and engineering. Optis mixed compressed air with fuel, blasting it into the combustion chamber. The fine fuel atomization achieved with that system allows OptiMax engines to burn diesel and jet fuel as well as gasoline, Foulkes says. As conventional two-strokes began to raise emissions red flags at the EPA in the 1990s, companies such as Honda and Yamaha rolled out 100-plus-horsepower four-strokes (1998). Mercury introduced its Verado

platform in 2004 with a complete line of higher-horsepower, supercharged fourstroke outboards designed to target the two-stroke market with equivalent power and torque features. “The engine acts like a pump, pulling in air,” Foulkes says. “When you boost an engine, you can boost it by super- or turbocharging. With supercharging, you mechanically force air into the combustion chamber using a belt from the crankshaft. Getting more air into the system means more fuel and more power.” Supercharging allows Mercury to reduce the displacement (2.6L for Verado 200 to 400 hp) and therefore the weight of the outboard. In the past decade, Mercury has completed its full four-stroke product line all the way up to the Racing 400 Verado. In addition, Foulkes notes that larger Verados, which use in-line-six powerheads, are narrow engines that fit on 26-inch centers. That allows largecenter-console builders to pile as many

1987

1996

1998

The first recreational version of Electronic Fuel Injection arrives in Mercury’s 220 hp V-6 two-stroke XRi. The system used computer-controlled technology to compare data from sensors and optimize the air/fuel ratio.

Mercury (Orbital DFI) and OMC (Ficht) bring direct fuel injection to

Honda (130 hp) and Yamaha (100 hp) breach the 100 hp mark for four-strokes.

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FEBRUARY 2017

injects fuel directly into the cylinder.

COURTESY MERCURY (TOP, 2), COURTESY HONDA (OPPOSITE)

In 2013, Mercury Marine introduced its Joystick Piloting for outboards. New digital technologies help drive these kinds of specialty customizations, with an eye toward making boat ownership as simple as possible.


as five outboards on a transom. Along the way, Mercury has also developed several new materials such as its proprietary anticorrosive alloys as well as some unique systems like Advance Midsection (AMS) on Verados. AMS reduces the transmission of engine vibration to the boat by cradling the engine around its midsection. Mercury has also instituted Joystick Piloting, Active Trim, Vessel View (now with digital gauge display as well as sonar and chart plotting) and a new steering helm using Magneto Realogic Fluid, which contains suspended particles that provide greater resistance with electrical current. Boaters can effectively set their own resistance and suspension, like stiffening the shocks on a car.

A cutaway view of Honda’s flagship fourstroke BF250. Multiple sensors send data to the engine’s electronic-control module.

1967: HONDA, ALL FOURS Contrary to Evinrude and its focus on two-strokes, Honda Marine has always concentrated on four-stroke technology for outboards. Four-strokes, of course, are the dominant power for automobiles, a primary interest for the overall Honda Motor Co. But the belief in four-strokes goes deeper than just an understanding and expertise with the design. “Mr. Honda saw two-strokes spouting smoke and oil into the atmosphere and water. He started pioneering on the four-stroke side to keep the planet cleaner,” says Dennis Ashley, senior OEM sales manager. Honda introduced its four-stroke outboards to the United States in 1967, with the GB25 and GB40. But higherhorsepower four-strokes took a while to develop; not until 1998 did Honda surpass the 100 hp mark with its 130. That engine also featured electronic fuel injection and Honda’s first ECM. That same year, four-stroke Hondas became the first outboards to meet the EPA’s more-stringent 2006 emissions standards, Ashley says.

As boaters began accepting fourstrokes, Honda took the spotlight in 2001 with its BF225. (Yamaha introduced a similar 225 the same year.) Key to that larger four-stroke was Honda’s industry-first Variable Valve Timing and Lift Electronic Control, a trickledown technology from the car industry, Ashley says. “VTEC changes the lift and duration of the valves opening and closing. The lift is how high the valve opens to let in extra air and fuel, and the duration is the amount of time it stays open,” he says. “Everyone can change where the air and fuel comes in, but no one else

can change the lift and duration while the engine’s running.” Other outboard-engine builders employ variable valve timing but use a cam phaser to make the adjustments, Ashley explains. The process improves drivability at low rpm, “but will not maximize the ability of the engine when high rpm is necessary.” VTEC is “kind of like having two cam shafts in your car, one for low-speed operation and one for high rpm power,” he adds. During the past 16 years, Honda has expanded its range to the BF250 (2011), and introduced a series of technologies made possible with an ever-evolving electronic-control module. Honda’s current ECM measures about 3-by-5 inches and is about an inch and a half thick. It features data ports for input and output. Sensors placed throughout the engine deliver measurements and data to the module. Honda’s BLAST technology — which generates low-end acceleration for pushing the boat over on plane — depends on the ECM to sense the engine’s load. When the helmsman buries the  throttle, BLAST adjusts  the timing, creating the most horsepower for that demand. Also during this past decade, intelligent shift and throttle — also called digital throttle and shift or flyby-wire — removed the cables that revved the engine and replaced them with electrical servos, Ashley says. “A lot of people might cringe about that, but it has been the standard in the automobile industry,” he says. “Once upon a time, the gas pedal had a metal rod that attached to the top of the engine. The gas pedal today is a potentiometer, an

2000/2001

2001

2003

OMC/Evinrude files for bankruptcy, Bombardier purchases Evinrude.

Honda and Yamaha introduce the first V-6 four-stroke outboards, both 225s, ushering in the era of big four-strokes. Honda debuts Variable Valve Timing and Lift Control.

Evinrude launches E-TEC two-stroke technology.

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1977: SUZUKI SYSTEMS Suzuki outboards debuted on the U.S. market in 1977, and the company was first to introduce automatic oil injection in 1980 in a three-cylinder 85 hp DT85 engine. Prior to that time, boaters had to pre-mix oil with gasoline. Suzuki also transitioned to producing four-stroke outboards in the late 1990s as

EPA emissions rules evolved and boaters began to embrace the technology. But it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the company’s larger four-strokes emerged, with the DF140 in 2002. In 2004, Suzuki and Yamaha both debuted 250 hp V-6 four-strokes. (Mercury’s 250 Verado featured an in-line-six design.) “One of the things we do on all our motors, we offset the drive shaft,” says Dean Corbisier, Suzuki event manager. “That moves the powerhead forward on the downhousing so more weight is moving the boat. It gives us a really low gear ratio at the lower unit.” Suzuki also pioneered Selective Rotation in outboards in 2011. A controller under the cowling allows a dealer to change the direction the propeller spins. Previously, dealers had to stock different motors with different lower units — some would spin the prop clockwise, while the others spun it counterclockwise. On

Suzuki debuted its first general-production white engines in 2013, customizing 150 to 300 hp outboards.

multiple-outboard installations, one or more props must spin clockwise while the others move counterclockwise to offset directional torque.

1983: YAMAHA FOCUS While Yamaha outboards came to the U.S. market in 1983, the company began operating in 1948 in Japan, initially building motorcycles and other motorized gear. Today, Yamaha can claim two of every three outboard engines in the saltwater market. Why? Yamaha believes the company sets itself apart by staying high-tech. Yamaha also pursued partnerships with boatbuilders, elevating its visibility. And finally, customer confidence comes down to proven dependability, power, performance and reputation, the company says.

2004

2007

2011

Mercury’s first supercharged FourStroke Verado lineup with Digital Throttle and Shift: 200, 225, 250 and 275 hp models.

four-stroke 350 hp outboard is introduced.

Seven Marine introduces supercharged V-8 557 hp outboards. Suzuki introduces selective rotation, which allows its outboards to rotate the prop clockwise or counterclockwise.

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FEBRUARY 2017

COURTESY SUZUKI (TOP), COURTESY YAMAHA (OPPOSITE)

electrical signal travels through a wire and opens and closes the valve.” Digital throttling enables troll modes and intelligent rpm synchronization. It also ushered in automatic trim controls and other enhancements at the helm. Honda also employs Lean Burn Control, which senses the boat’s load at any given time (using an oxygen sensor in the exhaust) and makes the fuel/air mixture leaner or richer, depending on need. Three-Way Cooling allows water to stay in the block longer by using three separate thermostats to route water where it’s needed.


Out of the box, Yamaha’s first U.S. outboards (two-strokes) featured Precision Blend Oil Injection, which worked off the engine load and speed, says David Meeler, Yamaha product planning and information manager. Under lighter loads, the system added less oil than during times of higher rpm and loads. Soon afterward, Yamaha began introducing small four-strokes, and eventually broke the 100 hp barrier in 1998 with its 100. On the two-stroke side, Yamaha HPDI (high pressure direct injection) emission-certified outboards debuted in 1997, gaining quick success, particularly among bass-boat owners. However, Yamaha saw the fourstroke writing on the wall, and just three years later the company led again (along with Honda) in producing V-6 four-stroke 200s and 225s. “Nobody believed the four-stroke would ever give up 200 hp, much less 225,” Meeler says. “One way, we were able to with in-bank exhaust. We reversed the exhaust so it comes out in the center of the bank and the intake comes in from the outside. It increased the power of the engine with a more direct flow of air. “We used some different ways of looking at the same thing. We realized that an engine is just a giant air pump. We made it easy for the engine to breathe by using a more direct intake and exhaust path and four valves per cylinder.” The V-6 F250 followed in 2004, bringing with it VCT, or variable camshaft timing. “VCT allows the engine to take that deep breath sooner,” Meeler says. “If the operator asks for a burst in performance and the engine is turning slowly, the engine-control module will use engine oil to hydraulically move the intake camshaft, so the lobes will come

Yamaha’s super-high-output outboards combined the acceleration of two-strokes with a four-stroke’s smooth efficiency.

around sooner and allow those valves to open quicker.” Yamaha’s V-8 5.3L F350 created industry buzz in 2007. The 350, which Yamaha says was developed with 10 key boatbuilders, also came with flyby-wire controls. The F350 allowed manufacturers to build even larger center consoles; they could also create luxury express boats and give them outboard power. In 2010, VMAX SHO (super-high output) 200, 225 and 250 hp outboards debuted, combining the attributes of two-strokes with the smooth, quiet operation of four-strokes. Meeler says VCT is a big part of what gives the SHO its kick. At the same time, Yamaha used plasma-fusion technology to melt pounds off the original F250. The process uses a metallic powder made from several alloys and takes a plasma arc to it at 13,000 degrees. The material instantly melts and fuses to the cylinder walls, creating a thin, slick surface that greatly outperforms steel cylinder sleeves. “We’re continually tinkering with the efficiencies of the four different cycles of a four-stroke, along with weight, size and a host of other factors. Those four cycles are intake, compression, power and exhaust,” Meeler says. “Our goal is always to increase power, make the engine lighter, and give it better fuel economy.”

FUTURE FOR OUTBOARDS As we’ve seen in the past five or six years, outboard customization has outpaced technological changes within the engines themselves. Joystick steering,

2012

2014

Yamaha debuts Helm Master system; Mercury soon follows with Joystick Piloting.

Evinrude unveils the second generation of E-TEC technology, the G2.

ships’ systems and marine electronics, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi controllers, multicolor cowlings, purpose-built propellers, auto-trim systems — all have delivered fingertip control and immediate feedback to boaters. Outboard companies told me they expect customization to continue, and they’ll also push for improved fuel economy. Alternative fuels are still a big question mark, and ethanol issues persist. Research is underway to find better protection for outboards and fuel systems from higher levels of ethanol, but no one would share any plans. In the end, all marine companies strive to make boating as easy and fun as humanly possible. Outboard builders

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ADRIAN E. GRAY

DIGGING DEEP INTO GULF YELLOWFIN 68

FEBRUARY 2017


How a Unique Partnership Between a State Agency and Universities Has Uncovered New Facts About Yellowfin Tuna in the Gulf of Mexico B y B R E T T

F A L T E R M A N

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The total catch of yellowfin tuna in the western Atlantic is a daunting figure, with more than 101,305 tons reported in 2014. Fifty countries participating in a member treaty group called the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) contribute to the total catch each year. Spain and France are some of the largest contributors, whereas the U.S. landed just 2.63 percent of the Atlantic-wide estimated total catch in 2014. So, for a single state agency to try to affect international management might seem like folly. However, regionally in the northern Gulf of Mexico, with respect to yellowfin tuna catch, Louisiana is huge. More yellowfin tuna are landed both recreationally and commercially from ports in Louisiana than from any other Gulf Coast state. When fisheries managers in Louisiana looked at how the Atlantic-wide yellowfin tuna fishery was managed and what data was being collected from the local fishery, they realized they could make a difference.

STARTING AT THE SINGLE-STOCK HYPOTHESIS ICCAT — and thereby NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, since the U.S. is a contracting party — manages yellowfin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean as a single stock. Furthermore, the management plan rests on the premise that production of yellowfin tuna is centered in waters off the Gulf of Guinea, a known tuna nursery in the eastern Atlantic adjacent to west-central Africa. The region supports a large purse-seine fishery that targets small tunas associated with fish-attracting devices (FADs). The retention of undersize tuna by these purse seiners has long been a matter of contention among ICCAT nations, and the U.S. has lobbied for decades to force compliance with ICCAT minimum-size limits of 27 inches, fork length. TransAtlantic movements of yellowfin tuna have been documented by previous conventional-tag-recapture studies. Similarly, one-year-old bluefin tuna were documented crossing the Pacific Ocean in just a matter of months. Still, is the health and future of the fishery in the Gulf of Mexico really dependent on what comes across the Atlantic? The answer might be in the tuna-rich Gulf waters off Louisiana.

see on a Pacific long-range tuna trip off Mexico. But one thing that really stands out is the lengthy season: You can catch yellowfin tuna off southeast Louisiana all year. Whether anglers are live-bait fishing near rigs, chumming by shrimp boats or natural bottom features, or throwing topwater lures near surface-feeding whale sharks, there’s always action available. Clues about the yellowfin tuna’s life history are present as well: adults in spawning condition, day-old larvae caught during surveys, juvenile tunas just months old, and multiyear tag returns from adults recaptured in almost the exact same area they were released. The data suggests that some yellowfin tuna might spend a whole lifetime in the Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps not the picture you’d expect for a highly migratory species? In response to the disparity between the importance of Gulf of Mexico yellowfin tuna to Louisiana-based user groups and the lack of biological information, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) began a comprehensive yellowfin-research program. The success of the program ultimately hinged on access.

What is unique about Louisiana’s yellowfin fishery? I’d say almost everything, from environment to tuna behavior. North America’s largest river flows out against Gulf Stream eddies (the Loop Current), and these currents meet above deep nearshore canyons along a shelf margin that is littered with FADs (oil rigs). Yellowfin tuna recreational catches out of Louisiana on a day trip can, at times, resemble what you’d 70

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ADRIAN E. GRAY (2)

THE UNIQUE LOUISIANA FISHERY


More yellowfin tuna are landed by recreational anglers from Louisiana ports than any other Gulf Coast state. Researchers set out to learn more about the tuna’s spawning sites, biology and life history.

LDWF dock samplers were able to provide biological samples from more than 1,600 yellowfin in less than three years. In excess of 200 yellowfin tuna were fitted with electronic tags. And about 400 young-of-the-year tuna were collected throughout the Atlantic.

ELECTRONIC TAGGING Conventional dart or spaghetti tags have been used for decades and are great tools for studying the movement

patterns of fish. Fish have to be both recaptured and then reported for these projects to work. But pelagic fish such as tuna typically have very low recapture rates. In fact, according to the NMFS Cooperative Tagging Center, the all-time recapture rate for yellowfin tagged in the northern Gulf of Mexico is a tick above 2 percent. Pop-off satellite tags (PSATs) provide a way to track fish without relying on their recapture. But attaching PSATs to yellowfin tuna has been problematic for many researchers,

BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH CONDUCTED ON YELLOWFIN TUNA IN THE NORTHERN GULF OF MEXICO Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) caught in the northern Gulf of Mexico recreational fishery were sampled as part of a life-history study funded by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Fisheries scientists Jim Franks, Nancy Brown-Peterson and Dyan Gibson, with the University of Southern Mississippi-Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, examined the feeding habits and reproductive biology of yellowfin tuna. Examination of stomach contents from 1,286 yellowfin tuna (11 to 77 inches curved fork length, 12 to 221 pounds total weight) revealed a diverse diet comprised of 86 prey species, most of which were fishes and to a lesser extent invertebrates such as squid and offshore swimming crabs. More than 16,000 prey items were found in the stomachs. Some of the most common fish prey were menhaden, jacks, flying fish, mackerel, small tuna (including blackfins) and mullet, along with other prey including filefish, triggerfish, dolphin, snake mackerels, pufferfish, butterfish and spadefish. Seasonal shifts in yellowfin diet roughly correlated with the availability of certain prey species. For example, the fall and winter diet consisted of prey commonly associated with bottom habitats, including flatfish, sea robins, croaker and shrimp, which supports local knowledge that yellowfins feed on bycatch from shrimp trawlers working in the northern Gulf at that time. An exhaustive examination of the reproductive biology of yellowfin tuna from the Gulf revealed that females spawn from mid-April through August. Individual females produce multiple batches of eggs and spawn as frequently as every 1.3 to 3 days, with younger fish spawning less frequently than older, larger females. Individual females can produce as many as 1,180,978 eggs per fish, and an average-size female of about 70 pounds can produce 25,586,823 eggs during a single reproductive season. The size at 50 percent sexual maturity, which is a term commonly used by fisheries managers to describe the size at which half the females in a population are mature, is 38 inches CFL, well above the current 27-inch minimum-size limit. SPORTFISHINGMAG.COM

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possibly because of both their behavior and somewhat delicate bodies. Tuna must keep moving. As anyone who has fished for or caught a yellowfin tuna can tell you, they’re extremely active in the water column, cumulatively traveling literally tens of thousands of vertical feet a day (as documented with depth records from PSATs). Average retention of satellite tags on yellowfin tuna in previous studies has been about a month. Since the goal of the LDWF project was to look at long-term movements, it made sense to do two things differently from the start. The first was to figure out a better way to attach PSATs to yellowfin tuna. The second was to take a chance on a different electronic-tag type that had never been used on yellowfin tuna in the Atlantic. Improving tag attachment involved abandoning the use of darts to hold the buoyant satellite tags in the fastswimming tunas. Instead, a hollow needle was used to target one of the heaviest areas of bone mass in a tuna’s

body, which is the base of the second dorsal, known as the allison fin. Researchers passed heavy monofilament through the bony base of the second dorsal fin twice in a figure-eight configuration and crimped directly to the PSAT. Like PSATs, internal archival (IA) tags are electronic tags that measure light level, depth and temperature. Both electronictag types can be employed for high-resolution studies of habitat use, as well as to re-create daily positions based on light-level measurements. Light-based geo-location works because sunrise and sunset times vary east to west, and day length varies north to south. But unlike PSATs, IA tags use all their battery power to log data. Since they don’t use any of it for the pop-off mechanism or to upload the data through an antenna to a satellite system, they have a much longer lifetime. Some IA tags can log data for more than 10 years. Also, the internal tags have to be surgically implanted. Yellowfin tuna that are to be tagged are

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BRETT FALTERMAN (4)

“What’s unique about Louisiana’s fishery? I’d say almost everything.”


Yellowfin tuna ear bones are small enough to fit on your pointer finger, but their chemical makeup determines whether fish are Gulf residents or travelers from distant spawn locations.

caught quickly so they’re in good condition, netted and placed upside down in a padded cradle. A small incision is made in the belly, and the internal tag is inserted into the body cavity. Two quick sutures hold the incision closed. The light stalk of the tag protruding from the tuna’s abdomen and a green-and-white conventional tag near the dorsal fin are the only indications that the tuna is swimming around the Gulf with a computer in its belly. But the catch, literally, is that these fish have to be recaught and reported for the data to be recovered from the tag. And while a 2 percent recapture rate might not justify a large investment in an internal-tagging project, LDWF biologists knew that the local recapture rate was closer to 10 percent based on conventional tags deployed on yellowfin as part of the Louisiana Cooperative Fish Tagging Program. So based on the hope of a slightly higher recapture rate in the region and that a $200 gift-card reward would incentivize participation, LDWF began tagging yellowfin in 2013 with internal and pop-off satellite tags in the north-central Gulf. To date, 162 of these internal tags have been surgically implanted and 26 satellite tags attached to yellowfin tuna ranging in size from 27 inches to more than 160 pounds off southeast Louisiana by LDWF. Recapture rates have exceeded expectations, with 30 internally tagged fish recaptured to date. Some tuna were at large for up to 1,017 days, with the average returned IA tag having been in a fish for 238 days. And satellite-tag retention has more than doubled, with some satellite tags attached for more than 300 days.

THE RESULTS What’s the preliminary result? Almost 9,000 days of data across all tracked yellowfin tuna show that none have left the Gulf of Mexico. We’re also seeing a high level of connectivity between fishing methods and locations, which hasn’t been previously

NATURAL TAGS HELP RESOLVE YELLOWFIN ORIGINS Doctorate student Larissa Kitchens from Dr. Jay Rooker’s Fisheries Ecology Lab at Texas A&M University is currently using chemical tags in ear bones (otoliths) to look at the stock structure and migration of yellowfin tuna in the Atlantic Ocean. The main goal of this project is to determine whether yellowfin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico are part of a resident population that spawns locally or if yellowfin migrate into the Gulf of Mexico from distant spawning areas. Chemical concentrations in otoliths reflect the chemistry of the seawater the fish inhabit, so otoliths act as a natural tag that can be used as a chronological record of habitat use and movement. In this project, chemicals in the otoliths of juvenile yellowfin from all of the major nursery areas in the Atlantic Ocean will be used to create chemical signatures for each nursery. Then, otoliths from adult yellowfin caught in the Gulf of Mexico will be analyzed, and the chemistry of the otolith core — which corresponds to nursery period — will be matched back to the nursery signatures to determine where these fish were spawned. Results of this research will help to develop a better understanding of how valuable each of these nursery areas are to the Gulf of Mexico population. Preliminary results indicate that yellowfin tuna sampled from the Louisiana recreational fishery come from both distant and local nurseries. Ultimately, this information will improve the ability to effectively manage this important U.S. fishery and ensure that yellowfin tuna populations are sustainable.

documented. We’re looking to determine whether a fish’s tagging location has anything to do with its recapture location. It’s known that yellowfin tuna have a high level of association with structure, especially when they’re small, so it’s reasonable to wonder if that association might affect what other parts of the fishery you’ll see these same fish. But so far a clear pattern has not emerged, with yellowfin tuna tagged at rigs being recaptured at the same rigs (where they were tagged) and other rigs, as well as shrimp boats and open-water schools and vice versa. And while we haven’t had any yellowfin tuna travel out of the Gulf, we have seen them recaptured by anglers off all Gulf states. Most recaptures have come from the Venice, Louisiana, charter fleet, but some have also come from Texas charter boats, Alabama private and charter boats, Florida private boats, and Gulf commercial pelagic longline vessels. Another point to make here is that while tuna being captured at the same rig where they were tagged might not seem that interesting, remember that many of the offshore

Left: A hollow needle passes monofilament through bone mass underneath the second dorsal, called the allison fin, to better attach a pop-off satellite tag (far left) for tracking tuna movement.

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fishery, which is composed of adults from both local and distant nurseries (see “Natural Tags” sidebar). And these tagging results suggest that no matter where the fish are spawned, once they end up in the Gulf, they’ll most likely stay around for a while. When the previous Atlantic yellowfin tuna stock assessment was conducted in 2011, the Atlantic stock was found to be marginally overfished and possibly undergoing overfishing. The most recent stock assessment, which was just conducted in summer 2016, concluded that the fishery was overfished but that overfishing was not occurring. Data from several of the LDWF-coordinated projects were considered. And while the ICCAT continues to recommend a reduction in the mortality of small yellowfin, particularly in the FAD-associated fisheries in the eastern Atlantic, it is good to know that the regional fishery in the Gulf is not entirely dependent on foreign tuna-nursery grounds and their associated regulatory-compliance issues. LDWF does not manage tuna, but the agency has certainly done its part to make sure the best science is made available to the federal and international managers of this fishery, which is in the best interest of all recreational and commercial fishermen. ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Examining the stomach contents of almost 1,300 yellowfin revealed 86 different prey species, most of which were fish, squid and crabs. Odd eats included triggerfish, pufferfish and spadefish. Match the hatch? 74

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Brett Falterman is currently a program manager with the LDWF and oversees the state’s offshore fisheries independent monitoring surveys and research projects. With a graduate degree in marine science and more than 10 years of charterfishing experience in the northern Gulf of Mexico, Falterman brings a unique perspective to addressing some of today’s challenges in fisheries management.

DANIEL GOEZ (TOP), BRETT FALTERMAN (BOTTOM)

oil-field structures in the Gulf are mobile, like the drillship Ocean Black Rhino. So when some of the tuna tagged at one drillship were recaught on the same drillship after it had moved more than 50 nautical miles, we were left to wonder if it’s really the fish doing all the moving or if their association with mobile structures might explain some of the dispersal patterns we’ve seen. After three years of intensive study, a much more complete picture of the biology and life history of yellowfin tuna in the Gulf of Mexico has been uncovered. Not only do yellowfin tuna spawn off the Louisiana coast (see “Biological Research” sidebar), but that spawning activity helps to fuel the local


PLUGGING CARIBBEAN ISLANDS TEXT AND PHOTOS BY JULIEN LAJOURNADE

A moment of well-earned jubilation for the author, with a black grouper of bragging size on any gear, but more so after it attacked a popper on the surface.

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Try Sight-Casting Lures Inshore and Around Shallow Reefs — Flat-Out Fun for an Awesome Array of Game Fish

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lobe-trotting anglers who love to throw lures and sight-fish for a great variety of saltwater game fish associate that fishery mostly with Indo-Pacific reefs. That’s where they can expect to hook up with bad boys of the reefs such as giant trevally, red bass (the aggressive snapper Lutjanus bohar), dogtooth tuna, coral trout, potato grouper, barracuda — you name it. Those who don’t venture so far from the United States can head to the eastern Pacific off Central America to cast for nearshore hooligans such as cubera snapper and roosterfish. Using top-shelf spinning gear, anglers fishing these Pacific destinations cast expensive lures in the hopes of provoking toothy critters, looking in particular for unforgettable, explosive surface action. I’ve been there (to many Pacific and Indian oceans locations) and done that, but I’ve been elsewhere and done it also — notably around the islands and reefs of the eastern tropical Atlantic. True, the primary draw for many sport fishermen visiting the Caribbean from the United States is fishing blue water and flats. But large areas of deep flats, channels, and reefs of rock or coral reefs, found between shore and deeper drop-offs aren’t

fished as much by visiting anglers, especially those who cast and retrieve lures. This fishery is simply not on the radar of many local guides, who often have no clue about the effective and exciting technique of fishing lures around reefs and shallows. When predators including snapper, grouper, jacks, tarpon, barracuda and others are hunting nearshore waters, all can be suckers for a well-presented lure throughout the Caribbean — including the Bahamas, Cuba, Trinidad, Mexico’s Yucatan, and the cays of Belize and Honduras, as well as many other islands.

A Lesson in the BVI In Caribbean waters, inshore guides often are primarily fly-fishing specialists. They may have little knowledge of lures such as poppers and stickbaits. “The lip is broken off your lure!” is a comment I’ve heard more than once from guides seeing my stickbait who are not familiar with plugs other than diving Rapalas with plastic lips. I heard a similar comment most recently during a visit to the British Virgin Islands, a lovely paradise at the top of the Leeward Island chain. It was September, the weather was superb, and I had the islands largely to myself. The first morning, my guide stopped his 35-foot center console in a small cove to catch live bait. I had already tied a 4-inch stickbait to my 30-pound spinning outfit. I threw it out near some pelicans, twitched it twice, and a 30-pound

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COURTESY BAHAMAS TOURISM (LEFT)

As this aerial photo shows, there’s no need to travel to the far Pacific to find great flats, beaches, shallow reefs, channels and passes that offer productive and varied habitat for sight-casting.


T H E CAR IB B E A N ISL A N D S

Bahamas

Turks & Caicos Islands Cuba Dominican Republic

Virgin Islands (GB) St.Martin

Cayman Islands Haiti

Anguilla Saint Barthélemy

Virgin Puerto Rico Islands (US) St. Kitts & Nevis

Jamaica

Montserrat

Antigua and Barbuda Guadeloupe Dominica Martinique St. Lucia

Barbados

St. Vincent & the Grenadines Aruba Curaçao Bonaire

Grenada Trinidad & Tobago

tarpon jumped several times before throwing the lure. A few more casts resulted in another missed tarpon and two monster bar jacks. We moved on to fish stretches of beautiful coral reef. The water was so clear, it reminded me of atolls of the Indian Ocean. Hard-fighting horse-eye and bar jacks, as well as barracuda, large yellowtail snapper and more grabbed my lures. I also lost some unidentified creatures that made off with two of my favorite stickbaits.

In light of the fact that we were just a half-mile from the marina, such hectic action was a nice surprise. The guide admitted he had never caught so many fish so quickly without live baits (which he seemed to forget all about that morning). Thus began three days of exciting fishing around reefs that, surprisingly, probably had never been seriously plugged before. This experience offered further proof that light-tackle enthusiasts, prepared with the right gear to explore islands in the Antilles and elsewhere in the Caribbean, can find memorable action on hard lures.

Cuba, the Caribbean’s Jurassic Park of Plugging Big barracuda in skinny water around western Atlantic islands are volatile and acrobatic, particularly when hooked with a fastmoving stickbait on medium spinning gear.

In the early 2000s, Cuba was the first eastern Atlantic destination to which anglers (particularly from Europe) brought serious popping gear with the clear intention of catching big fish like cubera snapper. Huge marine areas around Cuba had been isolated for decades with minimal access or fishing pressure; many Cubans don’t own boats, and there are no modern tackle shops around.

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Above: Lemon sharks will go after an erratically worked stickbait such as this Sebile Stick Shadd. Below, right: Even queen triggers succumb to the temptation of hard lures. Opposite, top: a prized mutton snapper taken by sight-casting a stickbait in shallow water.

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As a result, many fish live long and grow big in these famous protected zones dedicated to divers and fishermen from abroad. Most of the fishing boats available are flat skiffs and can’t easily venture onto deeper reefs, though they offer fishing of world-class dimensions in terms of the variety and size of fish. With small surface and subsurface plugs on the deep flats, channels and shallow reefs (to 20 feet), you can find jacks, ’cudas, baby tarpon, mutton snapper, young goliath grouper and cubera. These game fish offer great sport on 30-pound tackle (fishing any lighter than that gets too risky). But if I were casting larger lures over deeper reefs (say, 30 feet or more), I’d think twice before casting with a light rod. Monster cubera and big black and gag grouper patrol those waters. If you don’t have strong, giant trevallyclass tackle, and lack much experience battling big fish street-fight style, you’ll likely lose your lures and could harm trophy fish. When fishing big lures along these reef edges, you have no idea what will come up to grab them. It could be a 15-pound jack that ends up being swallowed by a giant cubera seconds after you hook it. Since 1999, I’ve enjoyed many memorable experiences while fishing lures in Cuba, such as attacks on poppers by packs of amberjack in places so shallow that we could easily see the

bottom. That occurred in Gardens of the Kings — a chain of keys on the north coast — while we fished a sandy flat, looking for large barracuda. Near Cabo San Antonio, at the western tip of Cuba, we were trying for snapper along a reef drop-off when a school of 15 or 20 AJs showed up and charged all our lures at the same time. Things quickly become chaotic, but at least we were using strong GT rods. Even so, hooking a 50-pound amberjack 5 feet from the rod tip is something brutal.

Gear to Give You a Fighting Chance At best, an angler still makes an awful lot of casts, on average, to hook a prize like a cubera. It’s a shame, then, to lose the fish before getting


TACKLE TIPS LUR ES

a good look at it, and if the fish breaks off, you’ve also lost an expensive lure (and, especially if the barbs are still on the hooks, you might have doomed the fish as well). Guides don’t always have the time or experience to move a boat quickly enough to help the angler keep a big fish away from rocks, caves or coral heads. You need to lock down the drag (at 30 pounds or more) and stop such fish in their tracks. A GT rod with a large, high-end spinning reel, using 100-pound braid, will give you a fighting chance. (When I throw lures around Cuba’s deeper reefs, I generally use 120-pound PowerPro.) Lures designed for giant trevally, with the strongest split rings and treble hooks or in-line singles, should hold up. I’ve seen too many anglers relying on 50-pound-test lose nearly every big fish they hook.

Bahamas for Inshore Variety As most anglers are aware, the Bahamas archipelago is a true paradise for fly-fishermen looking for bonefish. But when it comes to fishing plugs, the potential of these waters is overlooked. Lightweight bucktail jigs, used to lures I’ve seen in most guides’ boxes, whether at the Acklins. Yet the opportunity the Bahamas offers for light-tackle fishing is immense. Anglers can

by the variety of fish I caught while blindcasting lures around shallow reefs (and even in

I haven’t had the chance to try popping with heavy gear on reef drop-offs in the Bahamas, though I am pretty sure it would be worth

twitchbaits) will provide good action.

Around shallower reefs, for just about any predator that swims, no lure beats a sinking stickbait. These plugs cast long distances and swim with an underwater walk-the-dog motion, typically just a bit below the surface. For lighter duty, 4to 5-inch sinking Sebile Stick Shadds, Shimano Orcas and the like will turn on everything from yellowtail snapper to big tarpon. Floating stickbaits might be less effective overall but are more fun. Besides the classic red-and-white Zara Super Spook, there are many other options, including floating models of the Stick Shadd and Orca, as well as the Rapala X-Rap Walk. For heavier duty, such as for cubera, bigger grouper and AJs, you need big lures of the sort designed with giant trevally in mind — up to 10 inches or more, weighing 150 to 250 grams (8-plus ounces). These lobster-eaters don’t come to the surface for a little appetizer — they want a big meal! Work big lures slowly. That’s one key for success with cubera and big grouper: Using sinking stickbaits, employ a slow retrieve with many pauses lasting a couple of seconds. Similarly, with big poppers, retrieve with strong jerks and stop every 10 yards or so. Be on guard, because vicious attacks often happen when the lure sits motionless. With sinking stickbaits, orange or purple are preferable, as are a white belly and flanks and a blue or pink back. I’ve found that with poppers, color has little importance, but with floating stickbaits, nothing beats white.

SHO CK L EA D ER Forget wire leaders; 2½ feet of fluorocarbon or hard mono is better. You might lose a few lures to the teeth of barracuda or king mackerel if you’re unlucky, but you’ll have plenty of bites, and it will be easier to control fish boat-side. Connect braid to the leader with an FG knot. When fishing 30-pound line, I use 50-pound fluoro and check it after every fish or strike. With heavy tackle, using 100-pound braid, for cuberas, don’t go under 150- or even 200-pound-test for leader. A loop knot is the best option to attach a lure, but you can also tie the leader to a swivel, then use a split ring to make the connection. Crimped sleeves offer an alternative with such heavy mono, though not a lot of anglers use them. (But in any case, I like to carry a big Hi-Seas crimping plier because it will cut through a large hook, and it adds a measure of safety when fishing remote areas.)

HO O KS With most smaller plugs out of the package, the standard treble hooks will last about two seconds if you hook even a 10-pound snapper on 30-pound line. Plan to replace the hooks (and split rings) from the get-go with strong hardware. Similarly,


THE SNAPPER GANG Pound for pound, mutton snapper (Lutjanus analis) are some of the strongest fish found in Caribbean shallows — not just in reefs and channels, but even up on bonefish flats. Once hooked, muttons rush to find shelter in a cave, under a rock or a coral head, or even in a hole in the sand. Using 30-pound braid is a minimum if you are targeting muttons of 10 pounds or more. Unlike its cousin the cubera, which prefers a slow retrieve and frequent pauses, the mutton is prone to going after sinking stickbaits worked with dynamic twitches (pauses too long give these sharpDog snapper eyed fish time to rethink the wounded baitfish). It also responds well to lipped diving minnows the size of big sardines; where muttons remain abundant, they will take surface lures. For cubera (L. cyanopterus) and dog snapper (L. jocu), deeper reefs facing open seas are favored territory. These trophy snapper are never plentiful but are found from the Bahamas to Trinidad, and at times will strike big surface lures. Few guides can confirm their presence around their islands, simply because they don’t fish for them. Dog snapper can weigh 50 pounds, and cubera twice that size. They hunt mostly during dark hours but will feed during the day as well.

While 30-pound braid can handle many fish hooked around Caribbean Islands, 50to 80-pound on heavy gear like that below will give an angler a fighting chance with larger grouper, snapper and amberjack.

As one example of the islands’ potential, this past February I was invited to spend four days exploring Long Island’s great bonefishing. Sustained north winds, however, had cooled the flats. The bones were hanging off the flats in deeper waters; we caught a few to 8 pounds, but fishing was tough. Thanks to my 30-pound Shimano travel rod and a box full of lures, I changed up the plan for a couple of days and had a blast catching big, mean horse-eye jacks, muttons to 12 pounds, and 4-foot-long barracuda a fairly short run away from the dock. My guide hadn’t expected we would see such action, and particularly not from mutton snapper, known to be wary targets. On the last morning, before I had to hop on the plane to Nassau, I picked up my spinning rod and box of lures and went for a walk along the

rocky beach on the island’s eastern shore, below Stella Maris Resort. Here deep water is close to the rocks. The weather had become superb, the ocean totally and unseasonably flat, and I had this part of Long Island to myself. I started heaving out a Cordell pencil popper and was rewarded with immediate action from hungry ’cudas. I tried a Williamson Speed Pro Deep, an excellent plug for casting, and immediately caught a beautiful Nassau grouper. Right after I released the grouper, I spotted a big triggerfish cruising near the surface and tossed a floating stickbait in front of it. I let the lure sit motionless, and  the trigger pounced on it, sucking in the rear hook. It was game-on. Afterward, my fourth fish raised was yet another species. Throwing a Williamson popper, I watched a reef shark in triple digits charge — and miss — it, leaving my hands shaking. The last fish I hooked in the short time I had that morning came in behind that same popper, perhaps 20 yards from shore and in water not much more than 10 feet deep. In a huge swirl of water, it attacked the lure. That wasn’t unlike strikes I’ve experienced fishing GTs in the Seychelles. I saw it well enough to recognize an amberjack of possibly 50 pounds. Had I been in a boat and using heavier gear, I might have had a chance, but this brute charged out on a hundred-yard run before the line passed over a rock, and that was all she wrote. After that taste, I hope to get back someday and, in a boat with a guide, cast big plugs along the wild side of Long Island. ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Julien Lajournade started fishing in 1990 as a guide in Africa — first in Sierra Leone, then Guinea Bissau and Madagascar. He has been the editor-in-chief for the French angling-enthusiast magazine Voyages de Pêche since 2003. Lajournade loves all fishing, fresh and salt, but nothing as much as casting surface plugs to badass fish in the tropics around the world. 82

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Nine Examples of Fishing Resorts/Charters That Extend Offseason Bargain Rates BY DOUG OLA NDER

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ADRIAN E. GRAY (BOTTOM RIGHT), DOUG OLANDER (2)

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1. Casa Vieja Lodge; Iztapa, Guatemala 2. Crackerjack Charters; Seward, Alaska 3. Crocodile Bay Resort; Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica 4. Hawks Cay Resort; Duck Key, Florida 5. Keen M International; Isla Mujeres, Mexico 6. Kingfisher Charters and Lodge; Sitka, Alaska 7. No Boundaries Oman; Salalah, Oman 8. Tropic Star Lodge; Piñas Bay, Panama 9. The Zancudo Lodge; Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica

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Some fishing operations (resorts and/or charters) offer discounted rates part of the year, most often during what could be termed their “offseason.” Considering that, I located nine such operations, in prime fishing grounds in the United States and abroad, that offer bargains part of the year. In some cases, the discount is modest; in others, it’s substantial (e.g., $700 per day for boat and crew versus $1,200 during peak season). As you might figure, there are reasons for reduced rates, often less-certain weather conditions or the scarcity of some prime game-fish species. But in most cases, there also advantages to visiting in the offseason, some that might surprise trip planners. I found that many fishing operations offer no discounted rates, and some feel strongly against that practice. But at the same time, there are a great many more resorts/charters than listed that offer offseason bargains. For our nine examples, here (listed alphabetically) is the rundown.

casaviejalodge.com Iztapa, Guatemala THE OPERATION: Casa Vieja is a premier lodge with nine boats taking anglers out to experience the famed Pacific sailfish 86

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Guatemala

Big Pacific sailfish, thanks to their sheer numbers, are the primary draw bringing anglers to Guatemala.

fishery here. The nine lodge boats (40-foot sport-fishers and 35-foot Contenders) have recorded days with a year-round average of 15 shots at 80- to 120-pound sails. Blue, black and striped marlin all show up on the grounds as well. Casa Vieja boasts of five-star service and gourmet dining.

THE DEAL: May — 15 percent off fishing packages. That would mean, for example, $3,017 per angler for a three-day/four-night package (all-inclusive with VIP transfers at airport, food, alcohol and laundry) based on two anglers versus the normal rate of $3,550. THE UPSIDES: Flat seas are typical at this time. Marlin can be excellent and mahi numerous now. The resort is less busy. THE DOWNSIDES: None, really. Discount is to offset many resort patrons who spend their summer months fishing back home on their own boats. Despite what many assume, the rainy season here doesn’t begin until September, so weather is not an issue. NOTE: The resort is closed June through October.

COURTESY CASA VIEJA LODGE (TOP), PAT FORD (BOTTOM), COURTESY CINDY CLOCK / SEWARD.COM (OPPOSITE, TOP), COURTESY CRACKERJACK CHARTERS (OPPOSITE, BOTTOM LEFT), COURTESY CROCODILE BAY RESORT (OPPOSITE, BOTTOM RIGHT)

nytime is a good time to plan a fishing vacation, but now — in the dead of winter — many anglers are likely to find additional motivation. Anytime is a good time to go on a fishing vacation, but some times are better than others, with various factors in play in the timing decision. For a lot of us, among those factors are costs — costs within our budget to embark on a big adventure for the year, or perhaps costs that allow us to squeeze in a second trip somewhere.


crackerjackcharters.com Seward, Alaska THE

OPERATION: Crackerjack Charters has been a mainstay of Seward sport fishing for many years, with a 31-foot Farallon (for up to six anglers) and a 43-foot aluminum boat, custom-built for these waters (for up to 14 anglers). Trips range from half-day salmon fishing in Resurrection Bay to multiday outings in remote waters of the Gulf of Alaska. The silver (coho) salmon, for which Seward is particularly known, are popular targets in July and August. But big halibut, lingcod and rockfish can be caught most of the time. THE DEAL: May, early June and September — discounted day rate of $250 per person (available by calling and booking with Crackerjack directly), which is $100 off the peak-season day rate of $350. THE UPSIDES: Unlike during peak season, space on short notice is often available. Halibut enthusiasts often find some of the year’s best fishing during this offseason. The run to the fishing grounds is often shorter now than during peak season. Finally, Seward is far less crowded than midJune through August, making it much easier to find reservations for accommodations and restaurants.

Seward, Alaska

THE DOWNSIDES:

The weather is certainly more unpredictable in May and, particularly, September. Along with beautiful days are likely to be windy, rough days. Fishing for silver salmon (which aren’t much around in June) and lingcod (closed through June) isn’t available until July. NOTE: Crackerjack Charters closes from October through midApril. May is a good month to take advantage of a Crackerjack Charters fishing/hotel combo; during June, you can take part in the annual Seward Halibut Derby.

crocodilebay.com Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica THE

OPERATION: A fishing operation and a whole lot more, Crocodile Bay bills itself as a premier sport-fishing and ecotour resort. Located near the bottom of the Osa Peninsula in the southern part of the country, it’s particularly known for roosterfish, sailfish and blue marlin, plus yellowfin tuna, among other species. The lodge is located on 44 acres of manicured rainforest jungle. For fishing nearshore and offshore, Crocodile Bay offers a fleet of 33- and 35-foot tower express boats and 24- and 25-foot center console Boston Whalers.

THE

DEAL: April 16 through December 14 — 13.5 percent less than peak season, so a three-day standard fishing package with transfers will be $4,796 for two anglers versus $5,540 during peak season. THE UPSIDES: Summer months are actually the best time, as a rule, for blue marlin and dorado, and roosterfishing nearshore remains reliable. September is the best month to experience the sensational migration through the Golfo Dulce here of migrating humpback whales, a memorable addition to any fishing day. Temperatures are generally cooler, and more precipitation at this time means the rainforest is at its lush best. THE DOWNSIDES: Sailfish numbers are down. Also, a

Left: Behemoth halibut, like this 2016 Seward Halibut Derby winner, caught by Crackerjack Charters Capt. Francisca Barnett, are prime “offseason” targets.

Crocodile Bay Resort

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fishing trips; a quieter time, with more couples than families booking late summer and fall; fall is generally an outstanding time to fish these waters, which also tend to be at their clearest in summer and early fall. THE DOWNSIDES: Late summer can be oppressively humid (unless you happen to be spending time in the water) and beyond commonplace thunderstorms, there is, into October, a definite risk of tropical-weather systems. NOTE: Hawks Cay is open all year.

flipside of cooler weather now is more rainfall. However, this is not typically all-day rainfall, but late-afternoon/evening showers (by which time anglers are often back at the dock). At times, winds can make offshore a bit sporty but still fishable, plus inside the Golfo Dulce calm-water fishing is always available. NOTE: Crocodile Bay is open all year. The main driver behind the discounted rate is the fact that many Croc Bay regulars spend time from late spring into fall fishing north in Alaska or Canada and in general around home. Also, this time of reduced rates is particularly popular with families looking to mix eco-tour activities with fishing.

Above right: OK, it is pretty steamy in the Keys during late-summer days, but by going after dark, anglers find the conditions perfect and big tarpon at their most active.

THE

OPERATION: Situated roughly halfway down the Florida Keys, this large, luxury resort is a gateway to fishing reefs and blue water on the Atlantic or, to the west, vast Florida Bay’s skinny waters. But it offers much more in terms of water-related and other activities. Guests can choose from a variety of rooms,

suites and villas. THE DEAL: Late August through December 17 — resort rates are substantially less than during peak season. For example, a Sunset Villa would run $249 (per night) at this time versus $674 in peak season. Also those with their own boat will enjoy special dock rates at this time and, depending on boat size, might even qualify for complimentary dockage. THE UPSIDES: Less competition for everything in the Keys, including guided/chartered

Hawks Cay Resort

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THE OPERATION:

One of the best-known charter operations that fishes the fabulous Isla Mujeres sailfishery, Keen M boasts a fleet of three boats — a 41-foot convertible flybridge and a 36- and 34-foot express. Capt. Anthony Mendillo is widely recognized as an authority on this fishery, and specializes in bluewater fly-fishing. THE DEAL: March 16 through August 15 — up to $250 off the peak-season rate on Keen M. So during spring and summer, a full day of sailfishing for up to four anglers is $1,200 total; that’s versus $1,300 to $1,450, depending on exact timing, the rest of the year. Also, only in June, July and August, Keen M offers a five-hour trip for $750. THE UPSIDES: Summer offers some of the year’s nicest weather and seas to be offshore. Things are less crowded around Cancun, and hotel rates are lower. THE DOWNSIDES: Mainly that while sailfishing can still be quite productive, it’s definitely slower than in the winter. On the other hand, this is a perfect time for some great reef-fishing action and variety. NOTE: Summer is also the time to book a trip to snorkel with the whale sharks (or do a full day, with half-fishing and halfsnorkeling). That’s when these waters are home to one of the greatest concentrations of whale

ADRIAN E. GRAY (TOP), COURTESY HAWKS CAY RESORT (BOTTOM), COURTESY BEACH-ON-MAP.COM (OPPOSITE, TOP LEFT), LEON WERDINGER / ALAMY (OPPOSITE, TOP RIGHT), COURTESY NO BOUNDARIES OMAN (OPPOSITE, BOTTOM)

hawkscay.com Duck Key (near Islamorada), Florida

keen-m.com Isla Mujeres, Mexico


Isla Mujeres, Mexico

sharks and manta rays in the world. Keen M offers fishing yearround, though its three-boat fleet is reduced to one boat during fall.

NLQJƓVKHUFKDUWHUVFR Sitka, Alaska THE OPERATION:

This luxury fishing lodge sits atop a hill in Sitka, with balconies offering sweeping views of Sitka Sound. Guest rooms are generous and include full kitchens, though the lodge prides itself on its gourmet meals. Anglers fish from 26- to 30-foot Alaska-style cruisers, with enclosed, heated cabins. THE DEAL: The middle two weeks of May and approximately the first half of September — $300 off per person on three-day, four-night trips. So during these months, an angler would pay $2,295 versus $2,595, June through August. THE UPSIDES: May is typically peak time for king salmon, and regulations often allow for moregenerous daily limits at this time versus later on. September is prime time for big silver salmon. Both months are great for halibut, lingcod and rockfish — and both months allow skippers to fish for halibut anywhere (Sitka Sound is closed to halibut fishing June through August). THE DOWNSIDES: One of the few drawbacks is simply that you won’t get the variety of salmon during these months because

Even if huge giant trevally, like that below, are fewer in number off Oman during the winter months, they’re still around — along with a host of other game fish not always available.

Sitka, Alaska

May is king (chinook) time, but silvers aren’t yet around; by September silvers are thick, but kings are relatively scarce. NOTE: Bookings are lighter early and late in the season more because of perception than reality. That is, not all of Alaska is colder and stormier then; in fact, May is historically relatively sunny and dry in southeast Alaska, and September weather is pretty much a repeat of August. Kingfisher closes each year from Sept. 15 through May 15.

noboundariesoman.com Salalah, Oman THE

OPERATION: Offering what he calls “the total Omani fishing experience,” Ed Nicholas

puts guests in modern lodges and takes them to prime Indian Ocean fishing spots in one of three 33-foot center consoles with twin 200 or 150 Yamahas. The Hallaniyat Islands, 30 miles offshore, remains barely fished and offers some of the biggest giant trevally in the world. THE DEAL: The last half of November and all of February — up to four anglers can have the operation’s boat and crew for $700 per day. That’s versus $1,200 per day during peak season (October, early November, and March through April). THE UPSIDES: Perfect weather and flat seas are prevalent. A great time for light-tackle variety fishing with plenty of action. THE DOWNSIDES: The premier target here — ginormous giant trevally — are available but not in

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tropicstar.com Piñas Bay, Panama THE OPERATION:

One of the world’s pre-eminent fishing resorts, legendary Tropic Star, on the southernmost Panama coast, can be reached only by boat or plane. Located at the edge of the Darien jungle, the lodge offers 19 deluxe rooms. It boasts a fleet of 13 classic 31 Bertram sportfishers equipped with top-notch tackle. While the coast off Piñas Bay is home to all the eastern Pacific’s game fishes, these waters are particularly known for their variety of billfishes. Besides large Pacific sailfish, three species of marlin are commonly caught: stripes, blues and blacks, often over famed Zane Grey Reef. More than 300 IGFA world records have come from Tropic Star/ Piñas Bay. THE DEAL: April, May and June — take approximately 20 percent off standard brochure rates. So, for example, based on two people, a three-day, four-night trip during this time would run $3,060 per person versus $3,800

Tropic Star Lodge

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FEBRUARY 2017

during the peak season. UPSIDES: During these months, nearshore fishing peaks for coastal trophies such as big roosterfish and cubera. THE DOWNSIDES: There are better months for marlin. Sailfishing can be plenty productive. Blue marlin are caught but not as often as during winter and late summer, and blacks are unlikely during this period. NOTE: The resort says the increase in targeting the nearshore coastal game fish has really increased in recent years. Tropic Star closes each year during October and November. THE

zancudolodge.com Playa Zancudo, Costa Rica THE OPERATION: Billing itself as a boutique fishing lodge, the Zancudo Lodge relies on fast, nimble center consoles, including two state-of-the-art Contender 32s for fishing both nearshore and offshore. The lodge, located just above the Panama border, sits at the edge of a black-sand beach near a remote jungle village. Besides fishing, visitors can surf, paddleboard, hike or zip-line the jungle, and more. Zancudo boasts of being rated among the top 25 hotels in Costa

Rica by TripAdvisor. THE DEAL: June through August — a four-day trip is charged at the rate for a three-day trip, which amounts to a break of about 13 percent. So a four-day trip for two will cost $3,495 per person versus the peak-season rate for the same trip of $3,995 per person. THE UPSIDES: This can be prime time for big schools of yellowfin, and not just footballs, but triple-digit fish. Blue marlin move in, and some days offshore during this time have produced double-digit marlin raised or released. Pressure is down now in nearshore fishing areas also. THE DOWNSIDES: Yes, it is rainier during this period. However, that rain tends to take the form of lateafternoon scattered showers, often back at the resort after a day of fishing. NOTE: The Zancudo Lodge is closed September and October, when rain throughout the day is most likely (though fishing remains outstanding).

ADRIAN E. GRAY (TOP), COURTESY ZANCUDO LODGE (CENTER), COURTESY TROPIC STAR LODGE (BOTTOM)

Trophy roosterfish (right) are a coveted prize for Zancudoarea nearshore anglers, who find less competition for the game fish during the uncrowded spring months.

anything like the numbers during peak season. NOTE: No Boundaries Oman closes May through most of September because that is monsoon season — very wet and very rough — and again in December and January, when currents are too light and winds from offshore (filled with sand) too strong.


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Lilliputian: A larval Atlantic sailďŹ sh, barely 2 inches long, prowls its macroplanktonic world just below the surface of the Gulf Stream off southeastern Florida.

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