Tuesday, July 29, 2014

IGFA Great Marlin Race Gets Off to a Roaring Start

Today marks the opening day of the 55th Annual Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. It is also the sixth year for the Great Marlin Race, which was launched here in celebration of the HIBT's 50th Anniversary.

As the teams started arriving at the "Shouting Room" (a giant open-air tent where the angling teams assemble before and after fishing), the IGFA's Eric Combast and I knew that we had our work cut out for us. We had lined up sponsors for 4-1/2 of the 10 tags we had with us, and being optimists, we brought 6 down.

Within minutes, Whangaroa Billfish Club's Keith Allan stepped forward and offered to sponsor a tag to send out with his lovely wife Janice. I was happy to oblige, and glad to have their continued support in this year's race.

I set up tags for Rocky Franich from the Pajaro Valley Game Fish Club, Ralph Czabayski of the Game Fishing Club of South Australia, and last year's winning team of Mitchell and Marty Firestein, who are fishing this year as part of the Laguna Niguel Billfish Club.

Marty Firestein shows off his new IGMR lure while Mitch looks on.

I had the pleasure of getting on Humdinger with co-founders of the Great Marlin Race, Bob and Sally Kurz, also with Laguna Niguel. It was just coming up on 10 AM when a nice 250 lb. blue came up on the short rigger. Sally was in the chair and watched this great fish grayhound across the surface about 50 yards off the stern. Once she dove, though, the fight was on. Sally settled in for a tough battle, gaining only six inches of line at a time. 

Sally Kurz battles a nice blue while husband Bob (left) and deckhand Brett Fay (right) provide support. 

After more than an hour, deckhand Brett Fay leadered the marlin alongside the boat, setting up Bob Kurz for a perfect shot with the tag. Moments later she was away, swimmimng strong.

As it turned out, this was actually the second satellite deployed so far today - the first being the one Keith Allan sponsored this morning, which was placed on a marlin while Sally was battling hers.

This is a fantastic start to the event, and hopefully marks the beginning of a great week. Keep checking back! 

Friday, March 16, 2012

A Busy New Year

The past several months have witnessed some amazing outcomes for the Great Marlin Race (GMR) program, and 2012 is getting off to a fantastic start as well! Perhaps the highlight of 2011 was establishing a collaboration with the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). After seeing the success we had in 2009 and 2010 at the Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT), IGFA Board Chairman Paxson Offield, IGFA President Rob Kramer and IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser approached us with the idea of taking the Great Marlin Race to the next level – with a goal of running GMR events at 5 different interntional tournaments in the 2011-2012 season.

The 2011 HIBT GMR was the best ever, with ten tags sponsored very early on in the tournament. As happened in 2009, several of the tagged marlin headed southeast from Hawaii, with two of them passing all the way into the southern hemisphere. The winning marlin, sponsored by West Marine, reported from a point 2,188 nautical miles away from where it was tagged.

The inaugural IGFA Great Marlin Race event happened at the Club de Nautico de San Juan’s 58th Annual International Billfish Tournament on September 5-11. Because of inclement weather, only six tags were deployed during the tournament. Over the following 4 months, five of them reported from within 600 nautical miles of where they were tagged, scattered from the North Coast of Venezuela to a point 589 miles east-southeast of Puerto Rico. On January 5, 2012 – exactly 120 days after it was deployed—the final tag popped off and began transmitting information. The 575-pound blue marlin had traveled southeast some 4,776 nm from where it was tagged and crossed the equator to have its tag pop off near the coast of Angola, Africa.

We also ran a “Blacks vs. Blues” event at the 25th Black Marlin Classic at Lizard Island Australia, where five tags were deployed on black marlin over two weeks in early October – including three on giant girls over 850 pounds! Three of the tags reported from within 350 nautical miles of Lizard Island, but two of them traveled nearly all the way past Phoenix Island – winding up 2,325 and 2,739 nautical miles away!

2012 is getting off to a busy start, with six tags sponsored at the South African Deep Sea Angling Association Classic February 22-25, and ten more going out at the Gamex and AIBT tournaments in Exmouth Australia, starting March 10 and running through the 23rd. More information about these events can be found on the IGFA website: http://igmr.igfa.org/.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Back Home - and the Race Nears Full-Swing

The 2011 HIBT was a fantastic success, and the 2011 HIBT Great Marlin Race has also gotten off to a great start!  When fishing started on Monday morning, we already had 5 tags sponsored - which speaks volumes to the degree to which the billfishing community has gotten behind the Great Marlin Race program.  It is really exciting to have so many folks who wanted to get involved right off the bat!

The boats blast off at the "Start Fishing" call

By the end of the week we had a full complement of ten tags sponsored - and five tags already deployed.  So far in the week following the end of the tournament, three more tags have been deployed (for a total of eight) - and the last two are out on boats today, in hopes that they'll find their way on to a cooperative marlin.

I'll be updating the website in the coming days with complete lists of teams and sponsors and getting the interactive map finished up - as well as providing any breaking news about tags reporting, etc.  So keep checking back often!  Also - in addition to updating the website, blogging and tweeting, I do send out blast e-mails as well whenever any significant event occurs.  If you'd like to be added to the list, feel free to send an email to:  randy@greatmarlinrace.org and I'll make sure your name is there!

As always, 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Here We Go Again!

Since my arrival in Kona on Friday afternoon, it has been a whirlwind of activity.  We started with the Charter Boat Meeting right after I arrived, where all the excellent captains and crew members were briefed on the rules and expectations for the tournament.  It was fun seeing so many familiar faces - and to meet some folks whom I've been wanting to meet for a long time.

On Saturday the teams started arriving to register.  I was really struck by how international this tournament is - with representative teams from all around the globe.
The team briefing is in full swing!

Sunday morning was the team briefing, followed by the HIBT Kona Parade.  Who doesn't love a billfish parade?
The Laguna Niguel Billfish Club showing their true colors...

Sunday evening was capped off with a wonderful party at the Hale Halawai.  Among the highlights of this annual event is the singing of the national anthems of each and every country in the tournament.  It is really a treat to see all the teams of each nation gather up front to sing along with the orchestra.

And this morning I had to hit the dock at 0600, with tags and poles rigged and ready to be handed off to the angling teams as they board the boats.  A total of six tags went out this morning - and although fishing has been good, I don't believe any have been deployed yet.  I'll keep you posted!
Opening morning at Kailua Pier

Also - if you just can't wait for the blogs, I've also set up a Twitter feed which (if my thumbs will cooperate), will allow me to give minute-by-minute updates when exciting stuff happens!  You can follow along @greatmarlinrace.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Exciting Times Indeed!

The past few weeks have been very exciting indeed for the Great Marlin Race.  It was an amazing experience to assemble the tracks as the final datasets came in, and see for the first time where all the marlin had gone, and how the tracks from 2010 compared to the ones we got in 2009.
Pacific blue marlin tracks from the Great Marlin Race 

2009 (orange) and 2010 (white)
When you see the tracks on top of one another, there are both similarities and differences that really stand out.  For instance, there seems to be a corridor, of sorts, to the southeast of Hawaii that several marlin followed both in 2009 and in 2010.  However, whereas several of the 2009 fish went on to head south towards the Marquesas, in 2010 we saw a broader diversity of destinations - both further west and further east.  It will be interesting to do more analysis on these tracks, to examine the underlying oceanography and see if we can get some clues as to why they may have done one thing one year, and something else in the next.  The take-home message, though, is that it is important to observe these kinds of migrations for several years running before making any broad generalizations about behavior, or the factors that shape it.

It has also been a very exciting time to look ahead to the future of the Great Marlin Race.  We have already received a grant from West Marine to support a tag in 2011, and we are working with a variety of other corporations, foundations and individuals to help our billfish research and conservation programs to continue to develop and to grow in the years ahead.  I look forward to sharing more information here as the details fall into place!

Finally, as always, I want to express our deepest gratitude to all the people who have supported, and continue to support the Great Marlin Race program.  To the anglers, captains and crews and all the folks at the HIBT, to the staff here at Hopkins Marine Station and the Center for Ocean Solutions, thank you for an amazing year!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nine Tags a Leaping

What an amazing race this has been!!!  We're now 137 days after the first tag was deployed, and we have nine tags that successfully reported in - including a race leader that traveled 2,282 nautical miles to the east, breaking the 2009 winner's distance of 2,225 nautical miles.  (It is worth noting that one marlin tagged in 2009 with a non-race tag actually went a bit further, at 2,651 nautical miles.)

Nine out of ten tags have reported in so far!
I suppose it is fitting for the season that our latest tag came up not far from Christmas Island (although it was actually closer to Washington Island).

So on that note, I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - in which we will officially declare the winner of our 2010 Great Marlin Race!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

We're in the home stretch!

With just a few weeks to go, we have six tags up and four still in the water.  As we approach the final days of the race, I check the satellite system every day for new pop-ups - hoping that we see a new tag from a marlin that has traveled further than the last one; and when there isn't one, hoping that means the remaining tags are still out there, being carried to still more distant places.  We'll certainly know more in the next few weeks - with the final tags due to pop up by the end of December.

By any measure, this has already been a very successful year - and with luck, the best might be yet to come!  We had great participation in the race, with ten tags sponsored.  We've already received a grant from West Marine for a tag in the 2011 race, and we've been contacted by several other organizations expressing an interest in getting involved one way or another.  As we had hoped, it appears that our program is beginning to grow!

Needless to say, none of that would have been possible without the fantastic support the Great Marlin Race has received from everyone involved.  From the folks at the HIBT and our various sponsors, to the anglers, captains and crews to put the tags out, to the data management teams who help us do our work - the GMR simply wouldn't happen without the generous contributions of a great many indivduals.

So for all of you, as we begin the Holiday Season, please accept my warmest wishes and deepest thanks.