Pic: Dominic Soave tags and releases a marlin during the 63rd Annual Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Tournament.

Tournaments around the world are becoming increasingly concerned with conservation and ethical fishing practices. Every year, more events adopt catch-and-release formats and promote the use of circle hooks to support healthier fish releases.

The Ernest Hemingway International Billfish Tournament is one of the latest to join the trend; their 63rd annual competition took place May 20 – 25th in Cuba, and IGFA Trustee Martin Arostegui, President Rob Kramer, and Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser were on hand to help train captains and anglers in employing more release-friendly fishing methods and recognize the team who released the most marlin while using circle hooks.

The IGFA strongly encourages the use of non-offset circle hooks when fishing with natural bait (alive or dead) because extensive research has demonstrated that circle hooks gut hook significantly fewer fish without sacrificing catch rates.

The Commodore of the Hemingway Club, IGFA Representative Jose Miguel Diaz Escrich, and the President of the Marlin Nautical and Marinas Group, Francisco Sanchez Perez, first welcomed the IGFA to share this research and introduce circle hooks to the Hemingway Tournament in 2010.

Since then Arostegui, Kramer, and Schratwieser have returned regularly to help captains and crews learn how to rig baits with circle hooks, as well as share information on the status of billfish species throughout the world, satellite tags and current technology used in billfish research, and targeting world record fish.

“Cuba has such vibrant sport fishing opportunities,” Arostegui said, referencing the numerous IGFA Slam and Trophy fish that have been caught in the region. “Commodore Escrich and the Marlin Group have worked hard to make sure the Cuban fishery remains healthy for sportsmen and eco-tourists for years to come by supporting the transition to circle hooks.”

This year the Hemingway Tournament and its directors, the Marlin Group, took an even more progressive step by making the event circle hook optional and encouraging teams to modify their tackle and release catches when possible. The IGFA recognized the team and captain who caught and released the most marlin on circle hooks, and Arostegui presented a David Wirth circle hook sculpture trophy and pendant to the team from Colombia for winning the honor.

“By encouraging angler education and transitioning to the use of circle hooks,” Kramer commented following the closing ceremonies, “the Hemingway International Billfish Tournament is a great example of how tournaments can take the best research we have to make their event better for anglers and better for the long term health of our sport.”

For more information on the IGFA’s Release Rules and Recommendations, please click here. Questions about helping your tournament transition to an all-release format? Contact IGFA Conservation Director Jason Schratwieser at jschratwieser@igfa.org .