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May 09, 2011

Tred Barta

Two days prior to a major, mid-Atlantic white marlin tournament, my telephone rang at 7:45 p.m. I will never forget the call. "Tred, my name is Bob Burson, chief pilot for Mr. B. I'm descending out of 31,000 feet, estimating Palm Beach in 30 minutes. You're going to New Jersey." Evidently "Mr. B." (my client and friend) missed six shots in a row at whites while practice-fishing and was now looking for help to get him back on his game. When I got him on the telephone, I explained I wouldn't fish the tournament with him as it was a kill event, and I don't believe in them.
While I sat in a frigid duck blind recently, the wind chill hovering around minus 20 degrees or so, a friend asked, "When you catch a tuna that your family is going to eat, what's the best way to take care of it to keep it from spoiling before you get it home?" Professional tuna fisherman agree there's only one way to care for a yellowfin, albacore, bigeye or bluefin tuna, and that's an ice brine. When you've cleaned thousands of tuna, you understand how easily these fish bruise. Obviously, you'd prefer if the fish didn't thrash around in the cockpit before being subdued.
It's a shame. Many of my wealthier friends on Long Island don't go duck hunting or upland shooting anymore. They've been participating in high-volume-release duck and pheasant shoots, where a group of hunters get to shoot at hundreds of farm-raised birds that are released by hand right in front of them. It is one way of maintaining the resource and makes for extremely productive hunting.
In the last five tournaments I've fished, I've placed first twice and in the top seven the other three times. That kind of record matches that of some of the best skippers in the world. While many people consider me one of the top guns with clean, dead-bait fishing, just as many others think I'm just a jerk living in the dark ages. What do I think? I absolutely feel that they're both right. I have proven that on any given day I'm capable of being one of the best. I rank myself in the world's top 75 captains, and to me that's as high as I'll ever get.
In the world today, the top 10 dead-bait billfish anglers - or I should say hookup artists - are not big-boat owners or anglers. They are professional mates. This is how it happens 90 percent of the time: The billfish takes a swipe at a bait, the mate drops the bait back, hooks it up and then hands the rod off to the boss man or charter client. And if it doesn't play out this way, more often than not the guests or hot-shot anglers manage to make a colossal mess that the mate must then sort out.
There's no way to say this other than to come right out and admit it. The day before the IGFA Barta Blue Marlin Classic at Walker's Cay, Bahamas, I came within one wave of literally sinking my new 28-foot Albemarle. I bet the brass at Albemarle will cringe when they read this. With a northeast wind at 25 knots, seas were an honest 6 to 8 feet and snotty. Trolling four clean ballyhoo and a mullet on 30-pound, I missed the first shot on the flat line. Then angler Martin Landey missed a left short rigger.
We started the last day of fishing in the Sport Fishing /Bacardi Adventure slow-trolling 18 nautical miles northeast of Punta Cana on the Dominican Republic's northeast coast.
During the Cangrejos Blue Marlin Tournament out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, last August 7, Mercedes Domenech hooked and fought an estimated 700-plus-pound blue marlin on 80-pound-test. Her husband, Angel Rivera Domenech, and their two sons Angel Rivera Rios and Pedro Rivera Rios, ages 27 and 25, were also on board. The Domenech family is an experienced fishing team respected and well-liked in Puerto Rico and around the world. Let me set the scene: Mom was in the chair fighting the fish while Angel Jr. handled the flybridge controls.
Some people say that knives, fish hooks, axes and chain saws can't be too sharp. In real life (or at least in my life), that's not true. A friend from Palm Beach, Florida, who has no budget constraints, recently insisted I take his marlin hooks to a jeweler, who sharpened them on a diamond wheel. My God, these 11/0 Mustad 698s were so sharp you couldn't even walk close to them without getting cut. The result was I pulled more hooks in one week than I have in the last six months. Now, as soon as I get these $35-per-hook razors back, I dull them a hair with sandpaper and a small file.
The moose must have weighed 2,000 pounds. I believe it would have scored in the top three in the Pope and Young World Record Archery Book. Fifty yards away, I needed to be 15 yards closer before I'd feel comfortable shooting my longbow with wooden arrows in the 20-knot crosswind. My heart was pounding. I silently drew back, aimed and released my arrow. Deflected by a twig, the arrow's broad head firmly embedded in the bone of the moose's massive rack. The moose ran unharmed across the tundra with my arrow in his antlers. Those of you who hunt know exactly what that felt like.
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