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April 16, 2010

Record on the Line

A blow-by-blow account of Charles Perry wiring a 57:1 world record blue marlin...

Ever wondered what it is like to achieve a 20:1 capture? What about a 57:1.

Well, I was fortunate enough to be part of that action, first hand...We had seen a tailer only 10 minutes earlier and Capt. Bark Garnsey was taking the same general course as the fish when he spoke softly over the loudspeaker.

"Right, flat, it's him?  Can't tell what size."

The overcast day was not helping our bait and switch method of picking the right line class to throw. Stewart Campbell, the angler, picked up the 80-pound rod. He was just dropping the bait back on the 80 when the fish went to the left rigger.

Capt. Bark got a better look at the fish and called for the 6-pound outfit. Stewart took a couple of quick turns on the 80 and handed it to Hamish Burns, the gaff man, to finish getting it back in the boat. I grabbed the mackerel on the 6-pound rod and put it in the water as Stewart was taking the rod out of the rocket launcher.

I immediately went for my gloves. With the left rigger in, the fish went after the left flat and was engaging Capt. Bark in a tug of war.
As soon as Steward had his bait in position, the fish left Bark's teaser and made a nice strike on the mackerel. As Stewart dropped back to the fish, Capt. Bark also started easing the boat back.

There was no other way but easy because we had handicapped ourselves with a full 3,000 liters of fuel pumped into the back tanks the evening before. We also had our aft water tank full -- another 400 liters.
Nothing like a challenge!

As Stewart came tight on the fish with a whopping 1.5-pounds of drag, we picked up speed in reverse. The fish started up sea, with us in hot pursuit. Now Capt. Bark knows better than anyone that backing up-sea is not the way to chase a fish, but we were so close that he thought I would get the leader any second. Unfortunately, it didn't happen that way!
From the tower, Capt Bark could see the fish the whole time. He anticipated a down-sea turn from the fish as he positioned the boat to cut the fish off. The fish fooled us and kept going up sea for a while. Needless to say, there was a lot of water inside the cockpit.
When the fish did turn down sea, I saw the double and the snap out of the water and might have had a chance at the leader, but at that instant the sea busted over Stewart,  Hamish (holding the gaff), and myself.
By the time I could see again, the leader had disappeared. We continued chasing the fish through a complete 360-degree turn, and Bark muttered a few unsavory words about the sluggishness of the boat.

The fish got in the white water and seemed confused. I glanced over at Stewart's reel and he was putting on line with every turn of the handle. Out of the whitewater came the short double, the snap and then the leader. I reached out with both hands and pinched the leader under the snap with my right hand and took an immediate backhand wrap on my left.

Now we had something.  The fish took me to the corner of the stern but I got lucky and turned him. As he started back up the side, I got more leader and stepped back so Hamish could stroke him. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Hamish leaning back with the rope in hand going to the cleat. I was feeling a whole bunch better now. Stewart came over my other shoulder with the second gaff.

At some point in all this chaos, Capt. Bark blurted, ³Out of gear, out of gear,² and within seconds he was down the ladder and had the third gaff in the fish. After that, we let the fish calm down and we calmed down ourselves.

After a few minutes, we untied the gaffs and walked the fish around to the transom door. As soon as we slid the fish on the deck we put the tape on him ­ 52-inch girth and 96-inch short length.

Stewart punched the numbers into his calculator within seconds and the formula weight came to 325 pounds -- big enough to break the record.

When we weighed the fish on an old crane in Mindelo, Cape Verde the correct weight proved a bit higher --  at 336 pounds it broke the record by 88.

Mission accomplished!