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November 21, 2008

Rating the World's Top Game Fish

68 experts measure the performance of popular species - and you can too!

It shouldn't be too hard to understand how this could be since each scored high in all three areas.
For speed, blue marlin rated 4.5, 1/10 of a point behind category-leading wahoo (which may indeed be faster pound for pound, though I suspect a really big wahoo could never touch  a really big blue marlin in a long sprint). At 4.0, tarpon rate third for speed among inshore fish, just behind permit and a bit more  behind bonefish.
In the stamina department, blue (and black) marlin rank high at 3.9, down a bit behind swordfish and large tunas; at 4.2, tarpon are just 2/10 of a point behind the inshore champ in stamina, giant trevally.
Finally, the important attribute of fight quality really pushes both species well into top-dog territory overall. Blue marlin head the offshore pack at 4.6 out of 5; six other species trail at 4.0 to 4.2. Tarpon enjoy a huge spread in the fight- quality area, hitting the highest mark of any species, 4.7 out of 5. (The closest inshore species is roosterfish, with a 3.7 in quality of fight.)  
For the honors of runners-up for  top-game-fish status, two species earned a total score of at least 12: black marlin and bonefish. I found it noteworthy that these two runners-up were diverse - with marlin favoring the deep ocean.

How We Like Our Fish to Fight
The three attributes listed as components of a fish's fight - speed, stamina, quality of fight - are clearly distinct. With little doubt, the game-fish preferences of anglers have much to do with what they look for in a fight. Wondering what attributes are most popular/desirable, I asked participants which they'd put at the top of their list. A few chose speed, but most, fairly equally divided, said either endurance/ stamina or the ability to put on a spectacular display and fight unpredictably.

Give Me a Jumper
David Granville, one of Australia's top big-game anglers and writers, says make mine a jumper: "Any fight     lasting more than 15 minutes gets  boring to me, so you can have your fish with stamina and endurance, because I don't have any!"
And SF senior editor Andy Hahn asks, "How many anglers hoot and holler with sheer pleasure while crouched down in a harness, straining to lift a 120-pound tuna from the depths?"
Bob Hoose, a Southern California-based expert with tackle-manufacturing giant, Pure Fishing, says, "Fish that jump are far more sporting than those that don't. Jumping game fish cause all sorts of problems - pulled hooks,  broken lines or even damage to a boat or angler," a thought echoed by Capt. J.R. Waits of Charleston, South Carolina.