Get a bunch of hard-core fishermen in a room, and throw out this simple question: Which is the world's top game fish?
Then, turn up the AC and get ready for some heat.
The seemingly simple question generates surprising passion among anglers, nearly all of whom seem to have strong and varying opinions. Pondering which fish is the most challenging/satisfying adversary on hook-and-line has been the source of endless argument and speculation as long as I can remember, and if anything, has only picked up steam in recent years as a frequent fishing-forum topic.
Unlike football enthusiasts who have a Super Bowl to (kinda/sorta) settle the matter of the toughest team, we can't match up fish against fish. But at least we can speculate with an organized, somewhat-scientific approach - something that, as far as I know, hasn't been undertaken in a major way.
So we did it, calling upon 68 experts - leading skippers, renowned anglers and prominent tackle-industry experts.
The result is the world's first quantitative, systematic, analytical index of game-fish ratings.
The Index Explained
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of the numbers that tell all, some explanation is required.
While rating a fish's capabilities when hooked will always be subjective, this index required participants to assign a numerical ranking for each species.
I derived a list of game-fish species for this index based on their popularity and importance, often over a large geographical area, placing each into one of three lists: offshore (blue-water pelagics), nearshore (coastal pelagics and reef-/structure-loving fishes) and inshore (fishes of flats, bays and estuaries).