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Ronan's report

Wednesday 09 January, 2013

20 years ago I became a member of the IGFA (International Game Fish Association). I liked the idea of being a member in an organization supporting the conservation of game fish.

A few years later I fished for bonefish and barracuda around the Bahamian Islands. Being in the lodge in the evening I met a well experienced fly fisherman at the dinner table. He was wearing a badge on his cap presenting him as an “IGFA WORLD RECORD HOLDER”. Sure I was interested in hearing the details of that catch. He then told me to have caught a 10 pounder barracuda. I smiled and ask him, if I could wear his cap for the evening though, since I caught a barracuda of around 20 pound in that day. He smiled, too and asked: “Well, I don’t think you have landed it on a 4 pound class leader, have you?”

For a moment I was really wondering and then I asked him how he could land such a tremendous fighter on a soft leader like that!? He told me to have broken off over 30 barracudas before landing this one RECORD fish on that size of leader strength.

That evening I din’t really know what to think about the whole story behind that world record catch. Back home I checked the record book of the IGFA and found many similar records reported in that book. It did not only make me very sad about it but forced me to quit my membership little later.

I simply couldn’t understand why someone would risk breaking off a lot of fish to finally get qualified as a world record holder in a low strength tippet class.

These days now I read this:

“If you want to get your huge fish in the IGFA record book, you have to rig up right.”

Well, in my understanding you have to rig up completely WRONG, if you want your fish entering the low strength leader class in that book!

Looking up the current records for fly caught (great) barracudas the IGFA record book presents:

9,18Kg (2lb tippet) ; 11,56Kg (4 lb tippet) ; 14,4Kg (6lb tippet) ; 14,62Kg (8lb tippet) ; 17,12Kg (12lb tippet) ; 17,46Kg (16lb tippet) ; 21,77Kg (20lb tippet)

It seems to be pretty logical to me, that the increase in leader strength means an increase in the size of the caught record fish, too. Personally I use a leader strength being above the IGFA scale for barracuda. Why? Because the barracuda is one of the strongest and wildest fighters we fly fishermen can fish for. Of course we will break off the bigger ones (as well as most of the smaller ones, too) on a 2 lb class leader. To me there is nothing heroic in such a world record catch. Indeed it feels to be opposite to me. Many fish will be pierced and all fights will take much longer than they would have to.

But then again it is the IGFA presenting this as their mission:

“The International Game Fish Association is a not-for-profit organization committed to the conservation of game fish and the promotion of responsible, ethical angling practices through science, education, rule making and record keeping.”

I am glad that most of the guides I know do not adjust the leader to IGFA rules but to make their clients being able to keep the fight short AND successful instead of forcing a broken leader due to the smallest mistake.

I hope one day the IGFA will close at least that part of the record book forcing their members to weigh a fish, measure it in length AND girth, photographing it from the side AND the top after having played it for an unnecessary long time due to a WRONG leader strength. To me this is completely wrong education in how to quickly play land and release the fish in order to give it the best chance of survival. Besides the record book the IGFA indeed runs a lot of great projects to help conservating game fish. That is why I still would like to rejoin them that one day!

For us it may be about a record badge, but for the fish it’s about life!

I hope I could inspire some of you to rethink about official record catches and what they often mean to the fish.

Good luck in catching your record fish!

All my best


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