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Angler Lands First Billfish in a Bittersweet Moment

July 13, 2008

By LEE TOLLIVER

By Lee Tolliver

The Virginian-Pilot

Bryan Whitehorne’s first offshore fishing adventure provided a lot of experiences.

Whitehorne, 18, of Virginia Beach , caught his first billfish on a recent trip out of Oregon Inlet.

“It was awesome,” the Tidewater Community College sophomore said of catching a white marlin. “A once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

But it wasn’t all sunshine and happiness.

Whitehorne’s second time in the fighting chair provided a harsh lesson about life on the water: Sometimes a magnificent creature doesn’t survive the fight.

About 45 minutes into Whitehorne’s second battle, the tension at the other end of the line let up. It became a battle with – literally – dead weight.

“At first the mate thought maybe it had gotten eaten by a shark,” the 2007 Bayside High School graduate said. “We had seen a hammerhead and we thought that maybe the shark had killed it.”

It turned out the large white marlin had gotten tail-wrapped after several spectacular jumps and leaps.

“The mate finally realized that it was dead,” Whitehorne said. “It took another 45 minutes to get it in.

“When we got it on the deck, it was dead. There was no reviving it. It’s a shame, but nobody did anything wrong. It’s just one of those things.”

The U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service has named the white marlin a species of concern . Animal rights activists have sued in federal court to have the species listed under the Endangered Species Act . Federal fisheries managers have not succumbed to the effort, but have placed a mandatory circle-hook rule on offshore fishing tournaments where white marlin might be caught.

International studies conducted in the last three years by Dr. John Graves of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science show that circle hooks greatly increase the mortality of white marlin that are to be released after a fight.

Fewer than 100 billfish are killed each year by American recreational anglers. Foreign long-liners kill several times that number as a byproduct of fishing for other species.

“I didn’t realize that their numbers were so low,” Whitehorne said. “I don’t like that it died, but there just wasn’t anything we could do.”

Whitehorne said that none of the fish was wasted. The estimated 85-pounder was divided between Whitehorne’s family, the mate and the captain.

Whitehorne’s first offshore fishing trip resulted in white marlin citations for every angler on the boat. A couple of dolphin also were caught.

“We didn’t see any whales or turtles,” he said. “But we caught seven white marlin that day and they were the first white marlin of the season for the boat. They were real happy.

“I’d definitely rate the entire day a 10.”

Despite the dead billfish, the memories will last.

“I’ve already ordered a mount,” Whitehorne said. “It was a great day and something I want to do again.”

The experience was vastly different than most of Whitehorne’s other angling efforts.

“I fish quite a bit,” said Whitehorne, who wants to become a dentist. “But it’s mostly small stuff, from piers or out at Lake Smith. Pretty normal fishing.

“But this trip was amazing. When you first saw the fish come into the bait spread and see how big they are, it really gets your adrenaline going. I like all kinds of fishing, but I don’t think there is anything like this.”

Lee Tolliver, (757) 222-5844, lee.tolliver@pilotonline.com

get hooked

Off The Hook is a Sunday outdoors feature highlighting the tales (fact, not fiction) of Hampton Roads anglers. If you have a story to tell, send your pictures and ideas to Pilot outdoors writer Lee Tolliver at lee.tolliver@pilotonline.com or call him at (757) 222- 5844. Also, be sure not to miss Lee’s Fishing Forecast each Thursday in The Virginian-Pilot.

Get Hooked

Off The Hook is a Sunday outdoors feature highlighting the tales (fact, not fiction) of Hampton Roads anglers. If you have a story to tell, send your pictures and ideas to Pilot outdoors writer Lee Tolliver at lee.tolliver@pilotonline.com or call him at (757) 222- 5844. Also, be sure not to miss Lee’s Fishing Forecast each Thursday in The Virginian-Pilot.

Originally published by BY LEE TOLLIVER.

(c) 2008 Virginian – Pilot. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.




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