There is always a beginning even though it may be shrouded in the mists of time. The beginning of ocean sport fishing and boats for offshore enjoyment was on June 1, 1898 at Avalon on Santa Catalina, California. It was on this date that Dr Charles Frederick Holder landed a 183 lb (84kg) blue fin tuna on rod and reel and 18-tread line.
World’s first game fishing club
The first capture was made from an open skiff propelled by oars and the muscle power of his boatman. This was the beginning for today’s super boats of all sizes right around the world. Dr Holder’s success also led to the formation of the world’s first game fishing club, the first fishing rules and fishing ethics. The club is The Tuna Club of Avalon, Santa Catalina, still one of the world’s leaders. Zane Grey, the famous writer of westerns was an active member of the Tuna Club, with a house overlooking the bay. He fished from charter boats and then from his own 53ft (16 metre) boat, Gladiator, after the world’s no. 1 gamefish. His ZG pennant was subsequently flown on his own and charter boats on his quest for big fish around the world’s blue water.
Writings launched offshore activity
The books and articles written on these expeditions launched offshore activity worldwide as he brought to life the colour, information, challenge and nature itself to those who perhaps could not match Zane Grey’s money, time and dedication. His pen kept alive the memories of each day, whether good or bad. He made readers feel they were there from dawn to dusk. “July 1 seemed the most perfect of days. All Avalon days are perfect but this day was something to make a man keen to the joy of life and the beauty of nature. A fisherman ‘s hope is of the future and his joys are of the present.”
Zane Grey was a family man as well as a seeker of fish. He took his two sons and brother with him to the distant seas. In these days he would perhaps have earned the title of male chauvinist.
The fishing and boating ladies have however enjoyed a long and active involvement, not only providing successful input in fishing but in the design and improvement in the comfort of boats plus a contribution of a practical nature. In fact, the involvement of the ladies in their boats is as evident as in their other environment.
Hemingway fishing hard
While Zane Grey was travelling to new and remote locations another great fishing author, Ernest Hemingway, was living hard and fishing hard successfully in Florida, Cuba and the Bahamas. Ernest Hemingway’s 1952 classic The Old Man and the Sea brought man and fish together to live forever for fishermen and non-fishermen alike. His words are special for those who have experienced the effort, the skill and often physical pain in fights with big fish. The Old Man and the Sea somehow captures the special relationship as the old man talks to himself. “No”, he said, “he can’t be that big.” But he was that big and at the end of this circle he came to the surface only thirty yards away and the man saw his tail out of the water.
“It was higher than a big scythe blade and very pale lavender above the dark blue water.” Fishermen know that vibrant lavender colour of tail and dorsal fin dominated by the electric blue strikes. Hemingway believes that only fishermen see the great fish in all their power and glowing colour and that fishermen were doubly fortunate. Both Zane Grey and Ernest Hemingway were conservation minded and worked with the scientists of their time. They would have excelled in the tag and release fishing of today.
Tag and release
Tag and release is another facet of fishing from boats that has been enthusiastically accepted by ladies and juniors. There is now a complete acceptance that ladies can fish and make a contribution to great days at sea. Ladies bring their special touch and traditional taste, decor and practicality to the boats and bring additional meaning to the word ‘crew’ , particularly on family boats. Then too, there is the extra pleasure of being one with nature and ecology as the family matures in the world of boats. Lady fishermen or to be fair, fisher ladies, often regularly out-fish the muscle men – the male fishermen, even on heavy tackle. The ladies excel in all light tackle classes in particular where their lighter touch, balance and co-ordination and instinctive technique excel that of the men seeking the same fish on similar tackle. The Tuna Club in California was in many ways a male preserve with the ‘expected’ traditional rules. A petite lady, Mrs Spalding, showed that indeed ladies could fish successfully for the big game in the blue water and at the same time could observe the decorum expected of a lady. Mrs Spalding landed a 194 kg (426Ibs) broadbill swordfish – the world ‘s premier and most challenging game fish.
Garden party outfit
The photographs taken at the weighing show Mrs Spalding in hat, jacket, long skirt and blouse that would surely have not been out of place at a garden party. The boatrnan was equally natty in his garb of yacht cap, bow tie, jacket with brass buttons and long trousers These outfits are indeed a long way from today’s comfortable recreational clothing. Zane Grey was usually photographed in check shirt, long plus fours and waistcoat, whereas the macho Ernest Hemingway was obviously happy in shorts or casual slacks often with bare feet, with or without a shirt.
Their wives and sometimes their whole family accompanied many of the great fishermen on their fishing trips. Mary Hemingway fished with Ernest; Zane Grey took his sons. Many of the anglers’ wives became fishing ladies of record renown. Helen Lerner with Mike, Chisie Farrington with Kip, Gennie Marron with Lou, Dolly Dyer with Bob, Kay Mulholland with Dick and so the list of ladies who successfully battle the big fish goes on to the present time.
Every fishing club and base has skilled and successful lady anglers who make a worthwhile contribution with records and competition points. In fact, many ladies are rated as more successful and tougher competitors than male fishermen are. Many of the ladies are equally skilled on the bridge and in the cockpit activity.
Tag and release
Those who use their boats whether for cruising or fishing are often dedicated to conservation and release of fish. The skippers and crews value and understand the need for management of bait and fish stocks and the importance of the food chain.
Those who live near the coastal inlets and waterways are doubly fortunate as they experience and are often part of the morning start-up as the launching ramps come alive as their outboards burble ready to move the boat to the chosen fishing and cruising area.
Fishing boats big enough to live aboard
The giant black marlin of Australia ‘s Great ßarrier Reef were the trigger to a rebirth of boats associated with fishing boats that were in fact big enough to live aboard, either as a mother ship or as a game fishing boat big enough to be self-contained. Every boat owner or skipper has preferences in design and performance whether the boat is a big battlewagon for gamefishing, a comfortable cruiser for travelling at reasonable speed or a mini game boat.
Special boats for special areas
The specialised game boats are now bigger. The chosen length used to be 36-38ft (10-12 m), now many of the boats are 43, 48, 53ft and even over 60ft. The mini game boats which have the capability to fish two or three anglers with necessary equipment range from 15ft (5m) to 20ft (6m). Despite their size limitation they are able to operate long distances offshore. Some calm water areas such as the sea off Kona, Hawaii is ideal for small boat operation. In contrast, boats for satisfactory operation in Cape Hatteras and Australia necessitates boats that can cope with tough conditions. All fishermen and those who go to sea have dreams. The modern boat gives the opportunity for those dreams to come true. The pioneers, the Zane Greys, the Farringtons and the Hemingways would be proud to have the opportunity to fish in boats of the new generation – the super boats in the wonderful offshore world.
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