If you’re going to do something, do it right. In tagging terms, that means selecting the right stick for the job and then putting thought into how to use it.
As with any fighting gear, tagging equipment should be the correct type for the job. There are different length tag poles for different jobs. Many people think that a tag pole is just a tag pole. But think again. They come in different lengths to make your approach easier and to eliminate the infamous cry of, “Err !#**. I missed!”
First, there is the long-range tag pole (tournament tag pole). This is designed to be used for quick tag and release, mostly on large gameboats and mostly on big fish in tournaments where the speed of tag competition equates to more time to get another one.
A longer tag pole has the added advantage of reach when chasing down a large fish at speed. The tag can be placed when approaching the fish, instead of when the fish is close to the boat. Equally, these longer tag poles can be used on a stubborn fish that stays deep or wide of the boat. Usually, these tag poles are around 12 feet long and require the use of two hands to operate correctly.
An eight-foot tag pole is also used in tournaments. However, it is used more frequently when chasing mid-sized, faster-moving fish or large fish that come to the boat hot and fast. These are a lot more accurate and maneuverable than the 12-footer. An eight-foot tag pole can be used single- or double-handed.
A six-foot tag pole, used for close-in work, is common on most sportfishing boats that combine tagging programs with their sportfishing activities. This tag pole can be used single- or double-handed.
Too often, we get carried away by the excitement of the chase. When the boat rapidly catches up with the fish, suddenly you’re all over the top of it — not a good position. Everything that can go wrong will go wrong, and then bedlam rules on the deck.
The goal of the captain should be to keep the stand-up angler in one position on the boat (let’s say, in this instance, the corner), or the rod pointed in that direction from a fighting chair. Now, all the captain has to do is reverse by steering along an imaginary line straight out the back of the boat while keeping the angle of the angler’s line through the strike zone area (a 35-degree area 45-degrees off the corner of the stern), almost as if you intend to overtake the fish more than running it down.
This type of approach should place the fish in the optimum strike zone. The captain should not follow directly up the line, because that would place the angler and the boat directly over the fish. This is not a good position, because the strike zone angle is incorrect and the tag-man does not have direct access to the fish.
Done correctly, with the fish off one side of the boat, the tag-man will get an early shot and have plenty to aim at without getting in the way of the angler once the fish is in the strike zone. This is good teamwork and planning. (Note: the tag-man should always be behind the angler and or the line when striking the tag home.)
For anyone interested in tagging and releasing, I am the International Game Fish Association representative for Maui County. I promote the Tag & Release program on Maui as part of the IGFA’s continued goal of fishing conservation. Tags are FREE to anyone who would like to help the National Marine Fisheries Service tagging program.
The Tag & Release program is sponsored by Lahaina Yacht Club, which donates the free tags. Contact me at 667-9005/0298-5674 or firstname.lastname@example.org.