Each year, TBF relies on the sportfishing community across the world to report their billfish tag and release information. Since it began in 1990, TBF’s Tag & Release Program anglers, captains and mates worldwide have made this program the largest private billfish tagging database in the world with over 220,000 tag and release records.  This valuable data is needed to further billfish science and ensure that fishing opportunities are available for future generations. Without the dedication of these individuals around the world, what is known about billfish science and the advances in conservation, would not be possible today. To recognize their efforts’, each year TBF’s International Tag & Release Competition rewards captains, anglers, and mates and brings out the best in the sportfishing arena.

On February 13, 2015, TBF honored over 30 winners from around the globe with their 2014 International Tag & Release Awards at Miami’s Jungle Island Treetop Ballroom. Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund (BFWCF) sponsored the 25th annual award ceremony and the awards were presented by King Sailfish Mounts. These two companies are part of TBF’s 2014 Tagging Program sponsors; the others include Costa Sunglasses, Pelagic Gear, Casa Vieja Lodge & Simrad, who all make this program such a success. Sailfish Brewery supplied guests with delicious local craft beers. All award winners received trophies courtesy of King Sailfish Mounts; overall winners also received lures from Fathom Offshore as well as Fishtrack premium memberships. Winners also received sunglasses from TBF Conservation Partner & program sponsor Costa. Guests had the chance to participate in the raffle that included products from ORCA, Fathom Offshore, Troll Pro, Costa, Pelagic, King Sailfish Mounts, FishTrack, Alutecnos, Bluefin USA, Wines for Humanity, and artwork by Yellowfin Unlimited. Every guest received a goody bag filled with items and information from all of TBF sponsors.

2014 was a remarkable year for billfishing and the numbers don’t lie. In both the Atlantic and Pacific, tag and release records for blue marlin were smashed. Famous grounds like Cape Verde, Costa Rica and the Great Barrier Reef produced unbelievable fishing that has not been seen in decades. TBF was also greatly pleased to receive a significant increase in data reported from areas like Western Australia and Western Africa and see billfish conservation growing alongside the sport in other hot-spots. Fortunately for TBF, these record setting boats were on board with TBF and reported their catches from some amazing seasons.

Top Overall Tagging (combined total of all billfish species tagged) Angler was awarded to Keith Brandner and Top Tagging Lady Angler to Sandra MacMillan. Brandner, fishing aboard the “Carol Libby” with Capt. Josh Temple (Top Tagging Captain Pacific Blue Marlin), managed to tag an astonishing 594 Pacific blue marlin, the most ever in a single season. Rivaling their record season was the “Sea Spud” with Top Overall and Top Release Angler Pacific Blue Marlin, Pat McCotter with his Captain, Pete Rae who took home Top Overall Release Captain Pacific Blue Marlin. As in many years past, Guatemala led the pack and was home port for multiple award winners including Top Overall Tagging Captain, Chris Sheeder, Top Overall Release Captain, Chris “Kiwi” Van Leeuwen and Top Overall Release Lady Angler, Tiffany Day. To little surprise, Gray Ingram and Capt. Ronnie Fields on the “Big Oh” fishing out of Cape Verde walked away from the award ceremony with their arms full. In another record breaking season, Ingram and Fields released a total of 404 Atlantic blue marlin for Top Release and Tag Angler and Captain (Atlantic blue marlin) respectively.

It is never too early to instill the conservation ethic in a child. Youth anglers are the future of the sport and in 2001, TBF began its Youth Program. Rounding out top overall categories were Top Overall Release Youth Angler, Gregory Benn and Top Overall Tagging Youth Angler, Shawn MacMullin. As a youth angler, Benn even managed to tally the most white marlin releases than any other adult for Top Release Angler Atlantic White Marlin.

For 2014 we also introduced our first Gulf of Mexico regional award. This recognizes those anglers and crews in the Gulf, who tag the most marlin during the season (May 1 – September 31st). This inaugural competition counted tags for both blue marlin and white marlin in the Gulf of Mexico (West of the 82 W Longitude) and awards were given to captains, anglers, and boats. Tags submitted to TBF are automatically counted towards this competition, but only TBF members have the opportunity to win.  This year Top Tagging Captain for blue marlin belongs to Al Roper who fished on “Michi” and the Top Tagging Captain for white marlin was Don Trasher on “Business Interruption. The Top Overall Tagging Captain came from the Top Overall Tagging boat, Jimmy Crochet on on “Conundrum.”

The 2015 competition began Nov.1, 2014 and will wrap up on Oct. 31, 20145.  TBF members from more than 70 countries are invited to participate and ‘Tag Data Reports’ and ‘Release Notifications’ can be submitted to TBF using either the traditional hard copies or reported online at www.tagbillfish.org. Separate categories currently exist for each the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans with additional categories being considered for the 2015 competition. To be eligible to receive an award active TBF members must have tagged and/or released five or more of a species to qualify.  Youth anglers are only required a three fish minimum for both tag and release categories. For complete rules, categories and more on TBF’s annual Tag & Release program please visit www.bilfish.org or call 954-938-0150 for Peter Chaibongsai (ext. 107) or Michael Kelly (ext. 102).

TBF would like to once again thank our 2014 Tagging Program sponsors: Bisbee’s Fish & Wildlife Conservation Fund, Costa Sunglasses, Pelagic Gear, King Sailfish Mounts, Casa Vieja Lodge & Simrad. Their constant support proves their commitment to conservation.