The search by sportsmen for the prized deep-water game fish of the world—the giant bluefin tuna and the great billfish—is almost entirely a preoccupation of the 20th century. The venerated Dr. Charles F. Holder, who virtually founded the sport, did not catch the first tuna on rod and reel until 1898, and the first marlin was not boated until 1904. Holder himself considered the capture of a broadbill swordfish an "impossible" sporting ambition—he thought that a broadbill would sink a fishing boat—and it was not until 1913 that he was proved wrong. As late as the end of World War I, when most sports were on the boom, there were only six boats venturing out of New York and surrounding harbors to fish deep water with rod and reel.
Then along came men like Zane Grey and Ernest Hemingway and Mike Lerner and Kip Farrington, all of them to fish, some of them to write about the great fish they found and then captured at the end of very long and very thin lengths of line. Zane Grey, in particular, was a pioneer, both in his contributions to the sport and to the body of respected literature that it was to produce; he set game fish records that were to survive for years, and he wrote numerous books on fishing with a sensitivity that was never matched in his more famous novels. In one there is a description of a losing struggle with a broadbill off Catalina Island that no angler who has fought a big fish will ever forget. "As I labored," Grey wrote, "I could not help marveling at the strange, imbecile pursuits of mankind. Here I was in an agony, absolutely useless. Why did I keep it up? I could not give up, and I concluded I was crazy. I conceived the most unreasonable hatred for that poor swordfish that had done nothing to me...I made a last effort. Dan reached for the leader. Then the hook tore out. My swordfish, without a movement of tail or fin, slowly sank—to vanish in the blue water." Three days later he was back again. "I could not resist the call of the sea," he wrote.
In the wake of such men and their feats with rod and pen there have sprung up today countless thousands of big game sport fishermen, cruising the offshore fisheries of the world in their endless search for a 1,000-pound bluefin or a 1,500-pound broadbill or a black marlin that will dwarf in size even the 1,560-pound monster boated off Cabo Blanco, Peru by Alfred Glassell Jr. of Houston more than 12 years ago (SI, March 19, 1956). Their quest carries them from the sleepy oyster port of Russell, New Zealand to Hawaii's fabled Kona coast and down to where the dark, cold Humboldt Current sweeps along the Peruvian shore; north to Panama's hot and uncomfortable—and lovely—Pi√±as Bay and on to Baja California and its empty, golden beaches; across to the village of Montauk off Long Island's eastern tip and down the Gulf Stream past Hatteras and Fort Lauderdale to Bimini in the Bahamas and on to the Virgin Islands, and across to Africa's Kenyan shore. For big game fishing is still in its exploratory age, still probing the far waters of the world. Yet, even though it is in its infancy, it may already have begun to die.
The threat is reported by Martin Kane. In a story beginning on page 20 he discloses the deadly, modern application of one of fishing's most primitive methods, the long line. The problem, as you will see, transcends any question of sport, dealing as it does with social and economic factors on an international scale. There is no immediate solution, but certain actions can be taken that may lead to one. The first step, obviously, is to bring the entire complex matter to public (and congressional) attention. It is our hope and belief that a way can be found to meet the nutritional needs of fish-hungry nations and still protect the sport of big game fishing.