A good fish story always seems to involve a monstrous catch or marathon battle, but perhaps more impressive is the catch of a truly tiny member of a big-game species.
Behold the sailfish in the accompanying photo. It was reeled in last Saturday off Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, a Baja California angler's paradise known for its much larger billfish. It's impressive because of its rarity: People simply do not catch baby billfish.
Chris Fuller, who was aboard the Petrolero, was fishing for tuna in the Sea of Cortez and using a live sardine and 40-pound-test line. After the ravenous little sailfish grabbed the five-inch bait, it performed the typical sailfish acrobatics for a very brief period before being pulled aboard, photographed and released. (Fuller is pitured above, holding his catch.)
Its weight was estimated at about three pounds and scientists, after inspecting the photo, guessed its age at about 4 months.
Tracy Ehrenberg, general manager of Pisces Sportfishing, which has been operating off Cabo San Lucas for more than 30 years, supplied the image for this story. She had heard of only one other tiny sailfish being caught, the other a slightly larger specimen in 2009.
The 2009 catch was not released. Measuring 42.1 inches and weighing nearly 3.7 pounds, it was recorded as the smallest sailfish to have been caught aboard a sportfishing boat out of the popular resort destination. Its age was determined to be 5 months.
Of the more recent specimen, Ehrengerg said, "I have never seen a billfish so small."
Scientists say both catches are important because they prove that the region off Cabo San Lucas -- at Baja California's tip, where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez -- is a nursery area for sailfish.
Fuller was using a circle hook, designed to catch in the corner of a fish's mouth to allow for safer releases. Said Ehrenberg on the Pisces blog: "After a brief five minutes on the line and posing for the paparazzi, the tiny sailfish was successfully released."
Perhaps in a few years it can be recaptured at a much larger size, and become one of those other types of fish stories.
-- Image showing Chris Fuller (left), deckhand Ruben Orantes and Capt. Rob Lawford posing with juvenile sailfish is courtesy of Pisces Sportfishing