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Poor Treatment of Fish on Headboats

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I went on a headboat with my friend out of Key West not too long ago. Would have done a private light tackle CnR charter, but money constraints and my buddy is not a very avid fisherman, so he didn't want to go all out. We were catching grunt and whatnot, when I pull up an undersized red grouper, maybe 13", that was hooked in the tongue. Not too terribly, a little bit of finesse would have gotten the hook out fine with minimal bleeding/damage. Was an impromptu trip, so didn't have any of my own gear with me, so I called the mate over for some help with pliers and tell him it's not too deeply hooked, he says "I don't care where it's hooked" and he grabs it with a towel and absolutely cranks the hook out as hard as he can and throws it back. When it hit the water, a huge puff of blood came out, 2 minutes later it floats back up to the surface kind of twitching. Shocked me. A little later, I caught a parrotfish and the mate and captain come over and start telling me how horrible they are and that they're worthless. I didn't let them touch that fish because I didn't want to see it slammed as hard as possible against the water, which is how they were releasing the undersized grouper others were catching. Parrotfish got back fine. After that grouper, I unhooked all my fish myself and let most of them go. It was a fun day, but the fish handling made me sick. I remember going out on a headboat near Tarpon Springs years ago and the fish handling was similarly bad. Maybe I just got bad eggs, but has anybody else notice this? 

They were biting before you got here and they’ll bite again after you leave

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That is pretty par for the course amongst the headboats and more so on the short trips like a 5 or 6hr. Just straight meat grinders catching big pinfish/grunts/pigfish/etc.  A lot of the captains/mates that get stuck running those trips either suck or are "low" man on the totem pole.  

 

 

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Sad situation when the crew and mates don't give a crap. 

My wife and I recently went out of Key West on the Gulfstream head boat.

The captain and mate talked down to the customers at every opportunity, from tell them you don't know how to fish,

to if you lose another sinker and hook you'll have to pay extra for it. Although you had to pay an extra $5 to rent the pole.

We caught a couple parrot fish and others, and the captain carried them around the boat wrapped in a towel. 

The trip was so bad that most people left as soon as the boat docked, including the pool winner. 

Definitely would never go back and 100% would not recommend them to anyone.

 

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It is a numbers game and to some degree based on the desirability of the fish. They are gonna handle a Nassau grouper differently than a blue runner, though it is near certain that both are going back. Just like we might handle a striper differently than a bluefish.  I have never seen a mishandled parrotfish or queen trigger or squirrelfish for that matter. But I certainly have seen them die. Part of the numbers game. It is hard to say that a red grouper was mishandled, sometimes they feel that getting it back in the water fast is more critical than playing with it and watching it float. But sometimes they float anyway. Best to monitor this sort of thing over time to see whether or not it is part of a pattern. You also play a part. Bring a wet rag, a pack of circle hooks and pliers with you next time. As someone who has fished before, you know what to do to handle the fish properly.

 

 

Edited by Skin
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