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The Billfish Story

Swordfish, Sailfish, Marlin, and Other Gladiators of the Sea

Stan Ulanski

Publication Year: 2013

The billfish is fixed at the apex of the oceanic food chain. Composed of sailfish, marlin, spearfish, and swordfish, they roam the pelagic waters of the Atlantic and are easily recognized by their long, spear-like beaks. Noted for their speed, size, and acrobatic jumps, billfish have for centuries inspired a broad spectrum of society. Even in antiquity, Aristotle, who assiduously studied the swordfish, named this gladiator of the sea xiphias—the sword.

The Billfish Story tells the saga of this unique group of fish and those who have formed bonds with them—relationships forged by anglers, biologists, charter-boat captains, and conservationists through their pursuit, study, and protection of these species. More than simply reciting important discoveries, Stan Ulanski argues passionately that billfish occupy a position of unique importance in our culture as a nexus linking natural and human history. Ulanski, both a scientist and an angler, brings a rich background to the subject in a multifaceted approach that will enrich not only readers’ appreciation of billfish but the whole of the natural world.

Published by: University of Georgia Press


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pp. 1-5


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pp. 6-7

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

...Almost twenty-five years ago, I caught my first billfish, a blue marlin, in the Gulf Stream waters off North Carolina. By marlin standards it was not a huge fish, probably topping out at approximately three hundred pounds, but its tenacity, power, and jumping ability made a lasting...

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pp. 1-4

...Roaming the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean are predators at the apex of the oceanic food chain—the billfish. These species include the sailfish, spearfish, white and blue marlin, which are all part of the same biological family, Istiophoridae; and the swordfish, the only member...

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CHAPTER 1 The Rise of Billfish

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pp. 5-20

...An eighty-pound female sailfish, large for her species, slowly cruises the cobalt-blue waters around the island of Bermuda in search of her next meal. She has ridden the powerful Gulf Stream to this ancient island, which plunges thousands of feet to the ocean floor. As the result of a...

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CHAPTER 2 The Interlocking Web of Ocean Life: From Plankton to Billfish

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pp. 21-35

...During the last week of September 1492, Christopher Columbus had more to worry about than finding a sea passage to the Orient; his ships were adrift in the center of the Atlantic Ocean, becalmed by weak winds and lack of currents. Columbus immediately recognized the gravity...

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CHAPTER 3 Billfish through the Ages

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pp. 36-60

...But human fascination with billfish dates even earlier, well back into antiquity. Fishing for swordfish first occurred during the Bronze Age, which began in the fourth millennium b.c. and marked a period in civilization with the development of relatively sophisticated metallurgical...

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CHAPTER 4 Anatomy of Tournaments

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pp. 61-88

...For over two hours, angler Andy Thomasson aboard the Citation had struggled with a blue marlin that refused to surface, opting instead to bulldoggedly hunker down, but Thomasson’s determined efforts ultimately brought the marlin to the gaff. As Captain Eric Holmes related, “When we finally saw it, we couldn’t believe it.” And back at the dock...

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CHAPTER 5 The Ultimate Billfish: Blue Marlin

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pp. 89-110

...The captain’s cry—“long, left outrigger!”—sent the mate scurrying over to that side of the boat. Even as Dan grabbed hold of the 80-pound test outfit, removing it quickly from the gunwale’s rod holder, line continued to peel off the reel at an eye-blurring pace. Shouts of “blue marlin...

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CHAPTER 6 Night Stalkers: Swordfish

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pp. 111-132

...Dominating the entrance to the fishing museum of the International Game Fishing Association in Dania, Florida, is a larger-than-life sculpture of a leaping swordfish, suspended in air as if defying gravity and rebellious in nature with its bill thrust skyward. Soaring twenty-four feet...

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CHAPTER 7 Billfish Bantamweights: Spearfish, White Marlin, and Sailfish

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pp. 133-156

...For some adventurous souls, catching billfish from a traditional watercraft, like a boat, has lost its appeal, or at least diminished in intensity, and they have sought out other more exotic and, yes, dangerous methods. The use of kayaks has in recent years exploded onto the billfish...

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CHAPTER 8 The Fate of Billfish

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pp. 157-182

...Conservation or exploitation—which way will the scale tip with regard to the billfish? Is there a common ground to be achieved among the vested interests? The search for answers may start with a glance back through history, when our relationship with nature was much simpler...


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pp. 183-192


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pp. 193-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780820346335
E-ISBN-10: 0820346330
Print-ISBN-13: 9780820346335

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 11 figures, 5 color paintings
Publication Year: 2013