Catch-20K

After boating his 20,000th billfish, Captain Ron Hamlin looks back on his long career.

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OLD PRO: Ron Hamlin's 20,000th sailfish comes tot he boat.
Photo: Courtesy of South Fishing

When captain ron hamlin moved to iztapa, guatemala, in 1995 to run the Captain Hook he had 3,000 billfish under his belt. After 11 years on his new home waters, he added 17,000 more to his total, and number 20,000 came in December. We called Hamlin to get an inside track on his billfishing secrets.

_SWS:_ Congratulations. You make this sound easy.

Ron Hamlin: (laughs) Well thanks. Believe me, it has less to do with who I am than where I am.

_SWS:_ What's been the key to your success?

RH: Going to the places where the fish are. If you want to become good, you have to fish where there are a lot of bites.

_SWS:_ Do you have a favorite bait for billfish?

RH: Yeah, ballyhoo

_SWS:_ What's the most common mistake you see anglers make?

RH: They don't know how to free-spool properly on the dropback.

_SWS:_ Circle hooks: Yes or No?

RH: Yes. With circle hooks, my anglers catch and release 20 percent more of the sailfish that strike than they would with J-hooks. But I switched to circle hooks because I wanted to see more fish swim away alive.

_SWS:_ What's the biggest threat to the sailfish and marlin fisheries?

RH: Longlining

_SWS:_ Who is closest to your 20,000 billfish?

RH: Captain Bubba Carter had around 15,000 the last time I spoke with him.

_SWS:_ How many days do you fish each year?

RH: About 190

_SWS:_ How many fish do you average in one day?

RH: For the past three years I've averaged 16 sails per day. Now that doesn't mean I don't get skunked...

_SWS:_ Hold on, when were you last skunked?

RH: Three days ago

_SWS:_ So do you have another 20,000 left in you?

RH: No. I'm 62. Maybe five or eight thousand. It depends where I am.