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Sportfishing

Interview with Captain Ron Hamlin

You heard it from Hamlin

We Chat Up This Conservation-Minded Angling Pioneer.

In the world of big-game fishing, Capt. Ron Hamlin needs no introduction. Indeed, it would take pages upon pages to list this angler’s many achievements and contributions to the sport. Chief among them? Hamlin has been one of The Billfish Foundation’s top tagging captains in the Pacific for ten-plus years and has led the charge in switching from using J to circle hooks. We sat down with the legend to talk hot spots, big moments, and what’s up next.

Question: How did you get into fishing?
Capt. Ron Hamlin: I started fishing when I was three years old. I’ve always loved it because it’s such a clean sport for the whole family. I worked my way up, professionally, from being a boat washer, to a mate, to captain, [but] I’ve always been an angler.

Question: You are one of the most respected names in offshore fishing. Why do you think you’ve been so successful?
Capt. Ron Hamlin: The biggest reason for my success is the fact that I’ve gone to the best spots before they became famous. If you want to catch a lot of fish, you have to go where there’s a lot of [them]. There are many other captains with great talent but if they’re not in a place they can excel, nobody ever hears about them.

Question: What’s the most exciting experience you’ve had on the water?
Capt. Ron Hamlin: As an angler, it was fighting and catching my first 1,000-pound marlin. That was an 1,098-pound black in Australia in 1972.

Question: You’ve been so pivotal in motivating the move to circle hooks. What inspired you to make the switch yourself?
Capt. Ron Hamlin: I was invited by Tim Choate, Peter B. Wright, and Skip Walton to go out and experiment with circle hooks for the first time [in 1997] and saw how well they worked and how fish-friendly they were. I was so tired of seeing sailfish gushing blood, from being gut hooked on J hooks that I said, “I don’t care if I catch less, I’m going to go to all circle hooks when using bait.” And then I didn’t catch less; I caught more fish on circle hooks than I ever did on J hooks. It was the luckiest break in my career—I had no way of knowing that circle hooks were going to be that great.

Question: You’ve been in Guatemala for 15 years now and have been at the Casa Vieja Lodge for the past three. Why Guatemala?
Capt. Ron Hamlin: [It] is the most prolific billfish fishery in the world—it has a year-round bite. In the last 15 years, I’ve released over 23,000 billfish alone in Guatemala, with a single high day of 124—and that was all trolling. I can’t begin to compliment my crew enough on the job they did [that day], never running out of bait and only starting with 25 or 30 rigged ones when we left the dock.

Question: Any advice for fellow anglers?
Capt. Ron Hamlin: It’s very hard to learn from a magazine. To become a good angler, you must go where you have lot of chances to make mistakes. We learn from our mistakes. So you have to go where you’re going to get a lot of chances, [which means going] where the fish are and going there at the right time of the year.

Question: You recently logged your 25,000th billfish release, which is an awesome feat. Any other goals on the horizon?
Capt. Ron Hamlin: I intend to stay right here in Guatemala, at Casa Vieja, until I reach at least 30,000. Then who knows? Maybe 35,000 if I’m not too old. If I am, I’ll probably go bass fishing.

This article originally appeared in the April 2011 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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