Capture Flags are the glad rags of fishing. Raise a capture flag on your outrigger and it’s a public announcement of your catch. A colorful fish flag denotes the species of fish you catch or release and signals success to other boats and anglers. Fish flags are banners that provide pomp and pageantry to the ancient game of sport fishing. A fluttering capture flag is the angler’s official seal of approval and badge of accomplishment and courage.
HISTORY OF CAPTURE FLAGS
A flag is usually a triangular or rectangular piece of fabric displaying an easily identifiable symbol or design. Although signal flags are used in many of today’s sports, the use of flags is ancient history and predates most modern sports and sporting events.
Vexillology is the study of flags. Vexillology comes from the Latin word vexillum meaning flag or banner. Flags and pennants have prominent places in sports. Their use ranges from golf to football. It includes races like the Indie 500 or America’s Cup. Yellow flags signal penalties in football while waving a checkered flag marks a victory in race car driving. In hundreds of different sporting events, flags of every size and shape signal significant developments. But there is a language to using flags that goes beyond colors and symbols. For example, flying an American flag upside down is a distress warning. In addition, flying a flag at half-mast signals death or mourning. You don’t want to send the wrong message. Even in the world of big game fishing there are nuances about the use of capture flags and when and where you fly them.
ALL CAPTURE FLAGS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL
Marine flags must meet and exceed the demands of exposure to the elements. The fabrics must withstand wind, rain and salt water. Colors and dyes need to repel the effects of ultra violet light and exposure for decades. The fastening mechanisms must grapple with gale force winds and still be able to maintain artistic spacing.
All flags are not created equal. SunDot Marine Flags is located in Waimea on the Big Island of Hawaii. They’ve been making marine flags since the ‘60s. Over the last 50 years, they’ve discovered or invented techniques and materials that conquer all environmental challenges. SunDot makes marine flags from long-wearing, colorfast double-stitched marine canvas, insuring bright and colorful images even after many years of exposure to intense tropical sunlight. Unlike some east coast models, SunDot flags feature a unique Velcro heading that runs along the spine of the flag. These flags stay on the outrigger exactly where you put them without additional fasteners. They can withstand winds up to 100 miles per hour.
Big game fishing flags combine the competitive aspects of sport-fishing with the beauty of marine art. Today’s fish flags are typically two colors, a solid background color and a contrasting artistic image indicating the species of fish. In addition to landing a fish, SunDot has capture flags for “hooking up” or “tag and release.” Charter fishing fleets let their flags fly so that other boats and prospective anglers will know what fish are biting. Flags are a colorful advertising promotion in addition to providing wind swept pageantry to returning sport-fishing fleets. It’s a happy event to watch boats returning to the harbor with colorful capture flags fluttering in the wind.
A “flag fish” is a gamefish with a dedicated marine flag. SunDot makes 16 species flags to validate an angler’s bragging rights for catching, tagging or releasing a flag fish. The most common Hawaiian gamefish are Blue Marlin, Ahi (yellow fin tuna) , Ono (wahoo), Mahimahi (dorado), and Spearfish. In addition Sailfish, Shark, Skipjack Tuna, Stripped Bass, Swordfish, Trevally, White Marlin, Black Marlin, Yellow Tail, Albacore, and Bluefin Tuna are popular fish flags.
CAPTURE FLAGS AND ETIQUETTE
Contrary to what you might think, there is such a thing as fishing etiquette for capture flags. There are rules of engagement for using fish flags and prioritizing your catch. For example, Billfish (marlin, sailfish, spearfish, etc.) take precedence in hierarchy. If you catch a blue, black or white marlin, that flag will be the top ranking flag of the day. You should position your marlin flag highest on the outrigger. Next in order are the flags for tuna and other gamefish. Space your flags far enough apart for easy recognition. A rule of thumb is to leave one flag width empty on the outrigger between your fish flags.
SUNDOT CAPTURE FLAGS IN KONA
Then the rules and customs get little more confusing. Most Kona captains fly their capture flags on the starboard rigger. However, in a traditional nautical environment, signal flags are flown on the port side of a vessel. That is so vessels passing each other, port-side to port-side, would be able to read each other’s signal flags. Another area of contention is when to fly a fish flag right side up, or up side down. This choice depends on what is usual and customary in your particular fishing ground. A right side up flag indicates what is usual and customary. For example, if most anglers release marlin where you fish, then the marlin capture flag should be flown right side up if you catch a marlin and release it. However, if most marlin in your area are harvested, and you release yours, then your marlin flag should be flown upside down.
SUNDOT CAPTURE FLAGS TO THE RESCUE
SunDot flags take the guessing out of flag protocol with their red “release” flag or their red and white “tag and release” flag. For example, you can fly your species flag right side up with the release flag directly underneath. You will be “right” no matter what.
When do you take your fish flags down? Some captains use their flags as advertising trophies and leave their flags up until the morning of their next outing. Most professional charter captains remove their capture flags by dawn of the following day.
My favorite SunDot flag is the large cocktail flag. However, all SunDot flags come in two sizes and they also offer combo packs for the most successful fishermen.
So let your fish flags fly!
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