Objective Observers – Jason Shratwieser

In the second installment of Objective Observers, Derek Redwine gets to know his partner in crime, Jason Schratwieser. Their candid conversation sheds light on the mysterious inner workings of the IGFA, which, we learn, aren’t so mysterious after all.

D: Jason, most of us who spend a lot of time with you know you as a first rate butthole (haha, I mean an opinionated guy). Our readers (all 8 of them) may not know that you’re the Conservation Director for the International Game Fishing Association. How long have you been there and what does that position mean to you?

J: I’m not really a butthole. I’m just passionate about some things, but you wouldn’t know what that’s like (we can save that for another time). I’ve been at IGFA now for roughly 10 years and I have to be honest and say that I pretty much have my dream job. I’ve always been interested in science and fishing, so being able to combine both in a job is fantastic. I find that utilizing my biology background to, hopefully, make a positive difference in fisheries is pretty darn satisfying.

D: We can just agree to disagree about you being a butthole. But anyway, do you feel like you/the IGFA is making a difference?

J: You know, I’d really like to say so. A lot of the stuff I devote time to doesn’t have a concrete finish line. The president and I do a lot of work on national and international fisheries management panels, where we represent recreational anglers and work for better conservation measures for game fish. Unfortunately, this is an incredibly slow process but you have to be part of it to make a difference. We scored a big win late last year when President Obama signed our Billfish Conservation Act into law. Now it is illegal to import marlin, sailfish, and spearfish into the continental United States. Previously the U.S. was the world’s biggest importer of billfish, which represented some 30,000 billfish annually. IGFA and our friends at the National Coalition for Marine Conservation worked on this issue for nearly four years, so it was nice to see a positive outcome. We’re also doing more with cooperative research. Our partnership with Stanford University on the IGFA Great Marlin Race has been phenomenal. We’ve deployed 47 satellite tags in marlin off of Puerto Rico, South Africa, Australia, Madeira, Canary Islands and Hawaii. So far this represents 26,437 miles logged with the longest track being 4,776 miles by a blue marlin in 120 days. This information has already been put to good use and was included in my testimony to the U.S. Congress last year for the Billfish Conservation Act.

D: You guys have a great facility at IGFA and have a number of events each year. Do you have a favorite?

J: We have a number of cool events but my favorite is our annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. It’s really cool to see icons in the sport acknowledged for making meaningful lifetime contributions. The speeches given by the inductees are really something. But it’s funny. Each year there are usually a couple of people I know personally or by reputation inducted, but it’s the people that I don’t know that really blow me away with their speeches. I may be, what was it you called me—a butthole—but I really get a kick out of seeing how fishing moves other people as much as it does me.

D: It’s funny that the IGFA is such a big part of so much of what we all do here in Florida. Most tournaments use IGFA rules, many captain’s parties and conservation events are held at your headquarters, and so on. One of the biggest feathers in my cap was being able to do a few illustrations for you guys for the world record book. I have always held the organization in the highest regard, even though you’ve disqualified a few of our fish — which I still think is bull — but as you say, you weren’t working there.

J: Yep, you did some mighty fine renderings for our World Record Book and got some great fly gear in return. I’ll add that you’re getting quite good with the long rod. Oh yeah, a couple of your wife Cory’s records were rejected but you have to follow rules to get an IGFA record. I wasn’t here at the time so you can’t blame me.

D: It does bring up an interesting point. Do you get a lot of flack from people who have their fish disqualified as records? I’m sure it can be a nightmare since fishing, egos and fame are involved.

J: I actually hate it when people’s records get disqualified, especially if it’s because some basic IGFA rule was broken. I’ve seen the entire gambit of responses from people. People have tried to sue us for rejecting their records – no joke—but I’ve also seen people who are really understanding. Several years ago we rejected an application for a Golden Dorado caught by a very nice old gentleman in Argentina. He was very appreciative when I told him what it was that violated IGFA rules and he told me that he’d catch a bigger fish next year. Honest to God he did too and got the record!

D: What are your thoughts on fishing by IGFA rules? Are they just for records?

J: Now you’re just baiting me, Derek. All sports need rules. IGFA rules are THE RULES for recreational fishing, whether you’re fishing a tournament, going for a record or just goofing off with your punkinheaded friend. I’m not a big sports guy myself but I generally explain it this way. You don’t get four outs if you’re playing softball and you don’t get to tee off with a spud gun if you’re playing a round of friendly golf. Rules are rules. Besides, IGFA rules are not hard to follow or onerous for anglers.

D: I know I’m asking a lot of questions but we don’t often talk about work and I’m actually interested. One thing that I notice with west coast anglers is their misunderstanding of the IGFA. What do you think are some other myths about your organization?

J: You are talking a lot, which leads me to believe that you are nervous. You always talk a lot when you are nervous. You weren’t by chance lost when you wrote this, were you? There are a lot of myths to our organization. We don’t just cater to rich, old men. We don’t just have records for big, dead fish. We don’t just do records for people on the east coast, etc. There definitely does seem to be a bit of East Coast/West Coast rivalry. I think that’s kind of stupid. The best part about fishing is diversity. My feeling is that, as long as you are following laws and being ethical, you should fish for whatever fish you want with whatever gear you want if it makes you happy. I have a number of friends from the west coast who I would consider top notch anglers and I always like going somewhere and learning new ways to fish.

D: Jason, you are a very passionate fellow, be it with food, wine, gear, fish or your job. What’s your biggest wish to accomplish while you are at IGFA. There are some big shoes to fill there when you look at all the industry greats who have been involved.

J: I guess I would just like to keep working towards better fisheries on a global level. I want to continue to work with other individuals and organizations that share that goal. I also want to try hard to keep IGFA relevant for anglers other than record seekers.

D: Last question… How do you convince me that you’re not an Elitist?

J: Look dude, just because I like to wash my gear after each fishing trip doesn’t make me an elitist. Unlike some other people I know (I won’t mention names) I don’t get to fish every day. If I’m lucky I can get out once a week, so when I do I want to fish in a manner that makes me happy. Oftentimes that means I’m on my own skiff throwing a fly to something I can see, but more likely poling one of my baldheaded friends. Other times it means fishing for seatrout off a pontoon boat.

D: Next week we can pick on me and air our grievances. If you would like to learn more about the IGFA please visit them HERE.

> See Last Week’s Installment HERE.

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