Atlantic Highly Migratory Species Tournaments

Atlantic HMS tournaments are fishing events that award points or prizes for the catch and release or landing of sharks, tunas, billfish, or swordfish in the U.S. Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, or Caribbean Sea.

Tournament Registration

Tournament operators must register with NOAA Fisheries, keep records of anglers and results, and will be notified if they must send a catch report after the event. All billfish tournaments must send a catch report.

Register a tournament online

View a list of registered 2018 tournaments

Hard copy registration form (PDF, 1 page). 

Tournament Catch Reporting

NOAA Fisheries selects certain tournaments for catch reporting. If selected, tournament operators are responsible for reporting all HMS catch (landed and released) within a week after the tournament ends by reporting catch online.

Report catch online

If a tournament awards points or prizes for catching or landing white marlin, blue marlin, sailfish, longbill spearfish (landing prohibited), roundscale spearfish, or swordfish, the tournament is required to submit a catch report to NOAA Fisheries. 

You may also download and submit a catch report form.

  • Tournament Catch Reporting Form – Download File (PDF, 2 pages).

Submit the completed form to:

Tournament Reporting

75 Virginia Beach Drive

Miami, FL 33149

Fax: (305) 361-4562

Federal Regulations for Tournaments

HMS tournaments are required to register and report to NOAA Fisheries, and to follow these regulations:

Angler Permits

Vessels fishing in Atlantic HMS Tournaments must have one of the following HMS permits, available from the HMS Permits Shop.

  1. HMS Angling

  2. HMS Charter/Headboat

  3. Atlantic Tunas General (Commercial)*

  4. Swordfish General (Commercial)*

*Anglers aboard these vessels must always follow the commercial restrictions (minimum size, bag limit, season, etc.) for the authorized species of the permit(s) held. Recreational fishing for other HMS is authorized only if fishing in a registered HMS tournament, and passengers must follow Angling permit restrictions (minimum sizes, bag limits, seasons, etc.) for those HMS during the event.

General Restrictions

All Atlantic HMS recreational fishing regulations apply to Atlantic HMS tournament anglers. Permit requirements and restrictions, size limits, bag limits, gear restrictions, possession restrictions, and more are in the HMS Recreational Compliance Guide. All state regulations must be followed, including those that are more restrictive.

Billfish & Swordfish Tournaments

Any tournament that awards points or prizes for the catch & release or landing of sailfish, white marlin, blue marlin, longbill spearfish (landing prohibited), or roundscale spearfish, is a billfish tournament. 

All billfish and swordfish tournaments are selected for catch reporting, including "catch & release" tournaments. See Tournament Catch Reporting above for instructions.

Anglers fishing with natural bait (or natural/artificial combination bait) must only use non-offset circle hooks in billfish tournaments. Anglers may only use J-hooks in billfish tournaments if they are fishing with artificial lures.

Bluefin Tuna Tournaments

Any bluefin tuna that is landed or released dead must be reported by the permit holder or designee through the HMS Permit Catch Reporting page or (888) 872-8862 within 24 hours of returning to the dock, regardless of the recreational trip being private, for-hire, or tournament.

Outreach Materials

NOAA Fisheries provides educational outreach materials to registered Atlantic HMS tournaments upon request. Outreach may be requested during registration or by contacting the HMS Management Division.

All Tournaments

HMS Recreational Compliance Guide

This compliance guide is a plain-language summary of the recreational fishing regulations for sharks, tunas, billfish, and swordfish. Includes HMS permit requirements, minimum sizes, bag limits, seasons, and more.

Careful Catch and Release Brochure

The careful catch and release brochure provides tips on handling and releasing large saltwater pelagic fish in a way that minimizes injury and maximizes their chances of recovery.

North Atlantic Right Whale Recreational Boater Alert/Avoid

This brochure provides guidance on alerting to and avoiding right whales to prevent collisions.

Cast with Care

Laminated Cast with Care wallet cards and stickers contain tips to avoid harmful interactions between marine life and recreational fishing gear, as well as important phone numbers to report an injured or entangled dolphin, sea turtle, or sawfish.

Shark Tournaments

Shark Identification Placard

This shark identification placard is intended for recreational fishing, is printed on waterproof paper, and includes diagrams for identification of sharks legal for retention.

Prohibited Shark Identification Placard

This prohibited shark identification placard is intended for recreational fishing, is printed on waterproof paper, and includes diagrams for identification of prohibited sharks.

Shortfin Mako App and Identification Card

Because shortfin mako sharks are experiencing overfishing, NOAA Fisheries encourages fishermen to release them alive and has developed a free smart phone app that fishermen can use to report live releases of shortfin makos. The app includes an interactive map that lets you view all of the reported releases in the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico. Fishermen can also report mako shark releases on the mako shark website. This postcard also gives recommendations and tips for the identification and live release of shortfin mako sharks.

Additional Materials

Swordfish and Billfish Identification Guide

This one-page swordfish and billfish identification guide shows the differences between swordfish, sailfish, blue marlin, longbill spearfish, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish. NOAA Fisheries encourages tournament operators and anglers to know the differences between white marlin and roundscale spearfish; two species that are very similar in appearance.

Atlantic Tunas Identification Guide

This one-page tunas identification guide shows the differences between albacore, blackfin tuna, Atlantic bonito, skipjack, little tunny, yellowfin tuna, bigeye tuna, and bluefin tuna.

Circle Hook Offshore DVD

Instructional DVD created by the North Carolina Sea Grant, and free by order from through Sea Grant or by request from the Atlantic HMS Management Division

Excerpts from the video: About the Circle Hook | Rigging a Ballyhoo

More Information