Skipper Georg Blänich shrugs when someone uses his honorary title: professional and hobby anglers in the Croatian town of Jezera refer to him the “godfather of fishing.” Those who know the Stuttgart native — the perfect blend of his Croatian mother and German father — will nod in agreement. “That's a good name for him,” his friends say as they look at everything Georg has achieved in the field of sport fishing off the Adriatic Sea in Croatia.
Georg is a highly esteemed man throughout Jezera. And the anglers in the small town on the island of Murter can all explain how Georg earned this respect: in the crystal-blue waters of the Adriatic Sea off the Kornati islands, he discovered the blue-fin tuna during a fishing trip in the late 80s. That laid the foundation for putting Jezera on the map for big-game anglers throughout Europe, making the village a little better off than it was before.
“While drifting for thresher sharks and blue sharks, I kept getting bites from fish who struck and took off at top speed, and 50-pound tackle didn't have a thing on them,” Georg recalls. As they had in ancient times, professional fishermen there lured swarms of sardines to their boats with lanterns at night and caught them with nets. They could not explain the fast large fish either, though. On the contrary, they themselves wondered about the huge holes that sometimes got torn in their lightweight nets.
“After I heard that Italian anglers from Pescaro on the other side caught huge tuna in the Adriatic Sea, the light went off inside my head,” Georg explains. He packed up the 9/0 Penn Senator he bought used, 130-pound line, a 50-lb. rod and all of the theoretical knowledge he'd acquired through his reading, and set off by himself in his six-and-a-half meter boat. In 1993 he had his first blue-fin tuna on the line: “The drill took almost six hours of standing, and since the rod and line weren't positioned correctly, the tip of the rod broke off. – Back then I had no idea there was such a thing as a harness or a fighting chair, but a lot of luck helped me land the 171-kg fish anyway,” he recalls.
There were even larger giants swimming off the Kornati Islands, as Georg ended up seeing for himself: “In 1994 a tuna pulled my boat towards open water for nearly 14 hours. Back then I didn't have a fighting chair, but at least I did have a simple leather harness. I held the line on through the night, standing, lying down and sitting, and it broke my heart but I had to cut the line because the sea was getting too rough.” Georg only caught a glimpse of the fish twice throughout the entire ordeal but guessed it to be over 400 kg.
After catching another dozen fish on his little boat, Georg decided to put his money where his mouth was: in 1997 he bought a 27-foot yacht, EL PATRON, and piggybacked his way south of Genoa on a container ship. From there he and his brother had to undergo a more challenging trip: together they had to sail around the boot of Italy. Georg still gets uncomfortable when he thinks back: “We covered 1,000 nautical miles in six days of stormy weather, and in the straits of Messina and the Gulf of Taranto there were waves as tall as buildings.”
Georg later helped found Croatia's first Big Game Fishing Club. It is called “Punta Rata,” named after the last promontory that starts behind the blue water. In the meantime the club has well over 100 members, and every September it holds an international competition which involves around 50 boats. Since 2013 Georg runs his new EL PATRON II and offers charter fishing targeting Bluefin tuna and big amberjack in wintertime.