Observer Training

Upcoming Observer Training Courses

Saturday May 23, 2015

9 am - 1 pm
IGFA Headquarters
300 Gulf Stream Way
Dania Beach, FL 33004

Saturday June 27, 2015

9 am - 1 pm
Jensen Beach, FL
VFW Post 10066
1805 NE Savannah Rd., FL
Jensen Beach, FL 34957


Click here to download an application. Completed applications can be submitted electronically to For all questions, please contact Jack Vitek at 954-924-4246 or by email at

The IGFA OTC trains captains, anglers, and mates to participate as observers in national and international billfish tournaments. IGFA’s OTC benefits both tournaments and our fisheries by promoting billfish conservation through an all release tournament format. The half-day session trains attendees on IGFA’s International Angling Rules and billfish identification. Additional topics covered in the class include observer etiquette and boating safety. The cost of the class is $150.00, which covers the OTC manual, two DVD’s, and a one-year IGFA membership. The class will run from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. 

What is Observer Training?

Over the years, billfish tournaments have transformed into big business enterprises. Many prestigious tournaments now have enormous calcuttas and purses as well as large numbers of participating anglers. With huge purses and egos on the line, concern often arises whether all participants are adhering to the letter of the rules. This causes turmoil for tournament directors and, at its worst, prevents tournaments from adopting release formats. An obvious solution is to have observers on boats to ensure a level playing field. But how do you know if observers have been properly trained and where do you go to find them? The answer is simple; IGFA.

The International Game Fish Association’s Observer classes began as a conservation initiative to allow offshore billfish tournaments the option to go to a 100% release format with trained and experienced observers on board to verify catches and educate anglers about IGFA angling rules. With the decline of many billfish stocks, the importance of release formats in tournaments has increased. As release tournaments become more common and cash payouts increase, unbiased observers become vital in reporting rule infractions as well as for identifying billfish species. Observers can often benefit anglers by preventing inadvertent rule infractions before they even happen. Having observers that are trained to identify billfish species under frantic tournament conditions virtually eliminates the need to bring back dead fish to the dock for official scoring. Observers also raise the prestige level and credibility of tournaments while contributing to conservation efforts with the safe release of tournament billfish.

With the aid of the National Marine Fisheries Service, IGFA has had over 2000 individuals complete the IGFA Observer Training Course. The IGFA Observer Training Course trains captains, mates, and experienced anglers worldwide in one-day training classes. During the class, subjects covered include species identification, IGFA saltwater angling rules, boating safety, and observer responsibilities and etiquette. Once an individual has taken the course, they have the ability to observe in numerous exotic fishing destinations. Tournament locations that are presently utilizing Observers are Costa Rica, Virgin Islands, Mexico, Panama, Guatemala, Bermuda, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Turks, Caicos, Bahamas, and Florida.

Through contributions and sponsorship, IGFA endeavors to provide more training opportunities so that more tournaments can utilize observers. IGFA trained Observers and the tournaments that use them play a leadership role in billfish conservation and act as stewards of the sport. The overall goal is to contribute to billfish conservation through the promotion of catch and release and to uphold IGFA angling and tournament rules. Using observers that have been IGFA trained will provide prestige and credibility to any tournament, encouraging more participation.

Interested in taking the IGFA Observer Course?

The half-day session trains attendees on IGFA’s International Angling Rules and billfish identification. Additional topics covered in the class include observer etiquette and boating safety. The cost of the class is $150.00, which covers the OTC manual, two DVD’s, and a one-year IGFA membership. The class will run from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. Click here to download an application. For more information, call Jack Vitek at 954-924-4246 or by email at

Individuals that have completed the IGFA Observer Course are notified of tournaments requiring Observers by email blasts and posts on the IGFA Observer Talk Forum. There is no annual fee to receive these notices, but Observers must keep an up-to-date IGFA membership.

Interested in holding an Observer Training Class in your area?

In addition to holding OTCs at IGFA, we’ve held classes in six different countries, two US territories and a slew of states. Arranging an OTC in your area is a relatively simple affair. IGFA needs a point person to correspond with in planning and promoting the course. That person is responsible for helping recruit interested individuals and for securing a venue to hold the course. Before IGFA can travel to hold a course, we need a commitment, in the form of signed applications, from a minimum of 20 people. This is a great opportunity for angling clubs. If you are interested in holding a course in your area, contact Jack Vitek at 954-924-4320 or

Are you a tournament that is interested in using Observers?

There is no charge to use IGFA trained observers. Simply send us an email with the following information:

  • Tournament’s name and location

  • Tournament dates

  • Tournament Director’s name and contact information

  • Number of Observers needed

  • Logistics covered by the tournament

  • Any additional information necessary for Observers

Once we receive this information, we will do a blast email to Observers. IGFA cannot select Observers for tournaments and suggests that Tournament Directors develop a short application for interested Observers that contains the following information:

  • Observer name, address and contact information

  • Emergency contact information

  • Observer experience:
    How many tournaments have you observed in?
    Have you fished or observed in this part of the world before?
    How many of each billfish species have you caught or seen before?

IGFA is a 74 year-old nonprofit conservation and record keeping organization with representatives and members in about 120 countries and territories. The association's headquarters are in Dania Beach, Florida.

Catch Certificates
Got a catch you’re proud of, but isn’t quite big enough for a record? Now you can commemorate it with an IGFA Catch Certificate. IGFA now offers certificates for both fresh and salt water species and getting one couldn’t be easier. (more)
International Angling Rules
The following angling rules have been formulated by the International Game Fish Association to promote ethical and sporting angling practices, to establish uniform regulations for the compilation of world game fish records, and to provide basic angling guidelines for use in fishing tournaments and any other group angling activities.
(click here to download the International Angling Rules)