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Marlin fishing

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Marlin fishing is considered by many game fishermen to be the pinnacle of offshore game fishing, due to the size and power of marlin, relative rareness and difficulty of capture. It is also expensive, requiring considerable money to pursue as a regular hobby.


Blue marlin

See also: Atlantic blue marlin

Blue marlin are possibly the most sought-after marlin species. Beautiful in form, capable of spectacular fighting ability and having the potential to reach great sizes, blue marlin have inspired and continue to inspire the dedicated pursuit of thousands of skippers, crews and anglers.


Blue marlin are inhabitants of tropical oceanic waters worldwide, occurring both in the Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific. Spawning is carried out in tropical waters and many individuals probably remain in tropical waters year round; however, significant seasonal migrations are made into the temperate waters of the northern and southern hemispheres to take advantage of feeding opportunities as northern and southern waters warm in spring and summer. Although blue marlin have the ability to thermoregulate, the lower limit of their temperature tolerance is thought to be in the region of approximately 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) (although individual fish have been caught in cooler temperatures); warm currents such as the Gulf Stream in the western Atlantic and the Agulhas Current in the western Indian Ocean serve as oceanic highways for blue marlin migration and have a major influence on their seasonal distribution. Larger individuals have the greatest temperature tolerance, and blue marlin encountered at the limits of their range tend to be large fish.

In the western Atlantic blue marlin can be seasonally found as far north as George's Bank and the continental shelf canyons off Cape Cod, influenced by the warm current of the Gulf Stream, and as far south as southern Brazil and Uraguay; in the eastern Atlantic their seasonal range extends northward to the Algarve coast of Portugal and southward to the southern coast of Angola - some blue marlin are found at the southernmost tip of the continent, though whether they are Atlantic stock or Pacific stock is debatable, especially since an individual fish tagged in the western Atlantic was re-caught in the Indian Ocean off the island of Mauritius. Vagrant individuals have been taken by rod and reel as far north as Biscay (2005) and some fish have been commercially caught off south-west Ireland.

In the Pacific, blue marlin are seasonally found as far north as southern Japan and as far south as the Bay of Plenty in the North Island of New Zealand. Blue marlin in the eastern Pacific migrate as far north as Southern California and as far south as northern Peru. The southern limit of their distribution in the eastern Indian Ocean appears to be the waters of Albany and Perth in Western Australia, and in the western Indian Ocean blue marlin have been taken as far south as Cape Town.

Blue marlin have been found in the open ocean in thousands of fathoms of water, thousands of miles from land; however, they concentrate in their greatest numbers in areas where bottom structure (islands, seamounts, banks, and the edge of the continental shelf) create upwelling that brings deep nutrient-rich water close to the surface, sparking off plankton blooms that result in a food chain that ends in large marine predators such as dolphins, whales, large tuna and billfish. In temperate waters, the interaction of warm currents with these bottom structures is critical in setting up suitable environmental conditions for blue marlin and other warmwater gamefish. Temperature breaks created where bodies of warm and cool water are pushed up against each other also act as a less tangible form of structure which attracts bait and gamefish, including blue marlin.

Spawning locations are believed to include the islands of the Caribbean in the western Atlantic, the Gulf of Guinea in the eastern Atlantic, Hawaii, and Mauritius.

Genetic structure

Scientists distinguish between two species of blue marlin, the Atlantic blue marlin (Makaira nigricans) and the Pacific blue marlin (Makaira mazara). Genetic studies have shown that the p-phenotype is prevalent in both oceans, whereas the a-phenotype has not been recorded in the Indian or Pacific oceans; hence a large percentage of blue marlin found in the Atlantic are actually the same genetically as Pacific blue marlin.


The 1656lb Blue marlin caught in 1984 on Black Bart was aged by biologists at 32 years. It is estimated they can live to 50 years old.


Blue marlin are sexually dimorphic: adult males seldom exceed 150 kg (300 lb) whereas females may reach far larger sizes well in excess of 450 kg (1,000 lb). The maximum size of blue (and black) marlin is often debated in both sport fishing and scientific circles. The largest sport fishing capture on record is a 1,805 lb fish caught by a party of anglers in Oahu, Hawaii aboard the charter boat Coreene C skippered by Capt. Cornelius This fish holds the International Game Fish Association all-tackle and 130 lb class record for Atlantic blue marlin.

Commercial fishermen have boated far larger specimens: the largest blue marlin brought into Tsukiji market in Tokyo supposedly weighed a massive 1,106 kg or (2,438lb). It is not know if it was the same fish but it was said that in Okinawa a commercial fisherman using a handline caught a blue marlin. It is said to have "bottomed" one ton scale (1,000 kg or approx 2,200 lbs).

A 1,000 lb (450 kg) fish, a "grander", has historically been regarded for blue and black marlin as the benchmark for a truly outstanding catch. For most marlin anglers, a 1,000 lb fish represents the fish of a lifetime. Sadly, because of ever-increasing commercial fishing effort across the world's oceans, it seems unlikely that sport fishermen will ever break the legendary "tonner" (2,000 lb) mark in the future. That said Bart Miller is said have hooked an estimated 3000lb blue marlin which was estimated to measure 25 feet or more long.


Blue marlin are eclectic feeders preying on a wide range of prey species and sizes. Scientific examination of blue marlin stomach contents has yielded organisms as small as miniature filefish. Common food items include tuna-like fishes, particularly skipjack tuna and frigate mackerel (also known as frigate tuna), squid, mackerel, and scad. Larger fish are said to feed on yellowfin tuna.

Of more interest to sport fishermen is the upper range of blue marlin prey size. A 72-inch white marlin has been recorded as being found in the stomach of a 448 lb blue marlin caught at Walker's Cay in the Bahamas, and more recently, during the 2005 White Marlin Open a white marlin in the 70 lb class was found in the stomach of one of the money-winning blues. Shortbill spearfish of 30 to 40 lb have been recorded as feed items by Kona blue marlin fishermen. Yellowfin tuna of 100 lb or more have also been found in the stomachs of large blue marlin.

Fishing techniques

Blue marlin are fished for by thousands of crews from literally hundreds of ports worldwide. As may be expected, fishing styles and gear used in the pursuit of blue marlin is very diverse, depending on the size of blue marlin common to the area, the size of fish being targeted, local sea conditions, and often local tradition. However the main methods used for blue marlin can be broken down into fishing with artificial lures, rigged natural baits and live bait fishing.

Artificial lure fishing

Blue marlin are aggressive fish that respond well to the splash, bubble trail and action of a well presented artificial lure.

Probably the most popular technique used by blue marlin crews worldwide, artificial lure fishing has spread from its Hawaiian origins throughout the world. The earliest marlin lures were carved from wood, cast in drinks glasses or made from chrome bath towel pipes and skirted with rubber inner tubes or vinyl upholstery material cut into strips. Today, marlin lures are produced in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and colours, mass-produced by large manufacturers and individually crafted by small-scale custom makers.

A typical marlin lure is a small (7-8 inch), medium (10-12 inch) to large (14 inches or more) artificial with a shaped plastic or metal head to which a plastic skirt is attached. The design of the lure head, particularly its face, gives the lure its individual action when trolled through the water. Lure actions range from an active side-to-side swimming pattern to pushing water aggressively on the surface to, most commonly, tracking along in a straight line with a regular surface pop and bubble trail. Besides the shape, weight and size of the lure head, the length and thickness of skirting, the number and size of hooks and the length and size of the leader used in lure rigging all influence the action of the lure: how actively it will run and how it will respond to different sea conditions. Experienced anglers will fine tune their lures with often subtle variations to yield the desired action.

Lures are normally fished at speeds of between 7.5 to 9 knots; faster speeds in the 10 to 15 knot range are less frequently used, primarily by boats with slower cruising speeds travelling from spot to spot. These speeds allow quite substantial areas to be effectively worked in a day's fishing. A pattern of four or more lures is trolled at varying distances behind the boat. Lures may be fished either straight from the rod tip ("flat lines"), or from outriggers.

Natural bait fishing

Rigged natural baits have been used by sport fishermen seeking blue marlin since the 1930s and are still popular in many top destinations. Throughout the eastern seaboard of the United States and in the Bahamas and Caribbean, rigged Spanish mackerel and horse ballyhoo are widely used for Atlantic blue marlin.

Rigged natural baits are sometimes combined with an artificial lure or skirt to make "skirted baits" or "bait/lure combinations".

Live bait fishing

Live bait fishing for blue marlin normally uses small tuna species with skipjack generally considered the best choice. As trolling speed is limited by the fact that baits must be trolled slowly to remain alive, live-baiting is normally chosen where fishing areas are relatively small and easily covered. Much live-baiting in the blue marlin fishery of Kona, Hawaii, for instance, takes place near FAD (Fish Aggregation Device) buoys and in the vicinity of steep underwater ledges.

Angling destinations

The Atlantic
Blue marlin have been caught by sportfishermen in the Atlantic from as early as the 1930s, when sport anglers from Florida began to explore the Bahamas and Cuba. Authors such as Ernest Hemingway and S.Kip Farrington did much to attract the attention of big-game anglers to the Bahamian islands of Bimini and Cat Cay. After the Second World War, and especially from the 1960s onwards, anglers began pursuing and finding blue marlin in destinations all over the tropical and subtropical Atlantic.
The Bahama Islands have long been popular destinations for fishermen seeking blue marlin. Bimini, located at the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream, has the longest history of blue marlin fishing in the islands, dating back to anglers such as Michael Lerner, Ernest Hemingway and S.Kip Farrington who fished there in the 1930s and 1940s.
From the 1960s, more outlying areas such as Walker's Cay and the Abaco islands have developed as blue marlin grounds.
The Bahamas is home to one of the most intensely competitive tournament series in marlin fishing, the Bahamas Billfish Championship.
The banks lying off the hook-shaped island of Bermuda consistently produce blue marlin. Many Bermudian fish are small specimens in the 150 to 250 lb class but every year much bigger fish in the 600 lb and larger class are caught. A 1,352 lb giant boated aboard the MAKO IV, skippered by Captain Allen deSilva, in 1995 stands as the largest blue marlin caught in Bermudian waters. This fish is also one of the largest blue marlin ever boated in the Atlantic.
A series of tournaments attracts many top-notch boats and crews from the United States every summer. Visiting boats and crews join a small but well-equipped and experienced fleet of charter vessels.
The city of Vitória is considered the world capital of Blue marlin fishing by many anglers but difficulty in travelling there limits access. Fishing is a popular activity in Vitória, and sport fishing has became more popular in Vitória each day, attracting fishermen from other states and countries due to the large population of Marlin and Sailfish off the coast of Espirito Santo. Largest of the many big blue marlin caught at Vitória is the International Game Fish Association (IGFA) all-tackle record for Atlantic blue marlin, held by Paulo Amorim, who caught a Blue Marlin that weighed 636 kg (1,402 lb). Larger Blue marlin have been caught in Hawaii (1656 lb and 1800 lb+), but these fish were not captured according to the guidelines of the IGFA.
Cape Verde Islands
This cluster of islands in the eastern tropical Atlantic has proved to be an outstanding blue marlin fishery since it was first seriously fished in the 1980s. Blue marlin may be caught year-round in Cape Verde waters but the very best fishing seems to take place between March and May when large numbers of blue marlin concentrate in island waters. Blues encountered off Cape Verde range widely in size with many fish of 100 to 350 lb and good numbers of larger fish in the 400 to 600+ lb class. The biggest catch from Cape Verde waters is a 1241 lb caught in September 2006 near the island of Saint Vincent by angler Barry Silleman fishing with skipper, Berno Niebuhr. Incidental catches include Wahoo and large Yellowfin tuna.
Although blue marlin are being caught in increasing numbers on the Algarve coast of Portugal, the main centres of blue marlin fishing in Portugal are the oceanic islands of the Azores and Madeira.

The Azores

The small port of Horta on Fayal island is synonymous with blue marlin fishing in the nine-island chain of the Azores. The season normally begins in late June or early July and continues until weather conditions put an end to the fishery in mid to late October. Weather conditions can be unpredictable at the tail-end of the season but in midsummer when the area is dominated by the Azores high the seas can be very flat.
Although blue marlin can be found close to Fayal island, boats seeking blue marlin often select three banks that serve as productive feeding locations for these fish. The Azores sits in the northern extreme of blue marlin distribution and the fishery is dominated by large fish. 400 to 600 lb fish are average here and every year fish of 1000 lb and above are encountered. The Azores is home to Atlantic blue marlin records for, amongst others, IGFA 50 lb and 80 lb line classes.


Between April and October every year some of the biggest blue marlin in the Atlantic appear off this tiny Portuguese island 360 miles west of the coast of Morocco.
Big game fishing has taken place in Madeiran waters from as early as the early 1970s. A number of large blue marlin were caught during the 1980s, but the focus for most visiting anglers tended to be sharks and the prolific schools of bigeye tuna.
During 1992 to 1996 Madeira was the scene of some incredible fishing for giant blue marlin, bringing the island to the attention of marlin fishermen worldwide. In 1994 alone eight fish of over 1,000 lb were weighed in.
Between 1997 and 2000 blue marlin fishing in Madeira, along with the other Atlantic islands, underwent a severe downturn, blamed by many on the strong El Niño event of 1996/1997. However, from 2001 onwards conditions began to improve and the seasons of 2005 and 2006 have seen Madeira return to some of its former glory. June to July appear to be the premier months for blue marlin fishing. The small fleet of charter boats operate out of the small marina in the island's largest town, Funchal.
The most popular fishing grounds are situated on the south coast of the island, sheltered by the high cliffs from the prevailing northeast trade winds. Fishing generally takes place within a few miles of the island and many great fish are caught well within two miles of the shoreline. Lure fishing is the most successful method with a wide variety of medium to large artificials from various sources being successful.

Canary Islands (Islas Canarias)

Although a number of blue marlin have been brought into ports along the Atlantic coast of mainland Spain, the subtropical archipelago of the Canary Islands is by far the most prolific blue marlin grounds in Spain.
Blue marlin appear seasonally in the Canary Islands between May and October with some individuals having been caught earlier and later in the year.
Sport fishing boats may be chartered from the main islands of Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, and Tenerife; from the smaller islands of Graciosa and La Gomera; and from Puerto Rico on the island of Gran Canaria, which boasts the largest fleet of charterboats in the Canaries.
The average size of blue marlin encountered in the Canaries tends to be large, in the 400 to 600+ lb class, including some very large fish upwards of 800 lb. Smaller fish in the 200 to 350 lb class also make an appearance at times.

United States

North Carolina

The Outer Banks of North Carolina have long been known for their blue marlin fishing. Since the early 1950's when Ernal Foster on the Albatross I made the first charter fishing trips for blue marlin, Cape Hatteras has been known as an important destination for the sportfisherman. Other important fishing centres include Morehead City, home to the famous Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament, and Oregon Inlet. The close proximity of the Gulf Stream and of the continental shelf edge in the Cape Hatteras area create a productive combination of current, blue water and ocean temperature that attracts a wide variety of gamefish including blue marlin.
While the average size of a blue marlin is typically 250 to 400lbs, big fish inhabit these waters. North Carolina was home to the former all-tackle world record Atlantic blue marlin, a 1,128 lb fish. The state record stands at 1,142 lbs and more recently a 1,077 lb blue was taken off of Oregon Inlet in August 2007.
Venezuela's La Guaira Bank sees some of the most prolific blue marlin fishing in the Atlantic. Blue marlin are present year round with particularly good numbers in spring. Trolling with ballyhoo baits using relatively light tackle, often in the 30 lb class, is popular for the variety of billfish species that can make an appearance in these waters.
Virgin Islands

St Thomas

The island of St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands is one of the most renowned Atlantic blue marlin destinations. Full moons from June to October can see some intense blue marlin fishing in the area known as the 'North Drop'. Lure fishing, trolling natural baits and bait and switch are all popular. The former all-tackle world record Atlantic blue of 1,282 lb was boated here.


Blue marlin have probably been known to Japanese high seas fishermen for centuries. However, the Pacific blue marlin was not officially considered to be a separate species until 1954; prior to that date, Pacific blues were known as "silver marlin" or often confused with black marlin. The capture of a 1,002 lb Pacific blue by skipper George Parker of Kona, Hawaii, was instrumental in clearing up the identification of Pacific marlin species. Hawaii has continued to be the major centre of blue marlin fishing in the Pacific, and Hawaiian blue marlin techniques have been disseminated throughout the Pacific Basin by travelling anglers and crews, influencing blue marlin fisheries as distant as Japan and Australia.

Blue marlin range on both the east and west coasts of Australia, with fish being recorded as far south as the Tasmanian east coast and Albany on the west coast.  :Notable regions to fish for blue marlin in Australia are the Cairns region, southern Queensland from Fraser Island to the Gold Coast, Port Stephens and Sydney, the New South Wales south coast region (where the Australian record(s) were caught), Rottnest Island off Perth, Exmouth and Broome in the northwest of western Australia. On the east Australian coast, blue marlin are a popular target for anglers fishing out of such ports as Port Stephens, Sydney and the southern ports of Ulladulla, Batemans Bay, and Bermagui. However, the best scores in terms of numbers of fish have come from boats fishing the Gold Coast area of Queensland.
A blue marlin over 1000 lb has not yet been officially recorded in Australian waters although the Australian record capture (which is also the ladies all-tackle world record) weighed just under the magic 1000lb. Its weight 997 lb(452.2kg) was caught on 37kg (80lb) tackle whilst fishing from Batemans Bay on the Australian NSW south coast. Apparently it took some time for the fish to be weighed which almost certainly robbed angler of a fish of the magic 1000lb. This fish was caught in March 1999 by the then 27-year old female angler Melanie Kisbee fishing from a boat named Radiant a 28ft Bertram which was captained by the late Paul Gibson. The fish was caught on a topgun lure called awesome in blue and pink.
Previous to this record blue marlin the record was held by a 417kg fish also captured from the port of Batemans Bay during the Tollgate Island Classic putting Batemans Bay on the map as the home of big blue marlin. Prior to that the record was held by a fish around 370kg captured in Bermagui by angler Wayne Cummings.
Several blue marlin 400kg plus range have been tagged and released in Australia which is now the main method of fishing. The fish this size appear to be mainly caught on the NSW in summer when the warmer south east current runs down the coast (January to March) and the water temperature increases. The larger blue marlin appear to be captured in years when the water temperate is warmer than usual. Fish larger than a thousand pounds have been hooked but none so far landed. The fishing season in Australia for blue marlin is January to May-June.
Blue marlin whilst targeted by some in this region tend to be captured whilst fishing for striped marlin as they tend to be more prevalant. Fishing for blue marlin in Australia is a mix of lure, live bait and switch baiting.
More blue marlin are caught on rod and reel in the Hawaiian Islands than anywhere in the world. Over 60 fish of over 1,000 lb have been weighed in Hawaiian waters, including the two largest marlin caught on rod and reel: a 1,805 lb fish caught from Oahu by Capt. Cornelius Choy and a 1,656 lb fish caught off Kona by angler Gary Merriman aboard the Black Bart, skippered by Capt. Bart Miller, in March 1984.
The town of Kona on the lee coast of the Big Island of Hawaii is internationally known for its blue marlin fishing, the skill and experience of its top skippers (many of which are also skilled lure makers) and its long-standing Hawaiian International Billfish Tournament (HIBT). A large fleet of sport fishing vessels operates out of Honohokau Harbour.
Blue marlin skippers in the Hawaiian Islands employ both lure fishing and live-baiting techniques.
New Zealand
Although a blue marlin weighing over 1,000 lb was caught in the Bay of Islands as early as 1968, striped marlin have traditionally been the main billfish species in the New Zealand fishery. However, Pacific blue marlin captures have increased in New Zealand over the last 10 years and blue marlin are now consistently caught from along the eastern coast of the North Island. The Waihau Bay and Cape Runaway area is particularly well known for blue marlin. Blue marlin encountered in New Zealand tend to be of large average size with most averaging 300 to 500 lb. Larger specimens in the 600 lb plus class are hooked and landed every year.
Most New Zealand blue marlin are taken by lure fishing with a wide variety of locally made and imported lures being popular.
South Pacific Islands
Blue marlin are caught in all the South Pacific islands.


In 1930, the American angler Zane Grey boated the first blue marlin weighing over 1,000 lb fishing a few miles south of Mataiea, Tahiti. Although damaged by a shark bite, this fish weighed in at 1,040 lb, a remarkable capture on the primitive fishing tackle of that era.
Offshore fishing in Tahiti began to develop in earnest in the 1960s following the establishment of the Haura (marlin) Club of Tahiti in 1962. Today seven gamefishing clubs exist in the Society Islands. As in Hawaii, the average size of blue marlin in Tahitian waters is in the 90-130 kg range, but many larger individuals in the 400 lb and larger class are boated each year.


The island nation of Vanuatu appears to be the premier destination for blue marlin in the South Pacific and one of the best fisheries for Pacific blues in the world. A ratified 1142 lb fish landed in August, 2007.

Blue marlin in literature

The best-known appearance of a blue marlin in literature is as the noble adversary of the Cuban fisherman Santiago in the Ernest Hemingway short story, The Old Man and the Sea.

Black marlin

Main article: Black marlin

Black marlin (Makaira indica) are found in the Indian and Pacific oceans with some vagrant individuals having been reported from the south Atlantic.

Fishing techniques

Black marlin fishing has traditionally conducted with rigged dead baits, both skipping and swimming. In the historic Cabo Blanco fishery little blind trolling was done; instead the billfish (striped marlin, black marlin and swordfish) were sighted cruising or finning on the surface and baited. In the Cairns fishery a wide variety of baitfish species are used successfully, including kawa kawa and other small tunas, queenfish and scad. Baits range from two pound scad to dogtooth tuna and narrowbarred mackerel of twenty pounds and more.

The use of live bait is also popular for targeting both large and small black marlin and under the right circumstances is extremely effective, although sharks and other non-targeted gamefish can often be a problem with this method. Small live baits such as slimy mackerel and yellowtail scad are highly effective for juvenile black marlin and are fished both by slow trolling and drifting. Live bait techniques for larger black marlin are similar to those used for blue marlin, normally employing bridle-rigged live tunas of between 3 and 25 lbs. The use of a downrigger has proven to be helpful in positioning baits deeper in the water column.

Artificial lures will catch black marlin of all sizes from 30 and 40 lb juveniles to the giant females of 1,200 lbs and more. The prevalence of lure damaging bycatch such as wahoo, barracuda and Spanish (narrowbarred) mackerel in some areas can make lure fishing an expensive proposition. However, the faster pace of lure fishing allows larger areas to be searched effectively, which can be an advantage if the fish seem more dispersed.

Angling destinations


Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique is a premier destination for giant black marlin. This fisheries was discovered in the mid 50's from the very basic fleet operating from St. Carolina island. Until the mid 70's when the country erupted in a 20 year civil war many fish over the magical 1000 lb barrier were caught. Marlin fishing in the archipelago is making a big come back and is probably one of the world's best kept secrets. Few, but good professional operations (mainly from Indigo Bay Island Resort) fish the area for Black marlin from September to January and International anglers are finding that the war years left the resource virtually untouched. The all African record was caught on the north point of Bazaruto in November 1998, a monster fish of 1298 lb.Skip, swim and live baits are the most traditional methods, but crews have experimented with lures over the past few seasons with great success.

Cairns, Australia is considered the world capital of black marlin fishing. It is the only confirmed breeding ground for Black marlin as they synchronise their breeding with the myctophid breeding aggregations and coral spawns of September, October and November off the Great Barrier Reef in the lizard island to cairns region.
The region is unquestionably the best place in the world to catch a black marlin over 1000 lb. Many domestic and international anglers visit the region during the September to November period in the hope of catching the "fish of a lifetime". Black marlin can be caught to a size of 1,200-1,300 lb in this area.
Ever since the world record for Black Marlin was caught in the 50's in Cabo Blanco, Peru, the Ecuadorian and Peruvian coast have seen the biggest catches for Black Marlin. In Salinas and Manta several records have been caught, including the 1014 pound Black Marlin in 1985 at Manta.
Black marlin are consistently, although seldom frequently, caught in Cabo San Lucas and other Mexican fishing centres. Black marlin, along with blue marlin, are the targets of the biggest paying marlin tournament in the world, the Bisbee's Black and Blue, which is fished in the waters of Cabo San Lucas in October. At present, the offshore structures such as Corbetana Rock and "El Banco" off Puerto Vallarta appears to offer the best fishing for black marlin in Mexican waters.
The large vessels of the San Diego Long Range fleet have also caught some hefty blacks in the 600 lb plus range while fishing for yellowfin tuna at the Revillagigedos Islands.
Black marlin in Mexican waters, as in most other parts of their range, tend to associate with reefs, banks and similar offshore structures. Slow trolling live baits such as skipjack tuna over these structures tends to be the most effective way to target black marlin. Downriggers are sometimes used to fish baits deeper.
On June 11, 1949, pioneering Panamanian angler Louis Schmidt boated a black marlin that after being cut in half and weighed, tipped the scales at 1,006 lb. This fish is believed to be the first black marlin of over 1,000 lb caught on rod and reel.
Today the productive reef areas in Pinas Bay, fished by boats from the famous Tropic Star Lodge, and the many other reefs and islands along the Pacific coast of Panama, particularly Coiba Island in the Gulf of Chiriqui, still have probably the best fishing for black marlin in the western hemisphere. Black marlin averaging 200 to 500 lb hunt schools of rainbow runners, black skipjack and other prey over these structures along with large Pacific sailfish and dorado. Occasional specimens will reach well over 600 lb. Slow trolling with bridle-rigged live skipjack is the predominant technique used to target black marlin by the Tropic Star fleet. At Coiba Island the Hannibal Banks is among most productive areas where trolling lures is employed successfully.

White marlin

Main article: Atlantic white marlin

White marlin (Tetrapturus albidus) occur only in the Atlantic Ocean. The smallest of the marlin species, they are renowned for their speed, leaping ability, their elegant beauty and the difficulty that anglers often encounter in baiting and hooking them. They are a premier light-tackle gamefish.


White marlin are distributed throughout the tropical and seasonally in temperate oceanic waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Where environmental conditions (temperature, water colour and clarity) are favourable, white marlin will often forage in shallow water well inshore of the continental shelf, taking advantage of the abundant baitfish resources often found in these areas.


White marlin may reach a potential maximum size of around 220 lb (100 kg). The International Game Fish Association all-tackle record is held by a Brazilian fish of 181 lb. Most rod-caught white marlin are far smaller than this and any white marlin in the 100 lb (45 kg) class is considered an excellent catch.


White marlin feed on a variety of schooling baitfish including sardine, herring and other clupeoids; squid; mackerel; scad; saury; and smaller tuna-like fishes such as frigate and bullet tuna.

Like their close relatives the striped marlin, and sailfish, white marlin will often group together to corral schooling baitfish into a tight group for feeding purposes, a phenomenon commonly referred to as "balling bait".

Genetic structure

Recent genetic studies have suggested that white marlin are a phenotype of striped marlin.

A number of hybrids between white marlin and the Atlantic longbill spearfish have also been recorded. It appears that that the two species are sufficiently close to each other genetically that white marlin and spearfish spawning in the same area can produce hybrids.

Hatchet marlin

The so-called "hatchet marlin" has recently been confirmed as a separate species in the Tetrapturus family, which includes white marlin, striped marlin and spearfish. Although officially known as the roundscale spearfish, this fish closely resembles the white marlin and most tournaments treat hatchet marlin catches as white marlin.

Angling destinations


Brazil is home to most of the largest white marlin in the IGFA record books. Areas such as the Charlotte Bank see large numbers of white marlin as well as blue marlin, sailfish and other blue-water gamefish such as tuna and dorado.

United States
North Carolina

Cape Hatteras, Oregon Inlet and other fishing areas along the coast of North Carolina benefit from the close proximity of the Gulf Stream. White marlin are often targeted by the skilled charter crews and recreational sport fisherman that fish this area, with August and September often providing some exceptional fishing.

Trolling with natural baits, predominantly ballyhoo, is the most effective method and rigging and fishing techniques have been continuously refined and perfected over the years by the many skilled crewmen that work these waters.


The La Guaira Bank off the coast of Venezuela hosts great concentrations of white marlin in season. White marlin can be encountered year round but autumn is considered the best time to target white marlin in Venezuelan waters.

Venezuelan anglers such as Aquiles Garcia, Rafael Arnal, Ronnie Morrison and Ruben Jaen honed their techniques and tackle in these fish-rich waters and their experiences have contributed to many light-tackle billfishing techniques commonly used today.

Striped marlin

Main article: Striped marlin

Striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax) occur in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

Fishing techniques

Live bait fishing

In Mexican hot spots such as Cabo San Lucas and in Southern California, anglers cast live baits such as mackerel and caballito (scad) to striped marlin that may be sighted feeding or finning on the surface.

Conventional live bait trolling at slow speeds is also highly effective when concentrations of marlin can be located. Experienced skippers fishing out of ports such as Bermagui on the south coast of New South Wales have in the recent past racked up scores of over 100 striped marlin per season fishing this relatively simple technique at the right time at the right place. Larger baits such as kahawai and skipjack tuna are often used for the large striped marlin of New Zealand.

Deep dropping live baits with the aid of sinkers can bring live baits deeper to feeding fish. This tactic is frequently used in Mexico and in Australia. It is considered somewhat lowbrow (it has been described as "snapper fishing for marlin") but is nonetheless highly effective when deep feeding activity occurs.

Angling destinations


Although Australia is world famous for its black and and more recently blue marlin fishery, Striped marlin are often abundant in the subtropical waters of the vast island continent and are a popular target for Australian anglers.

The Port Stephens area of New South Wales hosts the country's largest inter-club tournament and has produced several striped marlin records on ultra-light and fly tackle. Larger striped marlin in the 250 to 300 lb plus class often show up in the southern part of their range. Batemans Bay, Ulladulla and Bermagui in southern New South Wales is where where fish of this class can be encountered.

Live-baiting with such baits as slimy mackerel and skipjack tuna, and trolling artificial lures are the two most common techniques here but many top crews have experienced great success seeking fly-rod and light-tackle records via the bait and switch technique.


The Galapagos Islands are home to great concentrations of striped marlin.

Striped marlin are also fished for on the Ecuadorian mainland. Salinas in the southern part of the country and Manta further north are the main sportfishing bases in Ecuador. The cold Humboldt Current from the south meets the equatorial current along the Ecuadorian coastline and when conditions are right, the combination of current, colour and temperature breaks amass concentrations of baitfish that attract large striped marlin as well as larger blue and black marlin, yellowfin and bigeye tuna.


Striped marlin are one of three marlin species that appear in east African waters. Kenya has the most well-developed sport fishery in this region and every year boats from Malindi, Lamu and Watamu in the north, as well as Shimoni in the south, see excellent striped marlin fishing.

Cabo is known as the Striped Marlin Capital of the world. More striped marlin are probably caught recreationally at the Mexican tourist mecca of Cabo San Lucas than anywhere else in the world. Large fleets of local and American sportfishing boats fish the productive banks and offshore grounds of this renowned hot spot.

Striped marlin may be caught year round in Cabo waters but the heaviest concentrations seem to show up in late autumn and good numbers stay around into the spring.

On 9th Dec 2007 during the Mini WCBRT team Reelaxe released a total of 330 striped marlin in the two day tournament setting another tournament record for a single team in two days. With a New record of 190 Striped Marlin in One day. Team consisted of Chris Badsey, Dave Brackmann, Steve Brackmann, Alex Rogers, Jose Espanoza , Mark Clayton, Saul Contrearus, Dennis Poulton. Top angler was Reelaxe angler Jose Esponoza with a personal best and tournament record of 59 released striped marlin in a single day

Prior to that in November of 2007 the crew of the sportfishing vessel Reelaxe, fishing on the Finger Bank, set a phenomenal one-day catch record of 179 striped marlin.

Further north on the Pacific coast of the Baja peninsula, great concentrations of striped marlin also seasonally gather in the area of Magdalena Bay.
New Zealand

Marlin fishing in New Zealand waters has a proud history that dates back to the turn of the 20th century. New Zealand boasts the world's largest striped marlin with fish of over 400 lb having been caught. The all-tackle striped marlin record of 494 lb is held here, and striped marlin of over 300 lb are caught in New Zealand waters every year. Kiwi anglers, often fishing in small trailerable boats, pursue striped marlin from Houhoura and the North Cape in the far north of the country to as far south as Gisborne, Raglan and Napier in the south.

Lure fishing is probably the most popular fishing technique used by New Zealand marlin fishermen with many good fish also being taken on live and rigged dead baits.


The main threat to marlin, along with other highly migratory pelagic fish, is commercial fishing. Billfish of all species are taken as commercial targets and as by-catch in tuna and swordfish fisheries.

Recreational competitions run on a kill anything basis still form a major problem. These are often run by organisors for financial gain. However it should be noted recreational fishermen usually rally against and condem these competitions.

Economic value of marlin fishing

Sportfishing for marlin generates millions of tourist dollars worldwide.


Awareness of the need to conserve billfish stocks worldwide has led to an increasing trend for recreational anglers and skippers to release their catches in as healthy a condition as possible. In some areas of the world commercial fishing for striped, Black and blue marlin has been banned.

Anglers are well aware of the impact of commercial fishing. Where commercial fishing has been banned marlin fishing has improved.

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v • d • eRecreational fishing

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Recreational fishing| Fishing industry| Whaling| Sustainability and research Categories: Recreational fishingHidden categories: Articles lacking sources from September 2007 | All articles lacking sources

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