Marlin (Blue) Fishing
Marlin (Blue) Fishing
Marlin (Blue) (Makaira nigricans)
- Size 200 to 400lbs
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Excellent
- Habitats Offshore
The Blue Marlin is a prime deep sea game fish, often the target of specialist charters. It can get very large (with the current all-tackle record standing tall at 1,402lbs), yet still pull off impressive acrobatic stunts at the end of the line, making it a highly desirable and rewarding target. Blue Marlin weighing over 1000 lbs, also known as 'granders', are on the bucket list of every serious big game angler.
The king of all fish, the powerful Blue Marlin is pelagic and highly migratory, able to travel thousands of miles on end along warm ocean currents - one tagging study found an individual 9,254 miles from where it started its journey. Like other billfish, this apex predator uses countercurrent exchanger tissue to keep its brain and eyes warm, boosting its already phenomenal eyesight, stamina, cold water temperature tolerance and hunting skills.
The Blue Marlin is a highly sought after fish. Anglers chase them down for sport and commercial fishermen catch them both as a main goal and as bycatch. Even with most anglers practicing catch and release and all commercial vessels within 200 miles of the US coastline being obligated to release any billfish, Blue Marlin numbers are deteriorating, presumably due to the stress of being caught and released often getting to the fish in the end.
Even though the official IGFA record stands at 1,402lbs, the largest Blue Marlin ever landed was a commercial catch that possibly topped 2,200lbs. Another record catch, not inducted into IGFA due to not being landed by a single person, is popularly referred to as Choy's monster and was an astounding 16.4ft and 1,805lbs. Most catches will be around 11ft and between 200 and 400lbs. Females are usually larger and live longer (up to 26 years).
Where & When
The movement of Blue Marlin in the western Atlantic Ocean is probably associated with the loop current, taking them into the Gulf of Mexico and northwards past south Florida. In the Gulf, they're best targeted along the 100 fathom curve off the Panhandle May through October. On the Atlantic side, other than off Miami, the stretch between Palm Beach and Jupiter is also productive April through July, as is the Rolldown (a deep ledge some 50 miles out from St Augustine) in April, May and September. As always though, the Keys take away the best fishing reward, as Blues can be found around Wood's Wall (a deep underwater cliff 20 miles south of Key West) late spring through the end of fall.
In the southwestern Atlantic, Blue Marlin can be caught around Brazil between January and April, before heading north to Cozumel and the Dominican Republic from June to October. From May to October they can be found in the western and central parts of the North Pacific, such as Cabo San Lucas, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Panama and Hawaii. From May to October Blue Marlin are in good numbers around the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores. They tend to appear in waters from Mozambique to Indonesia to the northwest coast of Australia from April to October and off the east coast of Australia from January to May. August to December sees them flock to the waters northeast of Africa, with Cape Verde emerging as one of the best Blue Marlin fishing destinations in the world. Trophy-sized fish can also be found in the Indian Ocean around Mauritius and up to the east coast of Africa.
How to catch
Blue Marlin are usually caught trolling with artificial lures or live bait. A wide variety of artificial lures are made to target specifically billfish such as Blue Marlin, and they tend to respond well to the colours and movements of these lures. Many anglers prefer to carry a variety of lures when targeting Marlin, allowing them to be flexible according to the situation. Live or dead natural bait can also be an effective option, especially when fishing a saturated area where expensive lures risk getting damaged by other species. Most medium sized fish like Bonefish, mullet, Mahi or Barracuda should work, but the all time proven effective baitfish is fresh Spanish Mackerel.
Blue Marlin are also targeted by flyfishing enthusiasts, who use fly rods made specifically for targeting billfish. These rods are designed more for their lifting power than the casting of the fly, but of course the act of casting is still very important, and considerably more specific than the usual method of trolling.
Asides from heavy and/or braided tackle, fishing for Marlin is best complemented with a fighting chair and a bucket harness. Anglers wanting to battle the Marlin using a stand-up rod will need a shoulder harness and a fighting belt.
Once a Blue Marlin is hooked, it tends to fight very strongly and aggressively. They often violently shake their head from side to side, making it very important to keep the line tight so the hook doesn't get dislodged. They also tend to leap several feet out of the water, making the fight exciting, exhausting and ultimately rewarding for the angler.
Deck hand verifies that the Marlin is exhausted and pulls it in for a winning shot
If you're looking for more know-how on Marlin fishing, head over to our exhaustive guide to all Marlin species and angling techniques.
Good to eat?
Best smoked, as the meat is tough, but can be prepared in a number of ways, as well as consumed raw. However, has high mercury contents and should be avoided. Most anglers practice tag and release with billfish.
- Season - always open;
- Size limit - Florida, the Carolinas, Louisiana, Mississippi - 99'' LJFL minimum; Texas - 131'' TL minimum; other states have no size regulations;
- Bag limit (per angler per day) - Florida - 1 billfish, North Carolina, California - 1; Georgia - catch and release only; Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas - no limit; other states have no bag regulations;
- Season - always open;
- Western Australia, Victoria, Northern Territory, New South Wales - up to 1 fish, no size limits;
- Queensland and South Australia have no regulations;
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