Marlin (Black) Fishing (Istiompax indica)

All Tackle Record

Marlin (Black) Fishing (Istiompax indica)

With Blue Marlin being kings of the seas, Black Marlin are the ultimate emperors. Stripping line at a rate of 120ft per second, they're estimated to be the fastest marine creatures in existence. These grandmasters are on the top of the bucket list of every serious big game angler - catching a Grander Black can be thought of as winning an Olympic gold medal in fishing.

Even though the largest of the Blue Marlin on record (Choy's 1,805lbs monster and an estimated 2,200+lbs commercially caught behemoth) outweigh the IGFA Black Marlin record catch, Blacks are known to more often top that 1,000lbs mark and are also more accessible to fish, as they prefer staying above reefs, feeding close to the surface and near landmasses.

Black Marlin can be distinguished from other billfish unequivocally based on the following - their pectoral fins are rigid and can not be folded against the sides and they have an oversized skin flap covering their throat. Even though their dorsal coloration is mostly very dark, lighter grey varieties exist and have been thought to be boasted by a separate species called Silver Marlin.

How big

The largest Grander Black caught was a whopping 15.3ft in length and 1,650lbs in weight. The size will depend on many factors, with juvenile schools of 50 to 100lbs fish being regular, individuals 125 to 300lbs frequently caught in peak season and fish up to 500lbs not being uncommon.

Hooked aboard Tony Orton - Offshore Adventures north of Auckland, NZ

When & Where

Black Marlin are widely spread throughout the Pacific and Indian oceans, with rare individuals crossing over into the Atlantic via Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. They are mostly found above the thermocline, but sometimes enter milder temperate waters, usually staying between 40°N and 45°S. Fishing hotspots include Australia (especially the Great Barrier Reef), MauritiusHawaiiMexico, Costa Rica and Panama.

The hottest months will usually be in the second half of the year, but will depend on the presence of baitfish and the speed of the warm water currents. They are easiest to catch during full moon, a few days before and in the week after it, because it makes the baitfish move to the surface.

How to catch

More so than other billfish, Black Marlin are most happy with live or dead natural bait. Mackerel, Bonito, Skipjack Tuna, flying fish or squid should be effective, with bigger bait catching bigger fish. Artificials will be less sucessful, but are good for drawing the Marlin near. Recommended are specialized soft head rubber skirted lures.

Natural bait is slow trolled, while artificials are trolled at a faster pace. Once the fish is spotted eyeing the lures, it's advised to drop back a large natural bait, as these are more likely to produce a hit. Always look for a boat with tuna tubes on board, as this is desired equipment for Black Marlin fishing.

Sometimes they will play with the bait first, slashing it with their bill, but, other times, they will swallow it straight away. They have tough mouths and it's important to set the hook properly - once you definitely feel that the bait has been taken by a Black. A good rule of thumb for this is when the line going out can't be stopped by your thumb anymore.

Black Marlin don't spend their energy as much as Blue Marlin do on leaps, tail-walks, ballistic short runs or deep dives. This is why the fight can often be more intense, last longer and require heavy drag to be set throughout.

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?

Has selenium contents and the highest mercury levels of any fish and should be avoided for this reason. Most anglers practice tag and release with billfish.


         Mexico allows 1 billfish per day, which counts as half of the normal daily limit of 10 fish;
  • 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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