The very word conjours up thoughts of long battles with Hemingway-sized fish shattering the surface of the ocean into a thousand droplets as they leap through the air in an effort to throw the hook. Often they do. Leaving the hard done by fisherman in a hot sweat, slumped in the fighting chair from sheer exhaustion. There are few species in the predator’s chain that can set the pulse racing with an overflow of adrenalin. That’s even before you leave the dock. So if your target is to set up stall for one, you will need as much information as possible. Marlin fishing has likened to standing in a shower, tearing up money as fast as you can go. It can certainly be expensive. Graeme’s travels have seen him battling fish through the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. So here he breaks down some of the barriers, and gives the TOTALLY AWESOME readers some tips on how to select a set-up for the chase. The Ammo. The Armament. The Place. Read on, for the TOTALLY AWESOME Hotspots …
Let’s start by telling you there is not one, but several species of marlin. I will give you the basics as to where to find them, time of year and methods. Knowing the Latin name won’t help you catch any more fish. There are plenty of anglers in the bar room who can talk the talk, but not so many of them can walk the walk. I caught my first blue marlin in Bermuda a great many years ago. The 200-odd pounder sucked a steel-headed “Butler’s Jet” lure, trolled off the inside edge of the Challenger Bank. As if that fish alone didn’t do enough to get me started, the very same day I watched the same lure disappear into a hole of white water off the stern, as an estimated 800-pounder steamed away for pastures new. I lost that one, but the sheer power of that fish as it emptied the spool ensured I then spent too many years chasing the species all over the world. OK. So I admit to having spent a lot of blank days trying for blue marlin. They are unpredictable. They can rear up in your spread of trolled lures at any time. And as with all species of marlin, there are no guarantees.
On the success front I have had a few personal bests. Landing three Pacific blues to 537lbs before lunch in Mauritius, Indian Ocean. Several other “triples” in a day on blues. A 460 pounder on 50lb test in 6 minutes from Pacific Mexico. A fight with SIX blue marlin in a day in the Azores to 400lbs.Largest I personally wired up? In excess of 760lbs.Largest I lost (estimated by Capt Billy Borer-Sal Island, Cape Verde’s)-Over 1000lbs plus. First angler to record blue marlin from Faial island in Azores (August 1985). I actually hooked up twenty in a week! Longest fight? -2hrs 50 minutes on a blue off the Cayman Islands, on solid wire line and 50lb rod in a storm. Never on wire again. So I have been around blue marlin a very long time. So here’s how I see it. Best places to find Mr Blue and time of year to try….
BERMUDA (Atlantic) Months of July and August. The boats have recorded several granders (fish over 1000lbs) here in recent years. They have always been there, but nobody specialised in trolling lures as the predominant species had always been yellowfin tuna and Wahoo. Bermuda is not cheap to fly to, or stay at, but it is one of the most beautiful islands I have been to. It can also be clipped by any northward-moving hurricane, the season for which is generally July to October. They have a local tournament around the end of July so make enquiries with the Tourist Board before you go, otherwise you might not get a boat.
AZORES (Atlantic) possibly the best place to get yourself a blue marlin, but be advised the favoured isle, Faial, is difficult to get to. You can either fly into Ponta Delgada and change to an inter-island aircraft the next day to get to Faial, or you can overnight in Lisbon (mainland Portugal) then catch a flight to either Ponta Delgada, or Faial.Either way, reckon on two days to get there. When I first discovered there were catchable blue marlin there in huge numbers, not only did the flood gates open for anglers, but the boat charter prices rocketed from £180/£200 a day, to the “silly season” where $1000 or more is asked. The Azores was affordable for the European marlin angler, but now it should be classified as expensive. Time of year? Definitely August, September and early October. We once took 5 blues to over 700lbs in a single day, fishing the inside edge of the Condor Bank. You can also pick up white marlin, and Big-eye Tuna. Needless to say such prolific baitfish grounds ensure there are always shark around-Blues, Mako, and Hammers.
ALGARVE-Portugal-Atlantic. A patchy venue that can prove hit-and-miss at best. Yet close to the UK so worth mentioning. Two hours flying time away, the main canyon for the blues is off Vilamoura, and the season, if there is one, should be mid-August to end of September, when the water is at its warmest. In the 2004 season there were 14 blue marlin reported to 700lbs,and 1000 pounders have been taken here. Weather generally superb, but the downside is the huge baitfish schools that make it difficult to target the big predators as they seldom rise above the baitfish. Who can blame them? Also white marlin fishery much closer to shore, say five miles off.
CANARY ISLANDS (Atlantic)-Another patchy venue, this time due to the fact there are no baitfish holding grounds there. Straight into deep water. If the marlin are migrating close to shore you are in with a chance, if not you will blank. Good average fish though, probably around 300lbs,up to, and in excess of 1000lbs.A very tight month to target them would be the last three weeks in July. Prime Island is Gran Canaria, where at Puerto Rico they have the largest charter fleet in the islands. Seas are generally very calm, especially in the south of the islands.
CABO SAN LUCAS-Mexico (Pacific)-The Pacific Blue Marlin grows larger than their Atlantic cousins, and the tip of Baja California is the place to be in August and September. Unfortunately this is the time you get hurricanes, as it is very hot, so you have to weigh up the risks. October can also be a good month, with the chance of a storm still there, but slightly reduced. Cabo has very deep water close to shore, with the canyon contours running just four miles offshore. His venue takes about 16 hours to get to from the UK, but the great point about this place is the huge number of charter boats available. This creates competitive pricing. You can burn upwards of $1000 a day if you want to, or $300 for a 20-footer, or just $200 a day for an open panga and skipper. Some of the panga skippers are equally adept at finding the best spots and many have landed blues in excess of 500lbs.It can be extremely hot, but hotel rooms are air conditioned, and should you be looking for blues on a budget, a trip here could make a worthwhile investment. MAURITIUS- (Indian Ocean). This was one of my regular hunting grounds for blues, but over the last ten years sport has dropped off drastically. The 12-hour flight is expensive and boats used to be cheap at £125 a day. Now the prices are way up, and the marlin strikes way down, but it should not be written off entirely. A superb holiday venue in the winter months, and history shows that many fish in excess of 1000lbs have been caught. That is both marlin and big sharks. Time of year to try is from October to April, with the cyclone (hurricane) season running from December to March. If I had to shorten that list to a target time, I would suggest the first two weeks of February, when I used to average 8 blue marlin a holiday, with many 500-pounders. So that would be my checklist of blue marlin fishing. There are lots more, but they are generally tied to huge charter prices: U.S.Virgin islands in July and August, a red hot spot, but monster prices, and massive tips expected by the crewmen would put it out of the average angler’s pocket. Brazil has big blues, but distance and costs are prohibitive. Ascension Island in the lower Atlantic, The Cape Verde islands (great spot, but barren landscape and right in the throat of the Trade Winds so it blows day and night). North Carolina in August/September. But long distance runs of 70 miles to reach the canyons and warm water, plus the American “must-have” tips again.
So how do you set up for catching blue marlin? All your fishing will be done either trolling artificial lures on the surface at speeds of 6 to 8 knots, or pulling surface skip deadbaits at 4 knots. Finally slow-trolling with small 5 to 10lb tuna livebaits at 1 to 2 knots. These are the traditional methods. Now you have a method called “bait and switch” where hookless teasers or hookless deadbaits are trolled to entice a marlin up from the depths. When the fish slashes at the lure or bait with its bill, they are wound straight in, and a hooked deadbait run back in the boat’s wake in the hope that he takes it. If the fish is going to take a teaser, why not just fish a big lure and have a hook in it like normal? Not all blue marlin come back for a second bite, so why gamble? In my opinion, anything of eatable size that goes into the water, other than a standard teaser, should have a hook in it. The mere chance of hooking a marlin is an event anyway, so you need to capitalise on that moment.
Now to tackle. The current bar chat is to talk big about how light the tackle was that you hooked your fish on. So you open a stack of money then fish line so light it will probably break? Not for me.50lb class is as light as I would suggest for blue marlin, with 80lb outfits the norm, and the 130lb test outfits as pretty much a guarantee of a catch. If the blues are running up to 200lbs then 50lb test is fine, but what do you do when a 500-pounder spools you out? Better to opt for the 80 and 130,to at least get a few fish under your belt. If you are using lures or deadbaits you will be totally dependent on the skill of the crew to rig and fish them properly. If using lures, then you can order them from somewhere like Capt. Harry’s Fishing Supply in Miami, and take them with you. Here’s my tip for the top. Leaders- 15 feet long, 400lb clear mono to Sampo ball bearing snap swivel. Lures-Hard heads of epoxy resin, head diameters, one-inch minimum. Two tandem hooks, rigged on wire in between.10/0 Mustad Sea Demons 7731,opposed configuration, and sharpened to perfection. Now to colours. Everyone has their favourites, but my personal combo colours, in order of merit are-Pink outer skirt over white inner. Blue outer over white inner. Black back over purple belly. Green back over yellow belly. That’s all you need. A couple of other pointers that might help you once you are hooked up. Crank like crazy so you keep the hooks in the jaw for the first minute or so, which is generally when the marlin throws the hook anyway. Wear a leather fighting glove on your right hand that cranks the handle. That way you won’t get blisters from a long fight. Always wear a harness, either shoulder, kidney of bucket style to help you pressure the fish and take some of the weight when handling the heavier 80 or 130 outfits. Lock your legs out straight against the fighting chair footplate as you take the strain against the pull, then lean forward quickly as you crank on the down stroke, making it easier to gain line. Tell the captain or the crew that you want a picture of the fish in the water if they are going to release it. They are sure to do their best.
That’s it! All you need do is add up the last two important ingredients…. Water…and MONEY!
COPYRIGHT- Graeme Pullen.All Rights Reserved.