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One of the most thrilling challenges that face any angler is Marlin fishing. Marlins are strong, agile, fast, and they can be enormous. The only fish faster than sailfish is Striped Marlin, which is able to reach up to 50 miles an hour. Black and Blue Marlins also outswim nearly all other fish.
As you may assume the appropriate rods, lures, and fishing accessories are paramount when fishing for marlin. But, when you manage to hook one, all types of Marlin dance like ballerinas in and above the water - although comparing them to a bullfighter might be more accurate. They fly, jump, and thrash on the end of your line, giving you the fight of a lifetime - despite their huge size. It’s no surprise, then, that Marlin fishing has become nothing short of legendary for anglers the world over.
Much like other serious anglers, at FishingBooker we dream about reeling in a 1000+ lbs Marlin, commonly known as a ‘grander’. The biggest Marlin ever was caught in 1970 off Oahu, Hawaii. The enormous ‘Choy’s Monster’ weighed 1807 lbs and remains the biggest Marlin caught on rod and reel. The official all-tackle IGFA record, however, is a Black Marlin caught in 1953 off Cabo Blanco, Peru. It wasn’t as huge as the Hawaiian Marlin, but at 1560 lbs it was still a queen of the ocean. The heaviest Blue Marlin ever caught and recorded officially by the IGFA was also reeled in close to Hawaii, this time in Kona in 1982, and it weighed in at 1376 lbs.
Marlins are in the same family as swordfish and sailfish, namely the billfish family. These are voraciously predatory species that use their bill to slice and bash their prey. They are also migratory - they move between tropical and subtropical waters, depending on the temperature of the water. In all, there are four different varieties of Marlin - Black, Blue, Striped, and White. These names can be deceiving, as they all have quite similar colors and basic characteristics. If you’re not very familiar with the different specifics, you could easily mistake one kind for another.
The Blue Marlin
The Blue Marlin is strong and aggressive when it fights on the end of your line. It often dives deeper than other Marlin, but it also wears itself out more quickly. It is famous for its high leaps above the water surface and its dance-like movements. Male specimens are almost always lighter than females, which is why you’ll want to fight a lady - the men almost never weigh more than 300 lbs. In addition, Pacific Blue Marlins are usually larger than Atlantic Blue Marlins.
How to recognize a Blue Marlin:
The Black Marlin
For Black Marlin, you should go to the tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans. You can find them quite close to the shore at times, but also in the open ocean and gathered around islands and reefs. They are also sometimes found in the Atlantic and other temperate waters.
Black Marlins caught on rod and reel are often bigger than their Blue cousins. If you’re looking for a big one, you’ll want to try your luck around Australia, in Peru, Panama, or Mozambique. Just like with Blue Marlins, Black females are usually bigger than the males. Because of their sheer power and great size Black Marlins are sometimes called ‘bulls of the sea’ - you’ll be in for a long and exhausting fight if you want to catch one of these.
How to recognize a Black Marlin:
The White Marlin
White Marlins reside in the Atlantic, parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and even the Western Mediterranean. They often venture quite close to the shore into shallower waters, when compared to the Blacks and Blues. They are the smallest Marlin species and weigh up to 220 lbs, but they are still fantastic game fish because of their graceful leaps, high speed, and difficulty to catch.
How to recognize a White Marlin:
The Striped Marlin
Striped Marlin, also known as Striper, is found in the Indian and Pacific oceans, although they prefer cooler waters than Blue and Black Marlins. In winter, they migrate towards the equator, and in summer they go back down south. Striped Marlins are said to spend more time in the air than in the water when fighting an angler, and they have a legendary fighting spirit. They walk across the water on their tail in a process called greyhounding, which is a marvel to watch.
How to recognize a Striped Marlin:
Best Places for Marlin Fishing
It’s important to consider the season when you’ll be fishing for Marlin, as there are many different destinations around the world for specifically targeting Marlin. In some places, you can find Marlin all year round, but you’ll be more likely to hook one in certain parts of the year.
Dispersal of Blue Marlin in main fishing hotspots throughout the year:
Red = High season
Orange = Very good Blue Marlin fishing
Yellow = Good Blue Marlin fishing
Marlin fishing in Hawaii
Hawaii has some of the best Marlin fishing in the world, due to its always-warm waters. Especially Blue Marlin is rife there, and some of the biggest specimen were caught in Hawaii. Kona on the Big Island is one of the Marlin capitals of the world, and Granders are caught there regularly. For that reason, many world-class fishing captains have gathered here.
Marlin fishing in Mexico
Playa del Carmen, Cozumel, and Cancun are prime starting points for Blue and White Marlin fishing from late March to July. Although Blue Marlin here rarely exceed 500 lbs, they are more agile and you’ll have a fantastic time fighting them. However, probably the most famous Marlin fishery in Mexico is based in western Cabo San Lucas. The annual Bisbee’s Black and Blue Marlin tournament is renowned worldwide. You’re most likely going to find Black Marlin around Corbetana Rock and other offshore structures and islands. In Cabo, September and October are the best months to hook big, powerful Marlin.
Marlin fishing in Australia
In 1913, a Sydney doctor was first in history to catch a Black Marlin on rod and reel, fishing out of Port Stephens. Ever since, the east coast of Australia has been paradise for sport anglers looking to fight a big Blue or Black Marlin. The most famous ports of call are Cairns, Main Beach, Sydney, and Port Stephens. As Marlin breed in the Great Barrier Reef, eastern Australia will bring you right on their doorstep.
From September to December, Cairns is the place to book your fishing charter, while you can catch them down south in Port Stephens all the way through May. In early March, you can participate in one of the largest billfish tournaments in the world, the Port Stephens Interclub.
Cairns boasts of being the world capital of Marlin fishing, and anglers flock to the area from September to December to try their hand at catching the fish of a lifetime. It doesn't stop there though: the Black Marlins then move south towards Port Stephens, where the season stretches out to March. Port Stephens is famous for being the site of the Southern Hemisphere's largest Billfish tournament, the Port Stephens Interclub, which is held in early March.
In other parts of Australia, Exmouth, Broome, and Perth in Western Australia are also productive Marlin areas.
Just 1500 miles the east coast of Australia lies another magical Marlin hotspot: Fiji. A chain of idyllic islands in the South Pacific, you can catch Blue Marlin here all year round. The best bite is from May to November, however. In the same period, Black Marlin are also frequent, and from August to November, you can try your luck at Striped Marlin.
Marlin fishing on the US East Coast
In the United States, the East Coast is the best for Marlin fishing. From April to July, Marlin migrates into the Gulf of Mexico around the southern tip of Florida, which makes Miami and Key West the prime Marlin harbors in the Sunshine State.
Further up north, White Marlin is the fish everyone wants to catch. The season is high from mid-July onwards. While Ocean City in Maryland is the unofficial White Marlin capital of the world, White Marlin fishing is also amazing in neighbouring Virginia and Delaware. The renowned White Marlin Open tournament is held in August every year in Ocean City.
Marlin fishing in Central America
A Panama fisherman named Louis Schmidt made history in 1949, when he reeled in the first grander Black Marlin ever recorded at 1006 lbs. From that time forth, the Piñas Bay and other parts of the Pacific in Panama have been known as excellent Black Marlin fishing grounds. In addition, you can also catch Blue Marlin here throughout the year.
Further north, Costa Rica also has some of the best Marlin fishing in the world. Its many offshore reefs and warm waters make it a great location for Marlin fishing from September to March, with Jaco and Quepos getting in season earlier and Playa Flamingo and Tamarindo, further north, somewhat later. In other times of the year, you can still find Marlin - they’re just a little less plentiful.
Marlin fishing in New Zealand
Some of the biggest Blue and Black Marlins ever have been caught from New Zealand, even though Striped Marlin is the most commonly found variety. Especially the northeast is well-known for its large quantities of Marlin, with Waihau Bay leading the way. The average Marlin caught here weighs between 300 and 500 lbs.
Marlin fishing off the west coast of Africa
The whole eastern Atlantic north of the equator has relentless Marlin fishing. Cape Verde, 350 miles off the African coast, sees great Blue Marlin fishing from August to December. Moreover, the Canary Islands are visited by Blue Marlin between May and October, where these fish get very big, with an average of 400-600 lbs and not rarely over 800 lbs. Practically all islands here are good starting points for some good Marlin action.
Further up north, the island of Madeira is very productive from May to October. Another Portuguese group of islands with deep, warm waters, the Azores, is also a fantastic spot for catching huge Marlin.
Other places to fish for Marlin
San Diego deserves an honorable mention as a Marlin fishing spot. While the big fish can be caught here infrequently, you can still find them from time to time.
In the Indian Ocean, Mauritius is one of the best Marlin fishing spots. You can catch both Black and Blue Marlin here in a long season lasting from November through April.
Finally, many of the Caribbean islands cater to the needs of Marlin anglers. The high season lasts from July to October, although you can lucky outside these months also. Here you can catch both Blue and White Marlin, and Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic gives you a perfect location to combine an idyllic tropical vacation with thrilling sport fishing.