Atlantic blue marlin are some of the biggest, baddest fish out there. Here’s your go-to blue marlin fishing guide for all the tips, techniques and gear you need to successfully reel in one of these magnificent fish.
As migratory creatures, blue marlins spend all their lives in the open ocean traveling great distances along prevailing warm water currents throughout the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. Pelagic in nature, Atlantic blue marlin travel primarily in the upper portion of the water column—that's where their dinner is. Constantly on the hunt, these incredible fish work schools of smaller fish into bait balls before charging in with their powerful bodies and using their long, lethal bill to stun their prey before chowing down.
Blue marlin fishing is not child’s play. If you're serious, and if you have the guts, here’s what you need to know to land your catch.
Step aboard any serious marlin fishing vessel and you’re sure to see some of the stoutest sport fishing tackle around.
Think heavy-duty everything. 80-class lever drag reels mounted on Penn Tuna Sticks are standard blue marlin fishing outfits. Despite the popularity of braided line and fluorocarbon in today's fishing circles, old-school 100-pound test monofilament is the line of choice for chasing marlin. It knots easy, crimps like a champ, and is a whole lot cheaper than more technical alternatives.
The last 5 feet of monofilament main line is doubled over with a bimini twist. A ball bearing swivel is attached to the main line with an offshore knot—though some crews prefer to skip knots altogether and crimp everything.
A 300- to 400-pound extra-hard monofilament leader is attached to the swivel and a circle hook in sizes 12/0 to 22/0 is attached to the leader. Note: the hook size will depend on the size of the bait you choose to use.
This basic marlin rig can be modified to accommodate a wide variety of baits and lures, depending on your individual fishing style and the conditions.
Since Atlantic blue marlin can be caught just about every month of the year, weather and sea conditions can vary wildly, even on a single day trip. Being prepared with the right performance fishing gear is critical.
A Huk Icon Long Sleeve shirt should be on your back no matter what the forecast reads. It's highly breathable, moisture-wicking, and most importantly, offers SPF sun protection so you won't get toasted. Add a pair of Next Level Shorts, and you'll be prepared for 90 percent of the blue marlin fishing trips you embark on.
If you're fishing for blue marlin in the far northern reaches of their range, either in the Atlantic or Pacific, be prepared for some cold, nasty weather. If you show up in a pair of Huk NXTLVL All Weather Bibs and matching All Weather Jacket, no amount of rain, sleet, or sea spray will hold you back from your chance at a grander.
After all the gear has been accounted for, it's "the spread" that gets the crew's attention. The spread is the arrangement of lures and bait that trail behind the boat when trolling. Outriggers extending from the side of the boat are used to "spread" the lures out even further in order to cover more water and keep the lines from getting tangled. Within a blue marlin trolling spread, a combination of hookless teasers, artificial lures, and live bait are used to attract marlin from the depths below and entice a bite.
Before a blue marlin can be caught, fresh and lively bait must first be obtained. Ideally, it should be caught the day of and pre-rigged before heading offshore. The most effective live baits for blue marlin are the smaller pelagic fish blue marlin naturally prey on—school dolphin and bonito are among the most popular. In certain waters, flying fish make excellent baits that hold up well to long hours of trolling. Mullet, mackerel, small barracuda, and extra-large ballyhoo are also very appealing to a hungry Atlantic Blue.
Large, skirted lures have been the go-to marlin lure for decades. "Ilander" lures are among the most popular and come in a wide variety of colors, densities, and head shapes—all of which should be chosen based on water conditions. Skirted lures can be rigged up with circle hooks and trolled as lures, or they can be used in conjunction with live or freshly dead bait.
Once the baits and lures are selected and the spread is set, it's time to troll. Trolling for blue marlin can be extremely fast paced and gripping, or it can be slow, boring, and uneventful. Often times, it a nice, chaotic combination of the two—boredom interrupted by bouts of marlin-induced frenzy.
Trolling for marlin is by far the most effective way to cover lots of water and find fish. Generally, 8.5 to 9.5 knots is the best trolling speed for blue marlin but should be adjusted based on the specific lures used and the choppiness of the water. If trolling efforts are successful, a hefty blue marlin will rise up into the spread and smash the bait. Then it's go time.
The captain will continue driving the boat forward as the crew reels in extra lures and teasers. Then, the angler seated in the fighting chair is handed the rod and strapped in for battle.
Reeling in a blue marlin is an art form unto itself. Constant pressure must be kept on the fish or else a shake of its head will send the hook flying. To accomplish this, a technique called "short stroking" is employed. To perform a short stroke, the rod is raised about 15 degrees, applying pressure on the fish. Then, the reel is cranked a full rotation as the rod is lowered back down 15 degrees. This is repeated over and over while keeping the line tight.
As the angler gains the upper hand, the captain will throw the boat into reverse to allow the angler to quickly recover the bulk of the line. The fight ends when the "wireman" grabs the leader and the blue marlin is safely released.
It's high fives all around, and maybe a cold, celebratory beer before the spread is sent back out and another blue marlin brought in for a shot.
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If you're curious about what it takes to catch a white marlin—maybe you've heard of the massive sums of prize money up for grabs at the white marlin tournaments each year—you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll provide essential white marlin fishing tips, techniques and gear to help you find success.