Blue Marlin - Makaira nigricans
Also known as: Cuban Black Marlin
This pelagic and migratory species occurs in tropical and warm temperate oceanic waters. In the Atlantic Ocean it is found from 45 degrees North to 35 degrees South, and in the Pacific Ocean from 48 degrees North to 48 degrees South. It is less abundant in the eastern portions of both oceans. In the Indian Ocean it occurs around Ceylon, Mauritius, and off the east coast of Africa. In the northern Gulf of Mexico its movements seem to be associated with the so called Loop Current, an extension of the Caribbean Current. Seasonal concentrations occur in the southwest Atlantic (5 degrees to 30 degrees South) from January to April; in the northwest Atlantic (10 degrees to 35 degrees North) from June to October; in the western and central North Pacific (10 degrees North to 10 degree South) in April and November; and in the Indian Ocean (0 degrees to 13 degrees South) from April to October.
Japanese longliners report that blue marlin is the largest of the istiophoriod fishes. It apparently grows larger in the Pacific. All giant marlins are females, and male blue marlin are never completely rigid, even after death, and can be folded completely flat against the sides except in the largest specimens. The dorsal fin is high and pointed anteriorly (rather than rounded) and its greatest height is less than the greatest body depth. The anal fin is relatively large and it too is pointed. Juveniles may not share all the characteristics listed above, but the peculiar lateral line system is usually visible in small specimens. In adults it is rarely visible unless the scales or skin are removed. The vent is just in front of the anal fin, as it is in all billfish except the spearfish. The back is cobalt blue and the flanks and belly are silvery white. There may be light blue or lavender vertical stripes on the sides, but these usually fade away soon after death, and they are never as obvious as those of the striped marlin. There are no spots on the fins.
They are known to feed on squid and pelagic fishes, including blackfin tuna and frigate mackerel. A powerful, aggressive fighter, they run hard and long, sound deep, and leap high into the air in seemingly inexhaustible display of strength. Fishing methods include trolling large whole baits such as bonito, dolphin, mullet, mackerel, bonefish, ballyhoo, flying fish and squid as well as various types of artificial lures and sometimes strip baits.
Some taxonomists believe that the Atlantic and Pacific blue marlins are closely related but separate species. The apply the scientific name Makaira nigricans, Lacepede, 1892, to the Atlantic species only and the name Nakaira mazara (Jordan & Snyder, 1901) to the Pacific and Indian Ocean species. Other treat the two populations as subspecies, Makaira nigricans nigricans and Makaira nigricans mazara.
Locations where two bodies of water meet provide excellent places to fish. Flow from one body of water converges with flow from another body of water and creates areas of merging water known as “rips.” Food in the form of crabs, shrimp and minnows flow through these areas of water especially during strong periods of tidal flow. Game fish will gather at these rips because bait from two separate water bodies converge at this single point. A great spot to find these rips is where a bay meets an ocean.
Floating Foam and Debris
Foam from crashing waves follows along with the currents. As it moves, it collects debris and small marine critters. Little fish are attracted to the critters and big fish are attracted to the little fish. Sometimes these floating lines of junk are big enough to provide shade for larger game fish. Fish them.
The Open Ocean
Fishing in the open ocean is an endeavor that only confident and experienced anglers should attempt. To successfully and safely target pelagic fish species that live in the open ocean, specialized tackle and boats are typically required. The easiest way to experience offshore angling for those anglers who don’t have larger boats is to book a fishing charter.
When researching charter boats that you’re thinking of hiring, be sure to ask plenty of questions before booking your trip. Ask about the length of the trip, what species you’ll be targeting, how may people can the boat hold, will the trip be private or open to other customers and anything else you may think of. If you would like to keep any of your catch for dinner, be sure to clarify what the boat’s policy is on fish that are caught. Depending on where you’re booking a charter, some charter crews have a policy of taking fish to local auctions to sell fish that the anglers catch. Always remember that you don’t ever have to keep a fish in order to get it mounted. Exact replicas of fish can be made with only a few pictures.
Open ocean fishing takes place all over the country but certain regions require a farther boat ride offshore in order to find good fishing grounds. Eastern states typically require a longer trip out to the fishing grounds (with the exception of Southern Florida) whereas states along the Pacific Ocean have steeper dropoffs and require a much shorter ride to find deeper waters.
Open ocean pelagic species of fish include tunas, billfish, dolphin, wahoo and some shark species.
Deep Shore Water
Currents can run along the shore and form pockets of deeper water. This deeper water usually appears darker than the surrounding water in the area. Bigger fish will move into these shallows and rest or wait for baitfish to pass by. You might get something bigger than you expected.
Surf and shore fishing takes a good eye. If you can spot a school of baitfish, then you might be able to catch bigger fish that are following them. But hurry, game fish strike fast and leave. When you locate a school of baitfish, look for the openings or lighter colored circles in the schools of bait. Often times, if a predatory fish is in the midst of a school of baitfish, the bait will try to keep a safe distance on all sides of the larger fish to avoid being eaten. This is what creates the holes in the bait schools. If you cannot locate these holes, cast your bait or lure to the outside edges of the baitfish schools.
Many fish are nocturnal feeders and become more active after the sun sets. When fishing during the night hours, natural baits, such as cut bait and live bait are great choices. Be sure to let the baits soak, and be patient for a bite.
One of the oldest, yet most effective, methods for catching fish is kite fishing. Originally used to carry baits out farther distances than could be cast from shore, kite fishing is now used to present baits in a more effective manner. Kites are flown from a modified rod and reel and have release clips attached to the kite line at various intervals. As the kite is let out from the boat, single fishing lines from the rods you’re using to catch the fish are attached to each release clip and carried out with the kite. Each of these attached lines will baited with live baits. Once the kite is set in place at a far enough distance from the boat, the fishing lines are tended to so that the baits are suspended from the kite and are just barely below the surface of the water. By keeping the bait splashing on the surface of the water, predatory fish are attracted to the struggling baitfish that is trying to swim down deeper into the water. When a fish takes the suspended bait, the release clips will drop only the baited line that was eaten so that the angler is now free to fight the fish in a normal manner.
Kite fishing requires constant attention to each line that is connected to the kite. It is important to make sure that the baits remain at the surface of the water while the boat is bobbing over waves in the ocean. You want to make sure that your bait remains in the water and is not floating around in the air or too far below the surface. Beginners should start kite fishing with only one or two lines connected to the kite release clips so that it is more manageable.
Contact your local bait shop to determine what kite will work best for you. There are various types of kites for virtually all wind conditions including storm force winds.
Trolling in saltwater is a good way to present baits and lures to pelagic fish by imitating a swimming baitfish or triggering the natural instincts of a fish to strike. When saltwater trolling, anglers will typically put out anywhere between two and nine lines with trolling lures staggered at various distances from the boat. Although there is no one universal trolling speed, most boats will typically troll natural baits like rigged ballyhoo, mullet, and mackerel, at speeds of 4-7 knots depending on sea conditions. Artificial trolling lures and plugs can be trolled at faster speeds of around 7-9 knots.
Bait & Lures
Saltwater Live Bait
Using live bait such as shrimp or various baitfish is a very effective method to use while targeting pelagic species of predatory fish. “Baitfish” is a term that refers to any saltwater schooling fish that serve as a food source to other larger fish. Species used are typically those that are common and breed rapidly, making them easy to catch and in regular supply. Good examples of marine bait fish are anchovies, ballyhoo (sometimes referred to as halfbeaks), herring, menhaden and scad.
Just about any fish that lives nearshore or in the open ocean can be caught using cut or whole squid. Use them whole by running the line through the inside of the mantle (the outside body shell) and hooking the squid in the head. The mantles of larger squid can be cut into vertical pieces for strip bait. You can use squid for trolling and for bottom and floating rigs.
Trolling lures come in all different shapes, colors, styles and weights and are typically trolled behind a boat at speeds of 7-12 knots. These lures are usually larger than casting lures and will typically include one or two large hooks. Many trolling lures are made with epoxy or resin heads that are attached to rubber skirts which hide the hooks. Other trolling lures have heavier metal heads with holes bored out to allow water to pass through. These lures are referred to as ‘jet heads’ because the water that passes through the lure head will quickly aerate leaving behind a trail of air bubbles that resemble smoke. Trolling lures can also be made out of rubber or plastic and may have different shaped heads. The shape of the lure’s head, weight and material will determine what type of action the lure will take when trolled. These lure head shapes include, concaved (or chuggers), slanted, rounded, pointed and jets. Each lure head shape is designed so that the action of the trolled lure mimics different types of baitfish.