Striped Marlin - Tetrapturus audax
Also known as: A'u, Red Marlin, Striper, Stripey
Found in tropical and warm temperate waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans, the striped marlin is pelagic and seasonally migratory, moving toward the equator during the cold season and away again during the warm season.
The most distinguishing characteristic is its high, pointed first dorsal fin, which normally equals or exceeds the greatest body depth. Even in the largest specimens this fin is at least equal to 90 percent of the body depth. Like the dorsal fin, the anal and pectoral fins are pointed. They are also flat and movable and can easily be folded flush against the sides, even after death. The sides are very compressed. The lateral line is straight, single and clearly visible. The back is steely blue fading to bluish silver on the upper flanks and white below the lateral line. There are a number of iridescent blue spots on the fins and pale blue or lavender vertical stripes on the sides. These may or may not be prominent, but they are normally more prominent than those of other marlins, and they persist after death, which is not always true of other marlins.
It is highly predatory, feeding extensively on pilchards, anchovies, mackerel, sauries, flying fish, squid and whatever is abundant. It is well known for its fighting ability and has the reputation of spending more time in the air than in the water after it is hooked. In addition to long runs and tail walks, it will greyhound across the surface, making up to a dozen or more long graceful leaps. It can be caught fairly close to shore, and lacking the size and weight of the blue marlin or the black marlin, it is more acrobatically inclined. Fishing methods include trolling whole fish, strip baits, or lures; also live bait fishing.
In coastal areas, closer to shore, the ocean bottom may have sections of exposed rock, coral or debris. These areas of uneven bottom provide a great ambush spot for predatory fish as well as crevices for smaller fish to take shelter. Fish live at all depths in coastal water and many stay close to the bottom. Many feed near cover, such as a rock or a coral reef, where they can ambush prey. Other fish roam at all depths of the water column, searching for an easy meal.
Most saltwater anglers fish in coastal waters because there are dozens of different fish species there, and these areas are often very easy to access. Many marine fish migrate up and down the coastline seasonally. Smart anglers monitor water temperatures, winds, currents, seasons and tides to determine which species they should target.
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.
Birds fly above slow-moving baitfish. Get close and try to figure out if the baitfish are dead or alive. If they’re thrashing around, you should fish shallow. If they’re wounded, fish deeper.
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.
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.
Reefs, Wrecks, and Shoals
Reefs, wrecks, and shoals provide some of the most productive fishing grounds. In fact, reefs hold a great concentration of biodensity and diversity. The reefs offer shelter to many bait fish that game fish prey on, and this occurs throughout the water column. One can bottom fish, jig, or troll a reef. All methods attract various fish that inhabit these areas. Chumming the water helps to concentrate the fish and bring them up from the bottom. Depending on your fishing method, you can catch anything from a grouper to a king mackerel.
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.