You Don't Need A Passport to Catch a Marlin!

A Part of the What's Biting Series

Catching a marlin is on the bucket of lots of anglers. Many have traveled to far away exotic waters to get a chance at these majestic creatures. Our local, big game fishery proves that you don't need a passport to catch a billfish. Marlin, both the blue and white are caught in our waters throughout the summer far offshore, around oil platforms and in the cobalt blue, deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Catching a blue marlin is the ultimate big game accomplishment.

I am positive any straw poll taken around local marina docks, or with charter boat customers would show the blue marlin is the desired catch of a lifetime for most. Blue marlin are big, beautiful, powerful, and acrobatic. And when marlin decide to eat, they are usually committed! This leads to strikes, screaming reels and screams of excitement from crew members.

We are lucky enough to be the home of the white marlin, which are just as beautiful as blue marlin (their color schemes are very similar to blue marlin). They are a smaller billfish, but more common in our area and are known to put on a spectacular show with leaps and vibrant colors. 'Whitey' as he is known can also induce screams of joy ,as well as, screams of frustration. It's just a part of chasing white marlin.

Late summer and moving into Autumn is the time of the year when our white marlin bite can lead to epic days on the water. This year appears to be shaping up like two years ago when the combination of pretty water and abundant bait resulted in the best white marlin season in many years. White marlin releases have been reported 50 to 100 miles offshore for the past several weeks. As conditions improve, many of us expect these fish to migrate to waters reachable by nearly any offshore boat.

White marlin can be finicky (no pun intended) at best and just plain maddening at worst! The good news is when they arrive at easy to reach places like The Nipple, The 131 Hole and The Elbow. They are often in groups which can lead to multiple shots in one day, or even at one time. The bad news is, I have known many very good fishermen to come back through the pass after missing every single White Marlin that hit on their trip. Two weeks ago, I was like a struggling batter at the plate going 0-3 day on white marlin.

White marlin will grab a bait or lure, peel off line and then suddenly just drop it without ever getting the hook in its' mouth. "How does that happen?" is an often repeated question. It will happen to you, it happens to all of us. There are some things you can do to increase your odds and lessen your frustration.

Big boats that have the ability to pull dredges and tease up fish behind the boat and then present a ballyhoo on a circle hook have the chance at racking up double digit days of catching. If your boat is set up for more traditional trolling, going lighter and smaller, can make a big difference. There isn't a fish that like to feel the resistance of drag from the reel, but white marlin hate it. Fishing lighter line with less drag on the strike will help them hold onto the bait or lure longer. It helps to have anglers on high alert for the strike. Dropping the bait back and feeding the fish without any drag can be the difference between a solid hook up and the dreaded drop. This works especially well when using ballyhoo and circle hooks.

Naked ballyhoo, small lures, Ilander and ballyhoo combinations are all good choices when targeting white marlin. You'll also give yourself a chance to catch any wahoo, dolphin, tuna, or blue marlin in the area. Just getting offshore around the one hundred fathom curve and putting your lines in is a great start. I've caught white marlin in as shallow as 350 feet, so if it looks fishy start fishing. Once I start to see any sort of concentration of bait (flying fish, hard tails, bonita, blackfin tuna) out go the lures.

As always, stopping in one of our local tackle stores will also increase your odds of success. Not only will they share real-time information on how the bite is, but they can also make great recommendations on lures and bait. Catching a Marlin makes for a special day in the Gulf of Mexico and right now those days are upon us.


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Jim Cox
Jim Cox (1323 Posts)
Jim Cox is an avid inshore, offshore, and big game fisherman. He has twice qualified for the prestigious IGFA Offshore Championships in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is the past president of the Mobile…