• Published:May 20, 2020
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Black marlin rule the Indo-Pacific region. The black marlin (Istiompax indica) is a member of the Istiophoridae family and is sometimes called white marlin in Japan or silver marlin in Hawaii. They are known to grow in excess of 1,500 pounds. Large females weighing more than 1,400 pounds show up off the Great Barrier Reef each year to spawn.
It is believed that a few stray black marlin will round the Cape of Good Hope into the Atlantic Ocean with some going as far as Brazil, however such occurrences are extremely rare for this species and any Atlantic interbreeding is highly unlikely.
Black marlin inhabit the Pacific and Indian Oceans. They are found in tropical and subtropical waters ranging in temperature from 60 to 85 degrees F. The black marlin is known to dive to depths exceeding 2,000 feet, but this billfish is mostly found in the top 600 feet of the water column, above the thermocline. Populations of black marlin are most dense in coastal areas as well as near tropical islands and seamounts. They can often be found on the same fishing grounds as Pacific blue marlin. This highly migratory species will make annual migrations, but little is known about the exact routes taken. Black marlin are a highly prized game fish, sought after for their shear size, and beautiful jumps. Watching a grander-size black marlin pile on a skip bait is one of the most prized experiences in all of big-game fishing. These giant animals love to dance on the leader, leaping right behind the stern of the boat, making for some breathtaking photos.
Watching a grander-size black marlin pile on a skip bait is one of the most prized experiences in all of big-game fishing.
Alfred Glassell, Jr. caught the all-tackle world record for black marlin in 1953. Glassell's giant fish weighed in at 1,560 pounds. To this day it is the largest marlin caught on rod and reel recognized by the International Game Fish Association. Glassell landed the massive marlin in the storied waters off Cabo Blanco in Peru during one of big-game fishing's most productive marlin and tuna bites ever recorded. Film footage of Glassell's big marlin jumping was used in the movie adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea. Glassell appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and the mount of this fish was hung in the Smithsonian. DEFINING CHARACTERISTICS The easiest way to distinguish a black marlin from other billfish is to look at the pectoral fins. The black marlin is the only marlin with rigid pec fins that cannot be folded flat against its flanks. If you force the fins to fold, they will break. According to the IGFA description of black marlin, "It is also set apart by the airfoil shape of the pectoral fins, which almost never exceed 12 inches in length regardless of the size of the fish. The first dorsal fin is proportionately the lowest of any billfish, usually less than 50 percent of the body depth. The body is laterally compressed rather than rounded, much more so than in similar sized blue marlin." The body is elongate and not very compressed with a thick but not very long bill. The top dorsal portion of the black marlin is a dark blue/grey and its belly is a silvery white. The first dorsal is blue/black with no spots. Black marlin may flash stripes of color on the flanks when jumping. All of the large black marlin caught are females. It is rare for any male marlin to weigh in over 500 pounds. The black marlin's diet consists mostly of small tuna, mackerel, squid and other pelagic fishes. FISHING TECHNIQUES * Trolling Whole Dead Baits * Bait and Switch * Trolling Lures * Slow-Trolling Live Bait