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How to tell the differences between marlin, sailfish and swordfish and what makes each game fish unique.
Nick Honachefsky Images King Sailfish Mounts
Pacific and Indian Oceans, and females grow to massive sizes. The world record, caught in 1953, weighed 1,560 pounds. Black marlin are often found in the same areas as Pacific blue marlin. 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.
Blue marlin are often considered the most challenging of all the billfish to catch. The fight of a blue marlin is punctuated with bursts of explosive power, greyhounding jumps and vicious head shakes. The species can be found in both the Atlantic and Pacific and make long migrations every year. Many believe the blue marlin can grow to more than 2,000 pounds. The largest known blue landed on rod and reel was an 1,805-pounder caught in Hawaii in 1970.
For many anglers, the sailfish represents their first billfish catch because they are more coastal in nature than other billfish. Atlantic sailfish are much smaller than their Pacific brethren, but in hot spots like Florida, Yucatan, crews can catch 30 or more in a single day. Pacific sails typically weigh twice as much as Atlantic sails and thrive in Guatemala, Costa Rica.
If you're looking to catch a shortbill spearfish, Hawaiii is your best bet. Kona crews are perhaps the most experienced at catching the small, wily spearfish. The shortbill spearfish is a blast to catch on light tackle and even fly-fishing gear
The Striped Marlin is probably the most colorful of all the billfish, flashing neon blue flanks and pec fins that makes it easy to spot them in the spread. The Baja Peninsula is your best bet to find large numbers of striped marlin, which live only in the Pacific and Indian Oceans. Crews out of Cabo have reported catches of 190 striped marlin in a single day.
The swordfish is known as one of the toughest game fish in the ocean. It has a smooth, very broad, flattened sword which gives it the name "broadbill." The bill is longer and wider than the bill of any other billfish. Swordfish populations have rebounded in the Florida Straits and daytime fishing techniques continue to bring up large specimens. New Zealand crews are also experts at catching big swords down deep.
White marlin are fast, agile and tough to hook. For these reasons, they are one of the most beloved game fish on the U.S. East Coast. White marlin are one of the smallest of all billfish, often running in the 50- to 80-pound range, but they make up for their diminutive size with exciting acrobatics and brilliant color displays. Most crews use 20- or 30-pound tackle when targeting them.
The longbill spearfish may only grow to 100 pounds or so, but this fish is probably the toughest of all the billfish to catch for the elusive Royal Slam (catching all species of billfish). The longbill spearfish lives in the Atlantic and does not show up in large numbers like white marlin or sailfish. Some of the best spots to catch a longbill spearfish include the Mid-Atlantic canyons and Venezuela.
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