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Striped Marlin: How to Catch and Release Big Fish

By Jon Schwartz

Striped Marlin on the Pacific Coast of North America aren’t as big as blues and black marlin, and are only half as big as striped marlin get in New Zealand, but when fought on moderate tackle (30-40 pound test), they put up a tremendous fight and jump plenty. Most I’ve seen run between 100-150 pounds.

Their stripes are more pronounced than any other species of marlin, and they can even reverse their pattern, from being dark stripes on light skin, to light stripes on dark skin. Their stripes become more pronounced when they are agitated and on the hunt. When they are tired and exhausted, they lose their colors and stripes.

Striped Marlin, underwater shot, catch release marlinOne popular method of sport fishing involves the use of circle hooks with live bait. The hook ends up catching in the corner of the mouth rather than in the gut and promotes healthier releases. Mouth hooked fish fight better and jump more. Other anglers troll skirted lures with j-hooks. Some use two hooks, but some of the world’s most successful captains that I have ridden with only use one hook, and one hook certainly increases the odds of a quicker and safer release for the fish and the person charged with releasing it.

While some choose to hoist the fish into the boat to pose with it, it’s better for the fish to remain in the water. Removing them from the water creates undue stress. I have swam with many marlin and I can personally attest to the fact that fish that have been removed from the water for a glory shot take longer to recover, and some will not recover. Scientists, seasoned captains and anglers, and conservation organizations such as The Billfish Foundation also contend that their protective slime is removed when they are handled, and it’s nearly impossible to bring a 150+ pound fish aboard and properly support them. In addition, one has to tire the fish out more to make them s
till enough to handle and bring aboard.

Striped marlin jumpingOften a fish is brought aboard because the captain and mate assume that the angler wants it to happen; the captain and mates I know would actually rather leave it in the water, but they feel pressure to bring it aboard to please the angler. If you can resist the temptation to have your marlin brought aboard, tell the mate and captain in advance that you’d rather they keep the fish in the water and release it in better shape.

To best protect marlin and ensure that they swim away in good health, it’s best to fight them on sufficiently stout tackle, and use fighting harnesses to maximize your leverage. These help reduce fight time and enable the angler to bring the fish to boat side for a quicker release. This might mean using 30-40 pound tackle for striped marlin in the 150 pound range, 50 pound tackle for marlin up to 250 pounds, 60 pound tackle for fish between 250 and 400 pounds, 80 pound tackle for fish 400-600 pounds, and 130 pound tackle for anything bigger.

Your captain and mate will be able to tell you the size of fish that you will likely encounter in an area at a certain type of year. That being said, of course a 1000 pound marlin can come up and engulf a bait rigged on 50 pound test, but that’s rare. If you’re like me, you’ll have more fun rigging right for the fish you’re likely to encounter.

If you’d like more “face time” with your marlin, it may be possible to do so without removing the fish from the water. The fish can be brought alongside the boat while the boat is still moving slowly in gear, and if the fish remains calm, the mate sometimes can hold the fish’s bill close to the water’s surface, so that water continues to flow through the fish’s gills. Once you’ve got your face time, they simply release the bill and the fish swims away in great shape.

Underwater shot of a hooked marlin underwater head shot of marlin
Jumping striped marlin jumping marlin
striped marlin marlin leaping
marlin surfing marlin being released at side of boat
underwater photo of marlin at boat underwater photo of marlins head
hooked marlin underwater photo hooked marlin underwater pic at boat





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