Going after the man in the blue suit is a thrill beyond description. Blue Marlin, the king of sport fishermen's dreams, is a tough fish to catch, tag, and release. It takes big bucks along with a lot of patience, stamina, and teamwork.
First there is the equipment, off course the boat. there are two options to chose from, a twin engine outboard powered 25-30 footer, or a yacht 29 to 40 feet. Both of these options have one big limitation, rough water. On days when the seas build to eight feet, you stay at the dock with the 40 footer costing over $400,000 new, and that is putting it gently. Don't worry however, the outboard guys can barely handle 6 foot seas. They have at least $80,000 keeping them company.
If money is no option, there are yachts from 50-70 feet. Now we are talking millions. These guys can mostly fish at will as the seas have to get up to 8-12 feet before they start taking a beating. What ever size wallet you have, the boat is available for the right price including a full array of electronics like radar, sonar, auto pilot, global positioning system with maps and plotter.
Now lets put a team together. First there is the captain, usually the owner, although owners sometimes hire a boat captain, starting salary $30,000 minimum. I would have to do my own driving. We also need a good cockpit man. He knows how to lay out the spread of baits, maintain tackle including rods and reels, leader a fish, assist and instruct the angler and commands the part of the boat where all the human action takes place when a Marlin strikes.
Another person joins the team and handles the gaff for meat fish, Wahoo, Tuna, and Bull Dolphin. He also works the tagging stick, always ready with a tag insert with pertinent information. His skill in painlessly placing the tag in the proper location is essential for studying Marlin migrations and habitat. He takes orders from the cockpit boss.
Somebody is driving, the cockpit man and his hand are ready for the action, now who is going to fish? The angler gets to do the honors. Our minimum four person team usually establishes a fishing rotation. If you are spending the big bucks, them add two more anglers, with the captain, cockpit man and hand never fighting a fish, especially in tournament conditions.
We have the crew on board and are heading to the fishing grounds, usually blue water. Depending how close it is to the coast is the minimum distance to the fishing spot. We are looking for a rip where the water changes color. Add grass and debris to shade the fish food chain, along with current and the possibilities are endless. When these rips position themselves along bottom contours and sudden changes of depth, or pass close to deepwater floaters and rigs, consider yourself in prime , fertile, habitat for big game like Wahoo, Bull Dolphin, and Tuna joining the Marlin in the feeding frenzy.
The caption marks the GPS when the strike occurs and keeps the boat moving forward. The cockpit man designates the line with the hookup as the angler slides into the fighting chair. The deckhand is helping the cockpit man reel in and clear the other four lines. Our angler is clipped to the drag peeling line, constantly keeping pressure on the line as the Marlin dances on the surface frantically trying to spit the surface lure. The first minute of the battle is gone.
The King of the sea is putting on a show as the captain prepares to back down in an effort to prevent the fish from heading to the bottom, usually 650-3000 feet. That is a lot of line, time, and opportunities for the Marlin to escape. If a Marlin sounds, the size of the fish and the skill of the crew determine the length of the battle. Sometimes the stamina of the angler and the knowledge of the captain in positioning the boat, prying the fish from the bottom is essential so the long battle does not kill the fish.
The fish is slowly coming up as the angler continues to pull back and reel down. Our Marlin is ready for a final appearance offering a few final jumps before the leader is near the rod tip. The cockpit man is on the leader, carefully wrapping, releasing, and pulling the fish towards the side of the boat where our hand awaits with the tag stick. The bill is grabbed and the hooks are out. Carefully the cockpit man insures the revival of the monstrous beauty of a fish usually in the 400-600 pound range be fore he grants freedom.
The King slowly fades and finally disappears into the deep before the celebration begins. Each time is a new overwhelming experience as well as a rare accomplishment. If only this could happen every time a Marlin enters the spread.
The real Marlin world demands the acceptance of missing fish for a multitude of reasons. There are also the days when the Man in blue never makes an appearance, leaving the crew bored and frustrated. The Marlin angler experiences both ends of the emotion scale just as other types of anglers do. The bill may be bigger but so is the thrill.