We left Eleuthera early on the morning of February 24, headed for Staniel Cay, which was about 60 miles across the Exuma Sound. The weather was perfect and we were hungry for fish tacos so we dropped a couple of feathers in the water, hoping for a Mahi Mahi or maybe even a Wahoo. Around 1:00 PM we got a hit on one of the rods. The pole was bent over hard and line was screaming off the reel. “Wahoo,” I thought as I rushed to grab pole. “Maybe a bull Mahi!” I scanned the surface behind the boat, looking for a splash, and was surprised to see nice Blue Marlin skittering across the surface about 250 yards behind the boat. He Grey Hounded a couple of times, spit out the hook, and was gone in less than a minute. I’ve hooked marlin on multiple occasions over the years and that’s how it has always gone. A minute or two of extreme action and excitement and then a disappointing 3 minutes of reeling in 300-500 yards of line to reset the lure and try again.
About 3:00 PM, Michelle called out, “Fish on,” and I came running from the pilot house. Mahi? Wahoo? Yes Please! This time there was nothing showing on the surface and the line was smoking off the reel, headed straight down! I grabbed the rod and felt the weight of the fish pulling hard. I could do nothing but watch the line paying out – 10 yards, 50 yards, 150 yards, 300 yards…the spool was quickly emptying and I knew that in 30 seconds or so the monster fish would have all my line and the fight would be over. I cranked the drag on the Penn International 30W to it’s maximum, figuring that one of three things would happen: 1) the line would break, 2) the fish was unstoppable and he was going to strip all the line off the reel, or 3) the extra drag on the fish would slow him down and hopefully stop him.
As the line continued to strip off the reel at a blistering speed, I began to see the center of the spool through the translucent line and I figured the fight was about to end. I cranked harder on the drag. Surprisingly the 30 pound test line didn’t break and the fish began to slow it’s decent towards to ocean floor. Perhaps I have a chance?!
Based on the way the fish took the bait and headed straight down with no change in direction at all, I assumed we had hooked a large yellowfin tuna. Ugh! Those bastards can fight for HOURS without tiring. Just a few short minutes in to the fight, I was already getting tired and I found myself wishing the big tuna would just break the line so we could both call it a day! But, he was still on and I wasn’t about to give up, so I started working him up. I gained four feet and he took six feet back. I gained three feet and he took two back. And so it went for 45 minutes. Slowly, slowly, six inches here, one foot there, slowly I put line back on the spool. I would rest the pole on the gunnel when he’d let me; I reeled like hell when he gave any ground; I held on tight when he made another run. It was a slow motion battle with no sure winner.
Michelle helped by steering the boat to keep the line directly behind the boat. My tuna was slowly corkscrewing, trying to head down deep, and the boat made at least two complete 360 degree slow turns as we fought to keep the boat in position. All the while, I was making slow progress to bring him back to the surface and end the battle.
During the entire fight, I was absolutely convinced that I had a big Yellowfin Tuna on the other end of the line. His fighting style was classic tuna. It had to be a tuna. Never once did I consider that I might have a Blue Marlin on the hook. Blue Marlin always put on a fantastic show on the surface with spectacular jumps. They often string together multiple jumps and tail walk across the surface, a move called “Grey Hounding”. If they dive, it’s never deep and it’s usually only to get some momentum so they can get up and out of the water to shake their heads and try to throw the hook.
Marlin are famous for surface action, but they NEVER dive deep and stay deep. So when I finally got the fish up close enough to the surface that I could see his color and shape, I was absolutely amazed to see the tell-tale vertical purple, blue, and yellow stripes and the long body of a Blue Marlin.
When I finally got him up to the transom of the boat, I was far too tired to attempt to lift him up on the deck for a picture and he wasn’t really interested in coming aboard anyway. Michelle grabbed her camera and took a few quick pictures and a short video clip, doing the best she could with the angle she was able to get from the cockpit and the limited time I gave her to document the capture. I was anxious to get the hook out of him and get him ready to go free. I estimate he as about 9-10 feet long and probably weighed 130-150 pounds. My FIRST ever Blue Marlin catch. Not a monster, but a great fishing adventure for Michelle and me!!