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Fish Facts


Blue Marlin


Family: Istiophoridae (Billfishes)

Genus and Species: Makaira nigricans

Range: Blue marlin are the most tropical of all marlins but are distributed throughout the tropical and subtropical regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans; a single stock is assumed for each ocean. In the Atlantic, blue marlin range from New England to Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and Uruguay; in the Pacific, the are seen from southern California (rarely) to Chile and Hawaii. In common with striped marlin, they are rarely encountered in shallow nearshore waters, preferring blue, oceanic waters.

(click image to view anatomy)

Description: The blue marlin is the largest of the marlins, common to 11 feet, and known to exceed 2,000 pounds. It is cobalt blue on top shading to silvery white on bottom, although colors can vary by region, leading to the belief that their may in fact be two distinct species - Atlantic Blue Marlin (M. nigricans) and Indo-Pacific Blue Marlin (M. mazara). The upper jaw is elongated in form of a spear, dorsal fin pointed at front end with no spots, and pectoral fin and anal fin are pointed. The lateral line is reticulated (interwoven like a net), making it difficult to see in large specimens. The body of the blue marlin is covered with imbedded scales ending in one or two sharp points.

Natural History: Blue marlin feed primarily on tunas and other pelagic fishes and to a lesser extent on young reef fishes and squid. It is difficult to find a blue marlin over 10 years old, however

Fishing Information: Like the other billfish, blue marlin are highly migratory, surface water fishes which are closely tied to warm waters. Though they may be found on the high seas thousands of miles from the continents, they also approach within a few miles of coastal regions with adjacent deep water.

A free-roamer, the blue marlin is best fished where bait is most plentiful - along weed lines, around schools of small tuna and other pelagic baitfishes, in areas where seamounts or other subsurface structure creates up wellings and currents, along sharp bottom contours and near water temperature changes.

The blue's enormous size and legendary fighting ability make it one of the most highly-targeted gamefish in the world. Anglers commonly troll natural baits such as mackerel, tuna, bonito, ballyhoo and dolphin in hopes of enticing one of these giants. Brightly colored lures and teasers are also commonly used.

Temperature Range: 71 - 88 degrees F.

Other Common Names: Aguja Azul, Atlantic blue marlin, Pacific blue marlin.

Largest recorded: 1,402 pounds (Brazil), 1,376 pounds (Hawaii).


Sources: Marine Sportfish Identification, California Department of Fish and Game, 1987; FishBase, FishBase Consortium, 2014; Billfish, Saltaire Publishing, 1976; Phylogeny of Recent Billfishes (Xiphioidei), Collette, McDowell and Graves, 2006.

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