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Fish Facts


White Marlin


Family: Istiophoridae (Billfishes)

Genus and Species: Kajikia albida

Range: White marlin are found only in the Atlantic as well as parts of the Mediterranean. It is pelagic and migratory, preferring deep blue tropical and temperate waters.

(click image to view anatomy)

Description: Distinguished by its rounded pectoral fins, first dorsal fin and anal fin, the white marlin is lighter in color and shows more green than other marlins. They are also considerably smaller: the average weighs 60 lbs, and the maximum recorded weight for a white marlin taken on rod-and-reel was 161 lbs. The color of the body is dark blue to chocolate brown, shading to a silvery white underbelly, with noticeable spots on dorsal fin. The lateral line curves above pectoral fin, then goes in a straight line to base of tail.

Hatchet Marlin

It is thought that there may be separate populations of white marlin in different regions, with some believing that there is, in fact, a second species, the hatchet marlin. Many consider the hatchet to be a variant of the white marlin; however, recent scientific evidence points to the hatchet actually being a new species, the roundscale spearfish (Tetrapturus georgii).

Natural History: Like other marlin, this is a highly migratory species. They will travel alone or in small groups to increase their feeding opportunities. The diet of the white marlin is predominately fishes and squids. Groups of whites have been seen coordinating their efforts to congregate bait into a ball for feeding purposes. While white marlin typically roam deep waters, they will also approach areas that are normally too shallow for other marlin. They are often seen in areas less than 8 fathoms deep. Members of this species reach maturity around 51 inches. It is not uncommon to find white marlin up to 8 feet long.

Fishing Information: The white marlin is an opportunistic carnivore eating anything that they can capture. As the smallest of the marlin, whites make for some of the best light-tackle saltwater fishing in the world. Trolling, live baiting, or fly-fishing will produce with this species. Trollers will pull strip baits, rigged baitfish, feather lures, or rubber lures in 100 to 1000-feet of water. They are mostly like to be found near baitfish, so canyons, reefs and other structures offer the best chances of a hookup. Live baiters use bonefish, squid, mullet, mackerel, and other feederfish. The white marlin is a great light tackle gamester and a "finicky feeder" that will try the patience of the most ardent angler.

Temperature Range: 72 - 86° F.

Other Common Names: Atlantic White Marlin, Spikefish, Aguja Blanco.

Largest recorded: 181 pounds


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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