Join William Tyler as he turns a bad day into a good one with the help of a big North Carolina blue marlin ...
We had been having a slow day, but at least we had variety.
We had one 35-lb yellowfin in the box, a king mackerel,
and a 20-lb dolphin. We had a triple header of which two
had pulled off immediately and we released the dink (undersized)
yellowfin that we landed. We were trolling about 10 miles
North of the Point. I had us going in a zig zag pattern
across the continental shelf drop off. We drove NE off the
edge into 2,000 feet, and then turn NW and would run back
up the slope till 200 ft.
I had my right hand on the wheel with the drivers chair
sideways so I could look back. As I glanced back I saw a
huge bill come out of the water and act like it was grabbing
a bait. Then I saw the huge sickle-shaped tail half out
the water showing 2 feet of the top of the fin. Then the
hook must have set and the blue marlin charged to the right
and did a perfect greyhound leap with his back arched and
fin straight up. He looked just like a marlin stuck up on
a wall with his arched back, and it showed his perfectly
silhouetted pointed dorsal fin. This is the identification
feature that separates blue marlin from white marlin, which
a have a rounded dorsal fin. With his great size fully in
the air, it left no doubt in my mind what we had on.
"Blue Marlin on the left longrigger," I screamed. At this
point the sleepy bodies poured from the cabin. Benji handed
the belt to Bobby, who started to put it on, and then he
grabbed the rod. Buck, Roger and Elizabeth reeled in the
other lines. At this point line was screaming from the reel
and the fish put on a 200-yard greyhounding sprint spraying
water like a car sliding in a parking lot on a rainy day.
After seeing the fish put on the show, Benji had a change
of mind. "Give me the #@&#^%!@ belt!," he barked at Bobby
while he was holding the rod with the line screaming off
of it . Bobby grudgingly strapped it onto Benji. The contestants
had been chosen.
Everyone else had been reeling in lines, but they were
still in the water. At this point, there was only a quarter
spool left and the line was disappearing fast. I was in
a new boat, a Grady White 30. I had always fished smaller
boats like my previous Grady 24. In this same situation,
a big boat will immediately back down (drive in reverse)
on a fish to gain line. They also use a chair, and it is
tough to follow a fish when the angler can't move to the
edge of the boat. But most small boats fight standup which
means there is no chair and you can stand on the edge of
the boat and follow the fish. A small outboard will sink
if you floor it in reverse because water can enter where
the outboards sit. Although in this new boat, the outboard
engines are on a platform, I chose to use my old, ingrained
small boat method of chasing the fish. I made a sharp turn
to the right, put the fish at a 45 degree and forward, and
put the boat up on a plane. The chase was on.
We chased the fish on the surface for about 5 minutes and
gained most of the line back. I kept him out to the side
of the boat and I would run at him to gain line, and turn
away from him when he rushed us. We had a few good looks
at him and I estimated he was 400 - 500 lbs. He was settling
Then the fish pulled his first "Crazy Ivan". As he rushed
the boat, I turn away and gagged the throttle, and we got
up on plane. But Benji was still reeling, which meant the
fish was gaining, I kept it on plane for about two minutes
on half throttle. Finally he turned and line started spooling
off the reel again. For a second time things settle down.
At this point a small boat almost trolled between us and
the fish. Buck and Bobby started waving shirts, I got on
the hailer and told them to turn, and at the same time,
the fish jumped well on the other side of them. They got
the point and did a U-turn on top of their own lines, probably
getting a big tangle for such a sharp turn.
Then the fish was pulling steady and down about 100 ft.
He had 3/4 spool out, so I changed tactics. I started to
back down on him. We backed right down the line towards
the fish and Benji put almost all the line back on the reel
before the fish realized we were closing in on him. Then
he threw his second "Crazy Ivan" run at us.
He ran hard, straight away from us making the reel scream
like it was changing gears. Then he did a U-turn and screamed
past us. As I saw him jump in front of the boat, I looked
backwards and saw line still streaming out in the direct
opposite direction and I knew he had put a huge arc on us
and that we were in trouble. I was still in reverse, and
I yelled that he had arced in front of us and to hang on.
I slammed the boat in full throttle and Bobby and Roger
grabbed Benji by the back of his harness and steadied him.
The boat lurched forward and we got on plane. As we picked
up speed, the marlin continued to jump and he pulled the
line to the surface. With me flooring the boat, I had lifted
Benji another four feet into the air, so now the arc of
line popped out of the water. I could see 300 yards of line
pop free in a huge arc and, with suddenly no resistance
on the line, Benji fell flat on his back - but he kept reeling.
He was laying on his back, reeling like the devil, and that
combined with the boat which had gotten up to 33 mph made
the line never go slack, even though 300 yards of the arc
in the line had free jumped 100 yards forward.
I passed the last know location of the fish and Roger and
Bobby lifted Benji to his feet. I pulled back on the throttle.
"Go, go, go!", they all yelled, "we are still taking in
line." "Could this be, the fish is still running" I thought.
The engines were floored. We were going 35 MPH and picking
up speed. I waited another 30 second as we topped out a
dead full speed at 38 MPH and pulled back on the throttle.
"No, no, no, go, go, go" they yelled. I floored it, and
looked and saw 33 mph again. I waited another 30 seconds,
and he is still reeling. Again I pull back on the throttle,
thinking this was impossible. They yell, "go, go, go!" a
third time. I comply and floor the boat again. Then I get
my answer. The marlin starts jumping just outside the wake
of the boat, and gaining on us! He looked just like a water
skiier. There was the wake, straight as an arrow going off
infinitely into the distance, and there was the fish greyhounding,
just outside the wake. Then the fish turn hard left away
from the boat and the line, thankfully, began to peel line
off the reel again. I stopped the boat and the fish sounds.
We all start talking at once. None of us can believe what
we just saw.
The fish sounds again a second time and is tired. I have
an hour and nine minutes on my watch since the fish first
struck. I begin to back down on him again. He swings by
the back of the boat, and Buck takes command of the boat
. I put my gloves on, the swivel pops out and I touch the
leader as it passes. Officially, the fish was landed. But
he was still in the upright position. When a marlin gets
real tired, he turns sideways, so I knew he was still too
green to wire at this point. He makes another half hearted
run. Ten minutes later, he is back at the boat again. I
grab the leader, but I don't wrap. He swings back towards
the engine. Now I had always disliked engine platforms for
just this reason. If you get a fish who swims towards them,
you can't stop it. In my old boats, you could simply take
the rod and walk the fish around the engines. I leaned over
the side of the boats and pulled with all my strength. I
turned him and swam untouched out from under the boat. Then
I realized something new. The engine are 5 feet farther
away, and there is less of a chance of getting tangled in
them because of the distance you are from them. All those
times I had tried to walk fish around the engines were time
that I had just led the fish closer to the props and danger.
Wow ... I was wrong for all those years.
The fish floats on its side and I grab its bill. Hmm, he
didn't like that and he swung three time very sharply. Now
this really hurt. It was like grabbing a two by four and
having someone slap it with a sledge hammer. I mean the
slaps were instant high impacts that were so quick, they
felt electrical. The fish slammed my chest down on the transom
like a rag doll and by the third slap, my head was being
whiplashed and was flipping up from my chest and arcing
backwards, with my hair standing up wildly.. Wisely, I let
go (wisely, hell, I was getting pummeled!). The fish makes
a final run and as I turn to Benji, I see the line wrapped
around the rod tip. I point to the rod and Benji quickly
flips the line off the guide as the line goes tight and
the clicker start to pick up speed. He said he was so dumbfounded
by the whipping the fish was giving me that he forgot to
watch the line.
This time the fish stopped about 50 yards away. We winched
him in and he was seemed whipped. He flipped on his side
and I grabbed his bill. He sat there like a huge baby. We
kept the boat in gear and he slid along side the boat. Roger
tagged him in the shoulder and he made no attempt to react.
The fish was lit up with bright angry blue stripes. His
girth was big as a fat man and he seemed about 10 ft long.
His tail was at least three feet wide in a scythe shape.
I was also amazed at the width of the body where the tail
met the body. It was wider than my leg. Much thicker than
the 300-lb marlin I had caught before, I would guess he
was between 450 to 500 lbs.
The hook was shallowly imbedded in the roof of his mouth
where I couldn't reach it. So I used pliers and cut the
line as it entered his mouth. He would be able to shake
it free once the was no pressure on the line. Elizabeth
was snapping pictures with Bobby the whole time. As I let
go of the bill, the fish immediately gave a series of sharp
kicks to his tail and he disappeared straight down into