by Jarrod Day on 5 Jan 2014
We all have our favourite fish; those that excite us to the point of obsession. For me, blue marlin are one such fish.
After a hard fight it’s vital that a tired blue is held upright in the water and swum along using the boat’s movement through the water for a good amount of time before release to ensure its survival. Jarrod Day
Very little in fishing can equal the excitement of messing with big blue marlin. These are epic fish, reaching colossal proportions and with power to burn. Majestic in all their movements, blues also have a level of mystique about them that makes them irresistibly addictive.
Right now is prime time for Indian Ocean blue marlin off the West Australian coastline. The season starts in late October as the warm, southerly flow of the Leeuwin Current kicks up a gear, and may run right through until April.
Unfortunately, much of this timeframe also coincides with windiest time of year in this part of the country, with persistent 15-30 knot south-westerlies blowing onshore along much of the state’s huge coastline. But there are always enough gaps in the weather for even quite modest trailerboats to get out wide and chase down these regal game fish.
True ocean wanderers, blues like plenty of water under their keels, rarely venturing in past the continental shelf. This means longer runs out wide are mandatory, to fish past the 250m depth line in the clean, warm, blue water that these fish prefer.
It’s a vast old playing field out here, making these solitary fish difficult to find at times, but there are ways to shorten the odds. For a start, seek out any submarine structure such as canyons or seamounts to troll over and around. Such seafloor features create upwellings that push nutrients toward the surface, kick starting a food chain that begins with planktonic algae and ends with monster marlin.
Surface water temperature is a key to blue marlin movements, and should be studied with the aid of up to the minute sea surface temperature satellite charts, which can be accessed through several online subscription services. 22 degrees Celsius is a general minimum water temperature that blues will occupy, but the major features to look for are temperature breaks where flows of warm water current abut pools of cooler water. Trolling in and out of these edges can often result in a crazy day of champagne game fishing.
Temp breaks and current lines can sometimes be spotted at sea, simply by looking for changes in water colour or lines of flotsam. Whatever the likely hotspots are in the area fished, make sure to be on them during a tide change, as these periods are well known as major blue marlin bite times.
Locating aggregations of baitfish – and keep in mind that a ‘baitfish’ for a blue could be anything from a small flying fish to a big tuna – is not as important in blue marlin fishing as it is with our other black and striped marlin species. Blues seem happy to roam for their food, and so strikes can come out of nowhere while trolling through seemingly ‘dead’ water.
Blue fishing is a lure trolling pursuit, both to help cover more ground to find the fish, and simply because blues love eating skirted lures. Big, noisy, pushers that throw off plenty of bubble trail are the go, with 12 inch to as big as you’re game to tow being the size of lure to use. Rig these lures on 500lb leader that can withstand a long fight and the very raspy bill these fish possess.
Three lures is plenty for a trailerboat, and set these quite close to the stern. Blues aren’t afraid of much, so will come right to the back of the boat to grab a lure they fancy. Trolling speed depends on the conditions, but will generally be faster than you might troll for other billfish species. As a rough guide, on a flat calm, low swell day a speed of around 7 knots is the go.
The average size of WA blues is 100-200kgs, but big mummas up to 400kg or more are encountered fairly regularly, so 37kg tackle is the sensible starting point. Even the run-of-the-mill fish are no pushover on this heavy gear.
The main reason for this is that uncontrollable first run blue marlin are renowned for. To deal with this, 50W size reels are the minimum, and should be spooled up with Dacron or hollow core braid backing with only a short (100m) top shot of nylon monofilament to pack on as much line as possible. Even then, expect to see the bottom of the reel spool on a regular basis.
When that strike comes, be ready for the fireworks that are sure to follow. The reel will be howling as line seemingly evaporates from the spool, and the fish will most likely be tearing the ocean apart out behind the boat in a semi-circular series of incredible jumps that take it on a course out to the side and usually ahead of the boat.
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Don’t panic through all this excitement. Keep the drag at strike setting (4-6 kilos for 37kg line), and as soon as the fish settles down, push the pressure up to a fighting setting (about 12kg for 37kg) and get working on it.
Landing a big blue is a team effort. The skipper must use the boat to assist the angler shorten the length of line out. Be aggressive in your driving to let the angler recover easy line, and don’t just sit on a fish. The worst thing that can happen is that the blue dives deep, as this can mean a long fight and a significant chance the fish will not survive.
When the fish is beaten and at the side of the boat, keep the boat moving ahead slowly, snap off a few pics, hold it upright and let it catch its breath for a decent amount of time before setting it free. As you watch it swim back into its oceanic domain, life will never seem better!
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