The Captain’s 10 Golden Rules for hooking more marlin. Jeez, I wish someone told us a bit earlier – like 10,000 litres of fuel earlier!
The Captain knows a fisherman who hooked (and lost) nine marlin before finally landing one. Such is the fighting prowess of this sought-after game fish that drives fishermen to despair. When a marlin is pierced by a chemically-sharpened hook, it fights like a wild brumby on ice, using its sabre-like bill to slash fishing lines and smack boats and engines. The marlin’s broad sweeping tail fins propel it to super-car speed, stretching gear and nerves with powerful runs and tail-walks. It will use your own boat against you; swimming under, around and even over your boat to cut its way to freedom.
Catching a marlin can become an obsession; costing thousands of dollars in gear, charters and fuel. Plus, countless hours at sea (or en route) and the time spent surfing web sites for the optimum destination, weather conditions and sea surface temperature. And all this just for a chance to glimpse those iridescent pectoral fins and beautiful big eyes? Yep.
To help you hook and land your first marlin, The Captain, has spoken to the experts and come up with these 10 golden rules. I just wish someone had told us earlier…
- WEAPONS ON THE WEB
In The Captain’s opinion, finding the fish 90 per cent of the battle. Use the awesome technology at your fingertips – websites and apps such as seasurface.com and FishTrack – to find temperature breaks and back eddies. As a general rule, we like to fish on the colder side of a temperature change; ideally where fast currents meet slow ones. It also doesn’t hurt to follow a few Facebook game-fishing forums for your local area. A recent (and accurate) fishing report is a goldmine.
- SHARPEN UP
An old pro fisho once told The Captain, “We haven’t come this far to fish with blunt hooks”. It seems basic, but the marlin has a mouth of steel and if your hooks aren’t sharp, you can kiss that fish goodbye. So get yourself a bastard cut file – yes, that’s what they’re called – from your local Bunnings and sharpen up. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.
- BIGGER NOT BETTER
Park the ego because using oversized lures doesn’t always work. When fishing for smaller black marlin it never hurts to go small. Throw a few ‘Tim Tam-sized lures’ into the spread next time. You can always catch big game fish on small lures, but the opposite is rarely true. Not for us, anyway. Once we downsized, the hook-up rate climbed dramatically!
- DON’T BE THICK
When fishing for marlin, you may think you need to have a length of 2000lb Dyneema rope as your leader. Not true. In fact, fishing with a lighter leader will certainly increase your hook-up rate. Heavy leaders impede the action of your livie or lure – and are more likely to be spotted by a predator. So fish light and get the bite. For 15-24kg tackle, leaders should be between 120-300lb. For 37-60kg tackle, leaders should be between 300-400lb.
- TRIMMING TACTICS
Skirted lures run the best in clean water on the face of pressure waves. A great trick to clear up your wash and increase the size of your pressure wave is to tilt your motor up slightly and lift your trim tabs (if you have them). This points the turbulence higher, which dissipates it over a shorter distance and increases the size of the pressure wave. This technique shortens your wash, makes your lures more visible, gives you a better hook-up rate and even increases your fuel economy– it may be simple, but it’s effective.
- CURRENT AFFAIR
Although many people have different opinions about this one, The Captain reckons the direction you troll (in relation to the current) is essential. Marlin and other game fish often swim with the current as it requires a lot less energy. So maximise your time trolling down or across the current.
- BIRDS AND BAIT
Birds are our eyes in the sky. Whether they’re shearwaters, frigates, gannets or albatross, they’re always good news when searching for signs of life. Keep your eyes peeled on the horizon for birds at all times – especially large concentrations. Big patches of bait are also a sure sign predators are lurking nearby. Use your sounder to find bait balls and stick with ’em. An old salt once told us that birds fly at the same height as the depth the baitfish are swimming. Makes sense when you think about it.
- SNAP, CRACKLE & POP
The Captain has snapped a rod or two – thankfully not when hooked up to a marlin – but plenty of people have. To avoid it, buy good gear, know your breaking strains by setting your drag with scales and regularly check your connections by tying off on a cleat and testing. Also, don’t bend your back when the fish is bending theirs! Wait until the momentum is in your favour before pumping hard and winding. This is an art that applies to most types of fishing.
- TURNED & BURNED
A favourite marlin trick is to change direction and put the boat between you and it. To avoid getting your line cut off on the keel or engine leg, drive your trailer boat to one side of the fish and keep it there, in a gameboat, keep the fish off the stern. Maintain constant communication with the driver using confident and clear instructions. Indecision will cost you.
- YOU SNOOZE, YOU LOSE
Don’t be a snoozer. Always keep an eye on the lures to ensure they’re swimming like Michael Phelps. And when you do hook up, keep the line tight at all times. If the fish runs or jumps towards you, tell the skipper to drive off it – then reel like crazy. Oh, and don’t sleep in and miss the boat, either.