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White Marlin Fishing in Florida

Written by Capt. Noah on Wednesday, 29 May 2013. Posted in Fish Info

White Marlin

From the family Istiophoridae comes the White Marlin (Tetrapturus Albidus). These highly migratory fish prefer subtropical and tropical warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. Off the coast of Florida, particularly around Key West and the lower keys,  these inspiring fish can be found in the deep waters of the Gulf Stream and the Gulf of Mexico. White Marlin is easily one of the most exhilarating and thrilling big game fish found anywhere on the planet. Respected as an immensely prized catch, sports anglers consider these phenomenal fish to be icons in the sports fishing world.

White Marlin is an incredibly long fish; with massive upper jaws that have the strength to carry elongated bills. Roughly the size of a large sailfish, these animals are chocolate-brown or dark blue in color – as with their cousins the Blue Marlin, but proportionately lighter. Another distinguishing characteristic is that White Marlins have pectoral, dorsal and anal fins that are noticeably rounder than those of the Blue Marlin. Males are smaller than females, which grow significantly larger. They average between 40lbs and 70lbs in weight, but it is not uncommon to catch some over 100lbs. During the warm season, White Marlin will migrate to higher latitudes and they prefer water that is deep blue, in depths over 330ft. In early summer, they will spawn in very deep waters. This usually occurs when they are in subtropical environments.

Although these fish are rare to find and catch, they are not solitary animals. People tend to think they prefer swimming on their own. In fact, White Marlins generally swim in schools of up to eight individuals. Their common diet consists of crustaceans, squid and smaller pelagic fish such as tuna and mackerel. Frequently caught as a bycatch by longline international fisheries targeting tuna, White Marlin is now considered a threatened species. These fish are tasty, but sports anglers rather release them.

The current world record for White Marlin stands at 181lbs and 14 ounces. Possibly the most aerial of all billfish, every pound of them will fight you insanely. These fish are popular because of their scarcity and awesome power. In Florida, anglers hope consistently for the indescribable encounter with a White Marlin. There are a variety of ways to catch these fantastic creatures, the most common of which are trolling and drifting. Here are some tips for catching a White Marlin off the coast of Florida:

Tackle for White Marlin

A heavy spinning outfit or light ocean trolling one will work for White Marlin. 12lbs, 20lbs or 30lbs test will give the best hook-up ratio and provide the most thrilling sport. A graphite rod and reel combo of superior quality is ideal because it allows you to detect subtle movements and offers little resistance. A 60lbs or 80lbs fluorocarbon leader of a length between 6ft and 10ft is a good idea.

Bait for White Marlin

We find squid and ballyhoo to produce the best results, either live or dead. Having said that, you can also use tuna, mackerel, mullet, anchovies, bonefish, blue runners and herring. Although White Marlins have been caught on artificial lures as well, we strongly recommend using live bait and rigging it as simply as possible.

Techniques for White Marlin

In Florida, we troll for White Marlin. Sometimes we cast live bait and drift for them too. These fish are generally surface feeders, but they will take bait at varying depths. When we troll, we often set our lines at different water levels in order to catch any White Marlins in the area. Here are some tips for catching these awe-inspiring fish:

  • Ideally, you want your bait to be at its most attractive and easy to swallow. For this reason, do not opt for massive baits but keep them within biting size. Rig your bait in a manner that offers little obstructions when it comes to devouring it. If your bait is rigged pinless, then that pin will not stick out the wrong way and prevent your catch from taking the bait. If using ballyhoo (for example), rig some to swim and some to skip. The skipping bait attracts the fish to the swimming bait, which is usually swallowed heartily.
  • With other fish, spreading as much different baits as you can yields great results. Not with White Marlin. Keep it simple, with four baits spread at a maximum. These fish are among the fastest in the world and the less bait they have to choose from, the more likely you will see which ones they are going to bite – and you can snag them efficiently.
  • Teasing White Marlin is a sure way to get them to bite. By using a teaser, such as a dredge, you can get them really excited. A dredge creates a fantastic bait ball that attracts these predators extremely well. You can throw naked baits to them when they come up to eat your teaser, because they will pounce on them very quickly.
  • These fish are fast enough to hit your bait without you even noticing. The trick to catching White Marlin is to beat them to the rod. If you see one approaching, you need to be ready and have your rod in your hand by the time they take the bait. Be alert or miss out.
  • When the fish wants to eat the bait, drop back and allow the bait to fall back naturally. Often, you will miss snagging the fish if it bites down on the bait when there is tension on the line. Instead, it will catch the bait sideways and you will be left only with the head. Give the fish the opportunity to bite properly on the bait by feeding it to them.
  • When one of these fish takes your bait, you line will start screaming. This is incredibly exciting and naturally you will want to pull back quickly. Here is some advice: there is enough line on your reel to let the fish run some (or there should be). White Marlins swim in schools, so take it slowly and watch your other baits in the water. Often anglers miss out on numerous potential catches because they were too busy with the one already hooked.
  • Go to them. White Marlins are found far offshore. Although they occasionally come close to shore, they are seldom (if ever) caught there. Be prepared to travel and spend much time onboard.
  • These fish are released, so start using circle hooks. J-hooks often kill them and circle hooks are much safer, giving them a great chance of survival.
  • Have a few extra baits rigged and ready to be dropped. If there are a number of these fish in your spread, then you need all the chances possible to catch them. With White Marlins so frequently biting off the tail ends of your bait, you will need regular replacements that can be deployed quickly.

Call now to book a White Marlin Fishing Charter in Florida and prepare for the ultimate excitement.

Photo Credit: BlueCloudSpatial - Creative Commons

About the Author

Capt. Noah

Capt. Noah

Noah is a United States Coast Guard licensed captain and PADI divemaster. He grew up in South Florida and has a passion for all things involving water. He is one of the rare bread of boaters who loves sailing and power boating. Noah sails competitvely and enjoys travelling, photography, and cooking. 


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