Keeping It "Reel": How to Nab a Blue Marlin

With the Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament happening this week, everyone is getting excited about fishing! Any type of fishing is fun and can be a relaxing way to spend the afternoon on the pier, but Blue Marlin fishing is just a little different. 

This is definitely fishing as a sport! Blue Marlin are fast, powerful, good jumpers, and can be hundreds of pounds. The largest Blue Marlin caught on record was a whopping 1,402 lbs.! Last year at the Big Rock Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament, the winning fish caught by team Inspiration (you can read more about them on the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament website) was 754.3 lbs. after about 4 and half hours spent reeling it in! So, how can you get started? We’ve got the insider’s scoop on Blue Marlin fishing here! 


Catching Blue Marlin requires the knowledge of a fishing technique called "trolling.” Trolling is accomplished by trailing your line behind the boat you are fishing out of at a consistent depth. Blue Marlin live at or beneath 250 ft. in depth, so your line should be long enough to accommodate these depths as well as the weight of the fish. Blue Marlin are usually 150 to 500 lbs., so make sure your line can withstand those weights, or you’ll be left with nothing but a good story about "the one that got away.” These lines usually range in what is classified as the 50-80 lb. line class. 

Keeping your line at a consistent depth can be accomplished by using a downrigger. This device attaches to your boat and to the rod and reel. It pulls your line down and then locks in place when the line has reached the desired depth. Many times two lines are released with bait at varying lengths to attract the Marlin. 

Lures and Bait 

The bait is another important factor in catching the perfect Blue Marlin. For trolling, you can use lures or live bait fish. For lures, the more realistic the better. Lures that appear to look like fish that the Blue Marlin would eat such as mullet, mackerel, or ballyhoo are desirable for open ocean. Live bait can be split into two categories: large and natural rigged. The larger bait fish include dolphin or bonito, while the natural rigged bait fish include mullet, barracuda, and large ballyhoo. Live bait is often preferable in weedy or grassy areas of water. Of course, the type of lures and bait is a matter of personal preference and you may have to do some trial and error to see what works best for you. 

Patience- Reeling It In

Patience is key when trolling because it can take quite a while to get a bite, and then when that moment of anticipation finally arrives, it can take hours to tire these powerful fish and then finally reel them in. You must be both vigilant and patient with Blue Marlin fishing if you’re hoping to snag a record breaker. Keeping an eye out for where the Marlin may be and patiently reeling in the fish once it has bitten can be a long process, but so worth it in the end! 

Simply watching the Blue Marlin can be a lot of fun though as you watch them jump above the water. These fish are huge and can be recognized for their blue coloration, large, curved dorsal fin, and long, bill noses. These fish are so powerful and often create quite the aerial show as they leap in and out of the breaking waves. Blue Marlin are known for doing what is called "greyhounding.” This means that they jump horizontally out of the water successively. It’s an amazing sight—one that you’ll not soon forget! 

You can find out more information on Blue Marlin and techniques for catching Blue Marlin on this website. 


Now that you are all pumped up and ready to try your hand at Blue Marlin fishing, here’s a little history about how the Big Rock Blue Marlin Fishing Tournament got started:

Back in 1956, most people believed that the elusive Blue Marlin could not even be found off our beautiful coastal waters. Fishing for billfish like the Blue Marlin was thought to only be accomplished in the waters of the Gulf Coast. However, some hopeful Morehead City fishermen, after hearing from cargo ships that Marlin had been spotted off the Morehead City coast, were determined to find out for themselves. 

Through the summer of 1957, members of the Fabulous Fishermen Club began their own search for the Blue Marlin and encouraged others (despite the economic troubles of the time) to venture further offshore to reel in their own catch. This sparked competition complete with some reward money that the locals were able to compile for the winner who found the largest Marlin. 
Finally, in September of 1957, a Blue Marlin was caught and brought ashore to a waiting crowd and impromptu parade for the 143 lb. fish. This encouraged competition further and there has been a tournament ever since. 

The Big Rock portion of the tournament remained a well-kept secret for some time. It is not actually a single rock, but rather a collection of a group of ledges and peaks covering 8-10 miles long with about a mile in width that creates a microcosm of the food chain—attractive to the Blue Marlin. 

Even though the competition has been a long way in the making, it continues to grow further and attract more and more every year. For example, in 1974 the prize money was a good $800, but now, 40 years later, the prize money is an astounding $1 million! If that’s not incentive, I don’t know what is! 

This is also a great way for the community to give back as well. Over the years, the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament has donated over 3.1 million dollars to charity.

If you would like to learn more about the history of the competition as well as the stories of past winners, you can look on the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament website

Over the years, the Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament has grown, but it has always been one thing: FUN! Whether you are participating in the tournament, along for the ride, or just enjoying the atmosphere of friendly competition, you and your family are sure to enjoy this coastal tradition! 

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Share with us: Have you ever been Blue Marlin fishing? What are you most looking forward to during this year’s competition? 

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