4 Different Types of Marlin

August 7, 2020

Marlin are debatably the most coveted species in the billfish family, finding the top spot on countless angler’s bucket lists. Notorious for their rod bending strength and acrobatic maneuvers while hooked up, it takes determination, skill, and even a little luck to reel any species of Marlin to the boat. There are 4 species of Marlin in the billfish family, each with unique characteristics that separate them from their cousin species. As they’re jumping and thrashing it may be difficult to tell exactly what kind of marlin you have caught, they all look very similar. Even once you get them to the boat they are, at times, difficult to distinguish from each other.

So let’s break it down…

Black Marlin

Image of animal, fish, sea life, swordfish, shark, tunaBlack marlin are the largest in the marlin family and can weigh over 1500 pounds. Head to the Pacific and Indian Oceans to catch this massive fish. If you’re visiting Hawaii, plan your black marlin trip anytime between September and December. Down closer to Central America (in countries like Costa Rica or Panama) they show up in good numbers between November and March.

They are also one of the fastest marlins on record, using their sleek body to move quickly through the water. You can tell a black marlin apart from other marlins because of this speed, but also the coloring on top of their bodies. They have more solid coloring of dark blue or black across their backs, and white or silver sides and bellies. They also have a shorter bill, and the dorsal fin (the one closest to the head) is shorter in comparison to other marlins. Another key indicator you have a black marlin on the hook, the pectoral fins are very rigid and can’t fold into their bodies.

Blue Marlin

Image of fish, animal, swordfish, sea life, shark, tuna
If your hooked marlin is making big jumps and exploding out of the water, chances are you have a blue marlin coming your way. These high flyers and fast runners are found around the world  in Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Females are known to be much larger than their male counterparts, sometimes weighing as much as four times heavier. The world record blue marlin was measured at 1,376 pounds in 1982 off the coast of Hawaii.

Blue marlin are oftentimes confused as other billfish. One example is swordfish; they have similar size and coloring. One key difference is actually the bill, blue marlin have a round and pointed bill, while swordfish are more flat and blunt. The stripes on the side also have anglers thinking they are striped marlin. However, the stripes on blue marlins aren’t as distinct and tend to fade (where striped marlin don’t fade). If looks alone aren’t enough to help you determine whether you have a swordfish or blue marlin by the boat, the fishing technique used to entice the billfish to your hook is the dead giveaway. Blue marlin are caught while trolling, and swordfish are solely caught while deep dropping (bottom fishing) at depths of over 900ft.

Striped Marlin

Image of fish, animal, sea life, swordfish, shark, tuna
Speaking of striped marlin; They are the toughest fighters of the marlin, jumping and thrashing to toss the hook. They are a lot like blue marlin, from the long bill and sleek body. But they aren’t found in the Atlantic like blue marlin, they live mostly in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Off the Pacific coasts of California, Mexico, and Costa Rica are great spots to launch your striped marlin excursion.

Striped marlin are mostly identified by their coloring and blue vertical stripes along their body. They tend to have a dark silver color on their sides, and those blue stripes that stand out among other marlins. Striped marlin also don’t grow as large as blue or black marlins, typically weighing no more than 450 pounds.

White Marlin

Image of tuna, animal, fish, sea life, shark, bonito, swordfish
White marlin are the smallest of all marlin, averaging a weight of about 150 pounds. They are typically found throughout the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico feeding on squid, flying fish, and smaller dorado (or mahi mahi). Anglers can find them not far from the shore from Florida to Maryland during the summer months, typically running in the Gulf Stream feeding on smaller baitfish.

The dorsal fins of white marlin are bigger than other marlin, helping to distinguish them from the others. They are also lighter in coloring, with more white along their sides and bellies than blue or black marlins. White marlin also have spots along their body, which helps to distinguish them from blue marlin.

Catching Marlin

Whether you’re fishing in the Pacific or the Atlantic, getting a marlin on the hook is always an adventure; get ready for a scene of acrobatics when reeling in a marlin. And make sure you have enough line; they are fast, strong, and will run the line right out of the reel if you’re not careful. Typically anglers will go trolling for marlin; and once the drag starts screaming you know you’ve got something big on the line. Depending on the size of the marlin on the hook, getting your catch to the boat can take up to an hour, if not longer. Your Captain may even put the boat into reverse to help you land your catch! “Backing down” your hooked marlin is one of the most exciting fishing memories you’ll ever experience… Waves crashing over the stern of the boat, standing in knee deep water in the cockpit as the water drains out, all while the marlin is burning drag and launching out of the water.

Your Marlin Fishing Trip

Collectively, all marlin belong to the billfish family, which also includes sailfish, spearfish, and swordfish. The long bodies and spear-like bill are seen here as well (hence the name). To get yourself hooked on a marlin, consider the time of year and location you’re looking to fish, and schedule your trip within the season for the highest success rate. Grant, a member of the FishAnywhere.com team, planned his Costa Rican vacation in November of 2018 and was able to land two Blue Marlin and a Striped Marlin on the same trip! If you’re serious about catching your own trophy sized marlin, let FishAnywhere.com help you plan your bucket list fishing trip! Whether it’s a Costa Rica, Panama, Florida, Hawaii, or any other tropical get away, we partner with the top Captains that are intimately familiar with the seasonal migration and feeding patterns of the local marlin. They’ll put you on the fish, all you have to do is keep that rod tip up, and reel!

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