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Fleet enjoys six-week run of striped marlin

By Staff | Mar 31, 2011

Striped marlin, which are most common around the Hawaiian Islands over the winter to spring months, finally made their presence known the second week of February after a five-year departure.

During a six-week run through the third week of March, there were 57 fish weighed, with another 62 tagged or released, bringing the total to 119 fish. On several days, six to 12 were captured among the fleet. There were only five caught in 2010, 34 in ’09, 30 in ’08 and 62 in ’07.

The striped marlin is considered to be the most common or the most abundant of the marlin family. The striped marlin is pelagic (open ocean) and appears to make long seasonal migrations, more than the other species of marlin. The longest migration of any billfish, striped marlin migrate from their spawning grounds (285 miles southwest off the tip of Baja, in the area of the Revillagigedo Islands near the tip of Baja, California) to the Hawaiian Islands — a distance of about 3,120 miles.

Striped marlin are found throughout the Pacific Ocean, but their abundance is much greater in the eastern half of the Pacific Ocean and appears to merge seasonally in the middle latitudes of the Pacific. Striped marlin move across the Pacific in a large stream of warm water across the Tropic of Cancer toward the equator during the fall and winter and away again during the spring and summer.

Most of the time, striped marlin wander the ocean alone, but, as with all marlin when breeding, they are found in pairs or schools. Striped marlin are found occasionally in Hawaiian waters throughout the year, but in larger numbers from December through April. The smaller-sized striped marlin, averaging 25-45 pounds, are taken in the warmer waters of Hawaii, inshore from ocean currents.

Alive or dead, the striped marlin is the most beautiful of all the marlins. In life, it is breathtakingly colorful. When striking at food or fighting, it is a dazzling royal blue punctuated with 14 glowing lavender or light-blue stripes. Iridescent lavender patches outline the pectoral fins and tail. One of the most thrilling sights is to see a striped marlin with all its colors glowing as if powered by unseen electricity, swimming behind a bait or swimming from one bait to the other before striking. After death, it usually still shows its stripes and blue patches, although not as brilliant and well-defined.

More slender in body shape than the perfectly proportioned blue, the striped marlin is the most active, speedy and aerial acrobatic of the big billfish. Striped marlin excel at greyhounding, with lunging, splashing, breathtaking surface tricks dozens or more times. They can make long successive low jumps or high jumps in which the fish is clear of the water like a flashing rocket, followed by tail-walking, whitewater-making runs across the surface, tearing the sea to shreds.

It is generally one of the easiest marlin to catch. The greyhounding and shaking of their head savagely as they clear the surface cause them to tire readily, and can be boated from several minutes to within a half-hour — a never-to-be-forgotten thrill for the light tackle angler. It is easy to understand the important part this species has played in the development of game fishing around the Pacific.