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Secrets to catching marlin

By Staff | May 7, 2015

Of all the offshore species that blue-water anglers want to get their hooks into, marlin are the most elusive and unpredictable. Blues and stripers are all major league players in Hawaii, and you’ve got to be in their league if you hope to bring one to your boat.

Trolling is and has been very successful for a number of experienced fishermen in Hawaii, and the variations of trolling are endless. When looking for good areas to start running your pattern of lures, it’s always good to look at your options. Do you have information from the previous day about baitfish in the area, currents or the landings that were recorded at the harbor?

A good area may be located over a ledge, a current line or some other source of bait. A ledge is always a good place to start. Areas with significant drop-offs or variations in bottom topography cause baits to pile up when deep, nutrient-rich water rises to the surface, bringing with it a host of tidbits. When working a ledge, it’s important to know where both you and your lures are in relation to the ledge.

Bird piles can also be fruitful when searching for a “nose.” Although the birds might be chasing the bait in an aku school, there’s a chance that a marlin is also in the area looking for its fill. When approaching a school, if you see aku or shibi, it can be productive to make a few passes on the fringes of the school and the back of the school with your bigger lures. I wouldn’t recommend that you plow through the center of the pile, because you’ll generally find a big fish chasing the pile, not in the middle of it. All you might accomplish by going through the center is scaring the school, making it impossible for you to do anything productive.

The success of your trip will depend on your lures. First, your lure pattern must have complete coverage. If all your lures are running the same way and aren’t presented in a delectable fashion, the “sizzle in your steak” is going to get you nowhere. A good lure pattern will have your lures working various waves and in different positions on those waves.

The type of head on your lure, the color of the skirts and the hooks you include in your package are also instrumental to your success or failure. Color is another key ingredient. Pinks and blues are probably the all-time favorites, and silver-blues and purples come in at the top as well. The only way to find out what’s going to work is to get some plastic wet behind the boat and improve on what has attracted some attention.

Hook sizes and numbers of hooks can change according to your own standards. Some people like a single hook, and others swear by a trailer hook. Whether you use light tackle or heavy tackle, always make sure that your hooks are sharp. It only takes a few strokes on a stone or a file to make a hook more effective.

Boat speed is also an important factor. Depending on the water conditions, the direction of the current, wind and swells, your boat speed will determine how well your lures will work for you.

On windy days, it’s also important to run your lures on the proper side of your boat. Lighter lures must go on the downwind side of your pattern, so as not to float over and get tangled up with the other lures in your pattern.

On windy days, it’s good to pull out the heavier lures that will track better in windy conditions and rough seas. On calm days, it’s better to go with those lures that will shake, rattle and roll, causing all kinds of commotion behind your boat – maybe even enough to catch the attention of some kind of curious billfish.