homepage logo

Striped marlin loved for their beauty and aerial acrobatics

By Staff | Jan 14, 2016

The Start Me Up Too caught this 120.8-pound striped marlin in April 2015. PHOTO BY DONNELL TATE.

Striped marlin, which are most common around the Hawaiian Islands over the winter to spring months, have finally begun to make their presence known. The striped marlin is considered to be the most common (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. Striped marlin have traveled up to 30 miles per day. Fish tagged off the west coast of Mexico have migrated over 3,400 nautical miles to the west and over 2,300 nautical miles to the south.

Striped marlin are found throughout the Pacific Ocean, but their abundance is much greater in the eastern half of the Pacific and appears to merge seasonally in the middle latitudes of both the north and south Pacific. Striped marlin move west across the Pacific from California to Costa Rica in a large stream of warm water toward the equator during the fall and winter, and away again during the spring and summer. They are also found in the Indian Ocean but not in the Atlantic Ocean.

Most of the time, striped marlin wander the ocean alone, but, as with all marlin when breeding, they are found in pairs or schools. Spawning appears to occur in the north Pacific between Taiwan and the Philippines to south of Hawaii toward the equator from April to August. There is a rather distinct north-south separation of spawning grounds. There are positive spawning grounds 285 miles southwest off the tip of Baja in the area of the Revillagigedo Islands. Striped marlin are found in Hawaiian waters throughout the year, but in larger numbers from November through May.

The bigger striped marlin are found at maximum size and numbers in the more temperate and tropical Pacific and Indian Oceans in waters ranging between 66-78 degrees. The smaller sized striped marlin are taken in the warmer waters of Hawaii and Fiji inshore from ocean currents. The larger striped marlin off New Zealand appear to be from a different stock than those caught off Hawaii or Mexico.

That may explain why the New Zealand fish hold most all of the current world records from 12- to 130-pound test line for both men and women. The all tackle I.G.F.A. record is 494 pounds on 50-pound test taken from New Zealand waters. Striped marlin normally range in Hawaiian waters from 25 to 125 pounds with an average weight of 65 pounds. The Hawaii state record is 212 pounds, with the Lahaina Harbor record being 188.4 pounds.

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 powerful pugnacious black or the perfectly proportioned blue, the striped marlin is the most active, speedy and aerial acrobatic of the big billfish. It will sometimes spend almost as much time in the air as in the water.

Striped marlin excel at grey-hounding, with lunging, splashing, breathtaking surface tricks as many as 50 times before being boated in the struggle to free itself from the hook. 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 and foam-making runs across the surface, tearing the sea to shreds.

It is generally one of the easiest marlin to catch. Grey-hounding and shaking their head savagely as they clear the surface, they tire readily and can be boated from several minutes to within an 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 gamefishing around the Pacific.