Charlie Levine, former Senior Editor of Marlin Magazine, has chased all sorts of big-game fish up and down the East Coast, Mexico, Caribbean and beyond. “Anyone can do it,” Levine says. “You don’t need to be a huge dude to catch a giant fish. I’ve seen 90-pound girls do it and elderly people, too. The saying is true, ‘It’s better to be lucky than to be good,’ but if you do your homework and find a good charter boat operation in a known hot spot, you stand a good chance. If you’re looking for a benchmark 1,000 lb.-and-up fish, you’re aiming for a blue or black marlin, a shark or a giant tuna.
The amount of time spent on the hunt varies, Levine says. “Back in 2008, a woman from Chicago named Carrie Poleski went on a charter fishing trip on the boat Wound Up with Capt. James Robertson in Bermuda. She was there on business and had never done any offshore fishing. She ended up catching a 1,049-pound blue marlin on her first try. But that’s unusual. You normally have to put a lot of time in before you see a fish like that. It can be an expensive hobby. In terms of fighting the fish itself, it helps to have a good captain who will chase the fish with the boat and back down on it.”
A top-notch captain, sportfishing boat and crew. You also need the proper equipment such as a fighting chair, two-speed reel, stout rod and a determined will. “When you charter a boat they’ll take care of all the tackle, rods, hooks, lures, bait, and everything else that you’ll need. When you’re going out for big game fish with a well-respected crew, you’re generally on on a 40- to 60-foot sport fishing boat.”
1. Find A Fish
“If you’re looking for a 1,000-pound marlin the best places to go are Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Bermuda, Hawaii, Brazil, Madeira or the Azores. Marlin Magazine offers a program called Marlin University, which hosts several trips each year to known marlin hot spots. It’s great for novice anglers looking to fish with some experts and learn how to do it. They get a lot of hands-on experience on how to fight the fish, rig baits, tie knots, etc.”
2. Hire A Captain
“If you’re a novice angler, odds are you’re not going to catch a big fish on your own right out of the box. So do some research and hire a reputable charter boat. That’s the most important thing.” Join a forum like bloodydecks.com, get a referral and call the captain. A good one will put you in touch with a previous customer for a testimonial.
3. Shut Up and Listen
“Just do what the captain and mates tell you to do and you’ll be fine. In a lot of cases, a fishing boat captain prefers working with a novice rather than a blowhard who thinks he’s an expert. The captain and crew will be happy to coach you through it. They want to catch the fish just as bad as you do.”
4. Head To Sea
“The boat will troll along at about 7-10 knots, pulling lures, rigged baits or both. The crew will handle the baiting and the lures. Some of these lures and teasers are as big as your leg. Unless you really know what you’re doing, you’ll just mess it up. You can be out there cruising along for a long, long time, but once you see that bite and the marlin take off, it’s well worth it.”
5. Hook, Crank and Hope
“There’s nothing like that first five seconds of pure pandemonium when you realize you have what is essentially a live patriot missile at the end of your line. If you have an aggressive captain he’ll start screaming “Reel! Reel! Reel!” as he turns and chases the fish. A good captain makes all the difference but when you hook a fish that size, there’s no way around it, reeling it in can take all afternoon. But it’s exhilarating.”
6. Capture the Catch
Take a photo of your catch just before you release it and make it your new Facebook profile picture. “As tempting as it may be to kill that big fish and bring it back to port, you really should release it. Marlin populations are only a fraction of what they were 50 years ago and if you want your kids to experience marlin fishing, it’s best to practice catch and release. ” Take as many photos as you like as the crew revives the fish next to the boat, then set it free and watch it swim off to fight another day.
“The largest marlin are females — all the more reason to release them since they’re the breeders. The world-record black marlin weighed 1,560 pounds and was caught off of Peru in the early 1950s.” Visit www.igfa.org to get a photo.
Warnings: “Once you’re tight to a big fish and you get in that fighting chair, you’re in it for the long haul. There’s no getting out. Technically you can switch with another angler, but it’s not the sportsmanlike thing to do. So, no matter how tired you are, you’re locked in until that fish comes in or breaks off. You better pack a lunch.”