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Dead Baby Marlin Trip — Road Trip with Bill Boyce

Bill Boyce

Bill Boyce shares one of the weirdest experiences he’s ever had offshore.

There we were, fishing our last day out of beautiful Cebaco Bay in Panama, looking for some last-minute, bottom-of-the-ninth-inning billfish action. We were filming a show for my new television series called the IGFA Saltwater Adventures, which begins airing on the World Fishing Network (WFN) on June 22. To this point we had a strong show in the can with a nice 600-pound black one that I caught the previous day on 50-pound stand-up but it gave very little “show,” so we were begging for one more marlin to go bat shit on tape for us. We needed it bad.

We were trolling around a very fishy spot called the Aguja Reef. Conditions were perfect all day with tons of small tunas foaming on the surface. A huge tiderip was present over the reef that had collected a large amount of floating debris and had hundreds of small dorado nestled under the flotsam. Every star in the galaxy was aligned but still no bites. We needed a marlin bite and after slow-trolling live tunas for four hours, our captain was ready to pull off the reef, head offshore, and try trolling a spread of our Stemson World Fishing WFO lures.

We were near the top of the tide and told him to give it another 30 minutes then we would head for the wild blue yonder. With the hours winding down to our inevitable departure back home, we needed a stroke of luck, a good luck charm per se, and we needed it now. Then, it suddenly appeared… We spotted it on the horizon, almost godlike and surreal, bobbing there on the surface, and shockingly peculiar as it was looking right at us.

We spotted something we weren’t sure we wanted to investigate. Though not certain, we feared the outcome if it was what we thought it to be. This lifeless object, floating amongst the debris, was it…

“No, oh God no. Is that a dead baby? The mere thought friggin’ freaked us out.”

The crew wore a look of dread as we got our first good look at it. Oh no, we thought for sure we had just spotted a dead baby floating in the debris. Our stomachs soured with the mere thought of such horror. I got out a long zoom lens and put it on my Canon camera so I could get a closer look. As it came into focus, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was only a doll!

We went over to see the thing and started cracking up. The doll was staring right at us with this look that just said, “Pick me up and give me a beer!”

As mentioned, we hadn’t gotten a bite all day to that point so we figured what the hell, let’s pick the damn thing up. We put our baby doll on the stern rail and as you all know, things can get a little “goofy” on a boat that goes all day without a bite. We were bored out of our minds so we did what any fisherman would do, we started messing with it of course. We placed a beer in its hand, took photos of our “catch” and decided to name our baby Marlin Perkins.

Not 30 minutes after Marlin Perkins joined the crew; the left rigger rubber band stretched out to its max and snap, we get bit! Being Hennie’s turn to crank the handle, he expertly comes tight on a Polaris missile.

“Out of the calm seas comes a raging 700-pound black marlin on 50-pound stand-up gear and we are locked into a serious fight.”

We tipped the leader three times for the successful catch but wanted more jump shots for the show. This big girl was one bad bitch, and we filmed the fight for more than 4 1/2 hours and she was still charging, lit-up and purple! We decided to cut her off as it was getting late for the run back to “the Bay.” Thanks Marlin Perkins!

When we got back to the Cebaco Bay mothership, we told everyone the story and the whole crew went into hysterics. We treated Marlin Perkins like the deity he is. I put him in the planter, propped up against a juvenile palm tree and the boys gave him a hero’s offering, including a cigarette in his mouth, beer, rum and vodka. We laughed our asses off the entire time, and Marlin, not being camera shy, insisted on a few quick photos. It was one of the funniest things to ever happen to me while marlin fishing. Dead Baby Marlin Trip

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Photographer, writer, conservationist and general man about town, Bill Boyce has actively taken part in sport fishing his entire life. As a native Californian, Bill's career began as a fisheries biologist with the US Forest Service in Tahoe National Forest. Later he worked for the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission, managing the harvest of tunas, dolphins and sharks by the Eastern Pacific tuna purse seine fleet. After 16 years as a biologist, Bill turned to underwater photography and writing. Bill's articles and images are regularly published in magazines around the world. Currently, Bill is producing and hosting a new TV series called IGFA Saltwater Adventures, which airs on the World Fishing Network (WFN).