Yellowtail? Bluefin? Yellowfin? Dorado?
Check. Check. Check. Check.
No doubt it’s been a fantastic year. As we head into Fall, the season doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. I don’t think that anybody who’s reading this column is going to stop fishing just because they’ve checked off the “standard” pelagic species off their list for the year. There’s always a quest for bigger one or a higher degree of difficulty. Cracking the century mark on a tuna would be sweet…or getting that trophy fish on the popper.
Admit it though, when El Nino is all said and done, wouldn’t you love to have a “super exotic” to your credit?
Opah is hard to target. Wahoo only just started showing up. But marlin? They are around this year in a big way, and if you want to target them, there are tried and true ways to go after them.
Every year you hear about a marlin or two getting caught on the sporties. Last year I was on the Gentleman December 8th. We were fishing the County Line area close to Malibu. The Island Spirit was about 30 yards south of us when an angler on that boat hooked into a marlin. He had it on long enough that I was able to see it jump a few times before it came off. Then just that quickly, a guy on our boat hooked it and quickly lost it.
Already this year, I’ve seen a half dozen or so marlin landed on sportboats. When it happens, it usually occurs by mistake. When setting out trolling lures, the boats rarely put out lures to target them. The only time they might would be on the way home from a good trip with extra time on the clock, or not having a turn-around trip waiting at the landing. When a marlin is caught on a sportboat, it’s usually when someone happens to get picked up on a mackerel or sardine. Or they might have a rat yellow hooked that a marlin decides to eat.
I talked to Capt. Mark Gillette of Eclipse Sportfishing about them. Mark told me that an angler from the Dana Wharf Lady Anglers charter group recently hooked one on his boat. The fish was lost when the hook broke. Mark said he and his peers don’t really go after them. The anglers aren’t setup for them, so successfully boating them is rare. A marlin fight on a sportboat also eats up a lot of time. If an angler were lucky enough to land one, it would be at the expense of everyone else on the boat watching the one lucky angler.
Really, if you want to get a marlin, you should target them on a private boat or charter boat. This being the case, I talked to one of the top marlin guys in So Cal, Capt. Jimmy Decker of Fishing With Decker charters, to get an idea of what you should do if you want to try and get a marlin. Here are a few of Jimmy’s top tips.
Have A Plan
Use a service like Fishdope to get an idea of where they’ve been found recently. Look for clean water that coincides with temperature breaks. Where you find those breaks once you get on the water will likely vary. You must keep an eye on your electronics once you are out there to find exactly where the break lies. Once you find it, work that break. Don’t be afraid to fish the cold side of a break as the fish can be on either side of it.
Jimmy said that bait also tends to come up when the tide changes, so check the tide charts beforehand and note what time the tide peaks and bottoms out.
Be Ready With A Live Bait
Often a marlin will come into your spread, but not actually bite. You always want one person on the boat designated to watch the spread at all times to make sure those opportunities aren’t missed. When it happens, have a mackerel ready to drop back into the spread. A nice, lively bait may be just the ticket to get a marlin to bite.
Go To Marlin Lures
Jimmy likes the trolling lures made by Steve Coggin of Hawaii. There’s also been a lot of buzz lately around the lures from local maker Cousins Tackle. Favorite patterns are Mean Joe Green, Flying Fish, and Picheleiro. One of Jimmy’s favorite stores is JD’s Big Game in Balboa where they not only have a great selection of these lures, there’s also a lot of knowledge that goes with them.
Clearly, there’s much much more to learn about marlin fishing, but this information will get you pointed in the right direction. There’s really no substitute though for getting out on the water with an expert. Jimmy is just starting his marlin charters for the season. He’s the go to guide for many anglers looking to get their qualifier fish for the Tuna Club of Avalon. If you reach out now, you might be able to squeeze yourself into his schedule and get your marlin this year. Good luck!