08/27/08

Blue Marlin Blitz – Charter Fishing in the Gulf Stream

During the 25th Annual Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament, on The Outer Banks of North Carolina, held August 11 – 15, 2008, a North Carolina state record was broken when Florida resident Trey Irvine landed the largest blue marlin in the state’s history, weighing in at a whopping 1,228.50 pounds. This smashes the previous record weight of a 1,142-pounder caught in 1974.

While the record catch received the bulk of the attention, the majority of anglers did well during the tournament, landing a total of 23 blue marlin, 59 white marlin, 20 sailfish and one spearfish.
The recent tournament, and its’ blue marlin star, brings to national attention a fact that frequent visitors and locals already knew: Hatteras Island is Marlin Country.

The Gulf Stream, located just 15 miles off Hatteras Inlet on the beautiful Outer Banks, is home to a vast range of marine species, particularly large fish, luring charter boats and fishermen from all over the world. While these charter boats target a multitude of different “meat” and “sport” fish, including yellowfin tuna, grouper, rockfish, snapper, or mahi mahi, there are a few varieties in particular that stand out as true trophies of the Gulf Stream fisherman. The blue marlin is one of the most popular species.

Though not abundant in the world, the blue marlin can be found off the coast of North Carolina in large numbers. Many marinas, charter boats, museums and cultural centers don the blue marlin’s image, or a cast replica of a marlin that was once fished out of the Gulf Stream. For example, the public library in Hatteras Village showcases a blue marlin in a glass case on the outside of the building for all passer-bys to admire. This particular marlin shattered the world record in 1962, and helped earn Hatteras Village the nickname of “Blue Marlin Fishing Capital of the World.”

The marlin is a long, angular fish with the upper jaw pointed in the shape of a spear, similar to a swordfish. A long pectoral fin runs along the top of the marlin, and the top half of the blue marlin is a shimmery cobalt blue, while the underside is silver. The male blue marlins are typically around 300 pounds, while the female marlins can weigh well over 1,000 pounds.

Spawning for blue marlins typically begins in warmer tropical waters with a number remaining in these waters year-round. Marlins, like many other species, use the Gulf Stream primarily for migration purposes to take advantage of different feeding opportunities during warmer and cooler seasons. The marlins are not picky and can feed on a variety of fish, especially tuna, squid and mackerel. They tend to attack schools of fish or invertebrates near the surface of the water, swimming through the schools at high speeds, slashing at fish with their bills, and then coming back to eat the dead or stunned ones.

The most popular method of catching blue marlins is via charter boat, with large shiny lures topping off larger bait fish, such as mullets, that can splash in the water and attract a lot of attention. Charter boats are easy to find on Hatteras Island, as Hatteras Village and Oregon Inlet are a home port to a number of locally run and experienced charter businesses. Simply search the different marinas for recommendations, or call a reputable local company like The Albatross Fleet in Hatteras Village, to plan a ½ day or full day charter boat trip. Most businesses accept parties of up to 6 people.

Remember, if you have a particular interest in a certain type of fishing, (like if you’re setting out to break the new blue marlin record), let the charter boat captain know when you are making your reservation. Chances are, the captain will need to bring a particular type of bait for the fish you’re after, and will plan to go to certain “fishing spots” for the best chances of landing the big one.

While last minute charters are sometimes available, it’s best to make a reservation well in advance. After all, with all the attention the new record marlin is receiving, Hatteras Island’s quiet moniker of “Blue Marlin Capital of the World” is bound to get out.

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