My wife and I have traveled to Mexico many times. We have fished the Pacific Ocean side for tuna and sailfish with good success. This fishing trip would be our first on the Caribbean side. The day before our trip we toured the ruins of Chichén Itzá, which is a large Mayan pyramid in Yucatán Province. It was a wonderful and tiring tour, but we had booked a trip out of Puerto Aventuras the next morning with Capt. Ric’s Adventures. Our tour bus from Chichén Itzá did not arrive home until 8:00 p.m. that night. It was hard to get up so early the next morning, then get in a cab for a 1-hour ride to Puerto Aventuras from our hotel near Playa Del Carmen.
Our captain told us that the blue marlin were biting. The day before, one had been boated. Our fishing trip in June coincided with peak blue marlin season. The boat was a 23-foot Seacraft with a 225-hp Evinrude. Boats down here in Mexico are simple in comparison to the larger boats in the States. We chose a 4-hour trip. Little did we know that the fight with a marlin would take up all of those 4 hours.
The ride out to the fishing grounds was short, just 1 mile. Unfortunately, the seas were rough, about 4 feet. Accustomed to the calmer Pacific Ocean side, both of us got seasick. My dinner from the previous night wound up in the ocean. Afterward, both of us napped in the boat’s cabin. I was awakened by the mate after about 1/2 hour of trolling.
He said, "Blue marlin!" He handed me the rod, as he had already hooked the fish. As the marlin greyhounded across the water, the mate said, "The marlin does not like it." The fight evolved into a series of runs after which I would pump and reel. At times the fish was in front of the boat and the captain would follow. I sometimes had to reel like mad to keep the line tight. Little did I know that this was the "fun part" of the fight. Our boat had no chair, only a cooler for a fighting chair, and my only other equipment besides the rod and reel was a rod belt to keep the fishing rod from digging into my waist.
I had the marlin close to the boat several times, but just as the mate was about to grab the leader for the release, the fish would make another run, taking all of the line I had gained. The fish decided to go deep and the fight wore on. As the captain decided to back down on the fish, water came over the transom and I took a shower. Good thing I had my bathing suit on. Water filled the back of the boat, but the outboard kept running. The fish would not budge from the depths and any attempt to pump and reel would be met by the line slipping out anyway. There was not much energy left in me after 11/2 hours of pumping and reeling. My wife started to complain that I was too slow in reeling in the Marlin and wanted the line to be cut. I said "No way!" and offered her the fishing rod. She declined, saying the fish was my problem, so I finally gave the rod to the mate and he worked the fish for an hour trying to get it to the surface. The fish would not budge. Now it was the captain’s turn to pump and reel. He had better luck by holding his thumb on the reelw ould pump the fish to prevent the line from slipping. The captain told us that the fish had died sometime during the fight and would have to be hand-lined to the surface. This helped some. After about 1 hour of hand lining and pumping and reeling, the fish finally surfaced.
It was dead, of course, and there was no point in releasing it. The captain and the mate struggled to get the 160-pound marlin in the boat and finally made it after the boat dipped into an oncoming wave enough to slide the marlin in. The fish was also fouled around the line, which would explain the long fight. Sometime during the fight, the fish had wrapped the line around one of his forward fins. The captain and the mate congratulated me, and my wife took pictures. It was sad that the fish died, but here in Mexico nothing is wasted. The fish would be divided between us and the crew.
As far as marlin go, this was a baby. Marlin get much bigger, up to 1500 pounds. In fact, a huge brute of a marlin battled a fisherman off of the island of Cozumel for 11 hours before breaking the line. Imagine the heartbreak of that fisherman!
Back at the dock, a crowd gathered together to see the fish. We were late getting back as our trip took longer than 4 hours. The party waiting for their afternoon 4-hour trip was impressed by the fish and asked me if they would catch one. I told them they would get something. There are other gamefish, such as sailfish, white marlin, dorado, tuna, sierra mackerel and wahoo. They actually told me that they wanted something smaller as they were a young couple and didn’t want to fight a fish for 31/2 hours. After the fish was cleaned, divided and the captain and mate tipped, we got our taxi ride home. Our cab driver, after hearing about our trip, said fighting a marlin was like fighting a bull. My wife’s Mexican relatives enjoyed eating our marlin when we traveled to Mexico City for the rest of our vacation. If I have any tips for anyone fishing for marlin, it would be to let the mate hook the fish. This is tricky for a beginner and should only be attempted if there are a lot of fish around and there is a patient teacher who speaks good English. You do not want to blow your only chance at a marlin, because some days only one fish will be caught. Billfish slash at the bait and then return to eat it. Sometimes the fish just follows the bait without attacking. The line is free-spooled until the fish starts to run with the bait. Once this happens, the reel is put in gear to the strike position and the hook is set. To set the hook properly, all the slack must be reeled in and then the angler has to rear back on the rod two or three times to set the hook. Usually the captain guns the motor to help set the hook. Once the fight is underway, the mate will instruct you on proper pumping and reeling technique. The rod is brought toward you and then lowered slowly. Reel in line as the rod is lowered.
Do not rest, as the fish rests when you do. Try to end the fight quickly, as the fish will go deep if the fight lasts too long. This is not always easy to do and requires someone in good shape, especially if the fight lasts for 11 hours. Throughout the fight the drag will have to be readjusted and the line level winded. Follow all instructions of the mate.
Best time to try for a blue marlin off of Cancún, Isla Mujeres, and the Mexican Riviera down to Akumel is June and July. Fish run about 120 to 160 pounds, but can be much bigger. Expect seas to be 3 to 4 feet, somewhat rougher than the Pacific Ocean on average. Bring some sea sickness pills. Good luck and tight lines.
Richard P. Gunion
From The Meaning of Fishing: Member Stories & Tips