Waterman's Journal

Aug 04, 2022


White Marlin: The Smartest Billfish

The white marlin (Kajikia albida) is the smartest and most elusive of the Billfish.  Even though the average white marlin weighs less than 60 lbs they are cunning, stealthy, and difficult to land, making anglers who manage to land them very skilled at baiting, hooking, and fighting billfish.


Where can you catch White Marlin?

These migratory billfish can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, Western Mediterranean and from Florida to as far north as Maryland. Tagging and releasing of white marlin in recent years is giving us more insight into the migration of these pelagic billfish. Generally, if you find bait offshore in deep blue 70 - 75 degree water the white marlin will be nearby.


Rough weather can help you catch more white marlin as the churning water helps disguise your hook, line, and rigging.


How do you identify a White Marlin?

A white marlin’s back is cobalt blue to black with white sides and belly, when excited or hunting the tips of its fins will light up bright electric blue. How do you identify a white marlin from a Blue? Look at the fin tips, unlike blue marlin, whites are much smaller and have rounded fin tips that can be spotted easily.

It’s not over until it’s over… a white marlin about to be released.


How big do White Marlin get?

White marlin are known to live over 18 years but it is rare to catch a fish over 90 lbs. The largest ever white marlin was caught in Vitoria, Brazil in 1979 by Vandro Coser and weighed 181 lbs!


The 181 lb all tackle world record caught by Vandro Coser.


What do White Marlin eat?

 White marlin feed on a wide variety of small pelagic baitfishes and squid. They are very picky eaters, any mistake in rigging or presentation of a lure or bait will cost you the bite. That being said when you do bite be prepared for multiple hookups as there can be multiple marlin in a small area.

Got Bait? When white marlin fishing you can never have enough bait rigged.


How do you catch White Marlin?

White marlin are caught by sportfishermen using live baits on a kite, trolled lures, and rigged dead ballyhoo on light tackle. Generally, a spread of naked ballyhoo on 30 lb leader is the go-to but this can be a problem if you hook into a tuna or blue marlin while offshore. Another option is a hybrid spread with 2 or more trolled lures to attract larger white marlin and can be rigged with heavier tackle. Targeting white marlin will teach you many skills to help you catch more billfish of any species. Like when you miss a bite have patience and leave your bait in the zone for a second bite even though most of us are taught to immediately retrieve your bait to change it out for a fresh one.


Having the right tackle can mean all the difference to a white marlin.


What kind of fishing tackle and gear is needed to catch White Marlin?

White marlin are not easy to catch and they are very picky which means if your bait isn't swimming naturally the chances of getting a bite are very low.  Mastering the presentation of your baits/lures and near-perfection of rigging is required to catch white marlin. Here’s what is recommended as standard tackle for catching white marlin:

For Trolled dead bait fishing

  • 7-foot conventional boat rod with good backbone
  • Strong conventional reel like a Shimano Talica 16 two speed
  • 50 - 60 pound braid or spectra backing
  • 30-pound monofilament mainline
  • 50 to 60 pound fluorocarbon leader
  • 8/0 Owner hooks

For Lure fishing

  • 6-7 foot conventional boat rod with XXH action with good backbone
  • Strong conventional reel like a Shimano Tiagra 50 or 130 two speed reel
  • 100 to 130 pound braid or spectra backing
  • 50 to 130 pound monofilament mainline
  • 130 to 900 pound fluorocarbon leader
  • 10/0 to 12/0 Owner hooks


A boat prepares to weigh in at the White Marlin Open.


Conclusion on White Marlin.

White marlin are one of the most challenging billfish to hook and land. They are as smart and elusive as billfish get. This makes them a prized catch to complete many anglers' bucket lists. White marlin may not be the largest in the marlin family but are arguably the hardest to catch.  Their shyness to the bait presentation and cautious nature makes them a rare catch even when targeted.