Striped Marlin

posted: 05/15/12
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Striped Marlin
Credit: Darryl Torckler/Getty Images |

When it comes to sport fishing, landing a marlin is just about as good as it gets. Imagine yourself standing on a boat, worn out from a long battle, proudly posing next to a 300-pound monster that you pulled in yourself. Pretty thrilling. Striped marlins are among the most popular catches for sport anglers due to the fish's size, strength and beauty.

Big and Beautiful

Also known by the scientific name Tetrapterus audax, the striped marlin is part of the family of billfish. Billfish also include swordfish, spearfish and sailfish. The striped marlin is a blue color, with light blue and lavender vertical stripes. Its dorsal fin may include dark-colored spots as well. Its belly is white and, like other billfish, its upper jaw extends out to form a spear. This bill is twice the length of its lower jaw.

Although not quite as large as its sibling the blue marlin, the striped marlin can grow to be as long as 9.5 feet (2.9 meters) and may weigh up to 500 pounds (230 kilograms). The marlin family of fish is among the biggest in the ocean and has no real predators -- other than humans.

You'll find striped marlin in tropical and warm waters in the Indian and Pacific oceans. In the United States, you might catch striped marlin off the coast of California during the summer. Striped marlins are also plentiful in Kenya, Mexico, Ecuador and New Zealand. They prefer open, deep water and will feed at the surface. They're mostly solitary unless breeding. The striped marlin likes to eat fish, squid, crab and shrimp. A striped marlin will circle a school of small fish and then dart through it, using its bill to slash and stun its food.

This Fish Can Change Its Stripes

One of the most interesting things about the striped marlin is that it can actually change colors. When a marlin gets excited, usually while feeding or courting, its stripes may light up from regular blue to a phosphorescent blue or lavender. After a marlin dies, it also develops conspicuous stripes along the sides of its body.

Commercially fished for sushi and sashimi, striped marlins are also popular for sport fishing. Marlins are infamous for their acrobatics when caught on a line. They can fight for an hour or more, leaping out of the water and into the air. However, most of today's anglers will release the marlin back to the ocean after a catch.

The most common way to catch marlin is by trolling with heavy-duty gear. When struggling with a fish as big as a marlin, it's sometimes wise to also use a harness, which gives you extra leverage and power.

Why You Should Throw It Back

Although it's not endangered, most researchers consider the striped marlin as "overfished." You can't farm marlin, so their numbers aren't sustainable at the rate they're removed from the ocean. Billfish also tend to have very high mercury contents, which is unhealthy at best and toxic at worst.

Many sports anglers today participate in a "tag and release" program in conjunction with marine life specialists and conservationists.

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