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Exploring Marlin’s Aerial Acrobatics in the Ocean

If you have ever been lucky enough to catch a marlin or be on a boat where someone is fighting one, you’re in for quite a show. Marlin are extremely athletic fish and won’t hesitate to jump far out of the water when hooked. But why do marlin jump?

Marlin jump to try and throw the hook out of their mouth. It’s a fish’s natural instinct to jump out of the water when in danger to try and escape whatever is attacking them. Even though marlin have very few predators they still react by jumping out of the water.

You will often see marlin shake their heads frantically while jumping out of the water. This is because they can feel the hook in their mouth and they’re trying to get it out. 

But there is lot more to learn about why marlin jump as well as other marlin escape tactics. In this article, we’ll answer why do marlin jump thoroughly along with other common questions, like whether marlin are dangerous and how strong marlin are.

We’ll also touch on the habits of one of their acrobatic cousins, the athletic sailfish.

Let’s get started!

Marlin Acrobatics

Marlin are considered some of the hardest fighting fish in the world. They grow to be several hundred pounds and are pure muscle. From striped marlin to blue marlin, they all are impressive animals. When they are hooked, they often immediately begin to jump and try to throw the hook.

Author Note: Marlin are known to jump several times in quick succession, both close to the boat and far away. They jump like this because they are full of energy at the beginning of the fight and leaving the water can sometimes throw the hook. Many pelagic fish do this – including wahoo and mahi mahi.

It’s fairly easy for marlin to jump out of the water since they are immensely strong and fast animals. Marlin are also known to jump out of the water while hunting as a tactic. Sometimes marlin feed on schools of fish near the surface. When this happens they can accidentally end up jumping out of the water when striking at a fleeing flying fish or other baitfish.

How to Fight a Marlin

Marlin sailfish

Now that you know that marlin jump to try and escape getting caught, let’s go over the proper way to fight a marlin. Battling a fish that often weighs much more than you (like yellowtail tuna too) requires patience above all else. When you try and rush a fish to the boat is when they get away. Here’s how to properly fight a marlin.

Fish On!

Once a marlin is hooked, you’ll immediately know from your reel making the sound every deep-sea fisherman wants to hear. The fabled drag scream! Work with everyone else on the boat to reel in the other lines that are out to prevent the marlin from tangling your line. 

This means pulling the extra lines off of any spreaders you are using, as well as storing the hooks and lures once they’re in the boat. Try and work quickly but not frantically. 

Get to the Battle Chair

Try and get the hooked rod into the battle chair as fast as possible. If you can get the rod out of its holder and into the battle chair before the marlin begins jumping or knows that it’s hooked, you’ll be in a much better spot than if you wait until it starts going berzerk.

Let the Marlin Run

Once you get the rod in the battle chair and all the other lines out of the water, the marlin will often have figured out it is in trouble. This is when the fun starts. Focus on keeping your drag low enough that the marlin can take out as much line as it wants. The last thing you want is for a 300 lb marlin to snap your line.

Author Note: After jumping a few times marlin often swim very deep away from the boat to try and escape. At this point in the fight, you should just focus on keeping your drag at the appropriate setting and let the fish wear itself out.

Begin Reeling In

After the marlin finishes a run away from the boat, focus on reeling the line back in slowly. Pull up with the rod then reel in line as the rod moves back towards the ocean. Continue doing this as much as you can.

If you can make any progress because the marlin keeps pulling more line out, just wait.

Eventually, the marlin will begin letting you take the line in. This can take 30 minutes to an hour depending on how strong the marlin is.

If you get tired, feel free to swap out with someone who has fresh arms on the boat. 

There is no shame in letting your friends in on the action! Catching a marlin is a team effort anyway. Once you get to the leader and the marlin is close to the boat, you’ll need to be extra cautious.

Pay Close Attention

Black marlin jump dance

This is probably the most dangerous time of the fight. With the fish close to the boat, it can easily hit someone with a burst of sudden energy. Everyone on board needs to be paying attention and work to stay out of the way.

Also, be aware of any hooks or lures you brought in from the other rods. The last thing you want is to step on a big hook while you’re helping your friend fight a marlin.

Landing a Marlin

If you plan on keeping the fish, work with your crew to gaff it and pull it in the boat. If you plan on letting it go, bring the marlin close to the boat and have a teammate unhook it. It’s best to have another crewmate hold its nose so it can’t lash out and stab anyone. 

This is the time for you to take a photo. If you don’t plan on keeping the fish, do not take it out of the water! Bend over and get someone to take a picture on the side of the boat. There are fewer and fewer marlin alive each year, so we need to be better about keeping them alive after catching them.

Are Marlin Dangerous?

Marlin are absolutely dangerous! Any large animal that is fighting for its life is dangerous. When a marlin gets close to the boat, everyone on board needs to be extra careful and be paying close attention to the fish. You never know when a marlin may get a burst of energy at the last minute and jump up onto the boat. 

Author Note: Marlin can also be very dangerous after they have been landed. If you land a marlin in your boat and plan on keeping it, try to kill it as humanely and quickly as possible. A 500 lb fish with a sword on its nose flopping around the back of your boat is a recipe for disaster.

We recommend using a billy club paired with an ice pick to quickly kill a marlin. Force the ice pick through the top of the marlins head to kill it instantly.

How Strong is a Marlin?

Marlin are immensely strong fish. They are one of the ocean’s fastest and biggest predators – able to swim over 60 mph and eat almost anything they encounter. They can grow over 1,500 lbs and 16 feet long, which makes them much larger than humans.

As far as how strong they are, it is hard to say an exact number. But considering they can still easily jump out of the water and swim over 60 mph while weighing over 1,000 lbs, they’re very very strong. Both Black Marlin and Blue Marlin grow the largest.

Do Marlin have Predators?

marlin throwing hook

Another very common question we get is whether marlin have predators. Marlin do have predators, but they are few and far between. Killer whales, great white sharks, and mako sharks, and humans are the only species known to kill and eat marlin. 

But once a marlin grows to its full adult size, even killer whales would probably pass. A 1,500 lb 16-foot long marlin could do serious damage to even a killer whale. So as full-grown adults, the only predators marlin have are humans.

How Old Do Marlin Live?

Marlin live to be quite old, which makes sense since they are a very large fish. Most marlin live between 15 and 25 years old depending on the species of marlin. Some blue marlin (the largest type of marlin) have been estimated to live over 30 years old!

Once a marlin grows to be over 1,000 lbs, it doesn’t have to worry about being eaten by really any other animal in the ocean. Only rarely will it encounter a killer whale or shark big enough to take it on.

Parting Thoughts

hooked black marlin

Marlin are some of the most fascinating fish in the ocean. They are lusted after by biologists and fishermen alike. After reading this article you now know why do marlin jump, as well as many other fun facts about marlin.

If you are lucky enough to hook a marlin, you know also know what steps to follow in order to stay safe along with landing the fish. Due to a marlin’s immense size, extra precaution has to be taken while fishing for them. The last thing you want is an angry marlin swinging its sword where people can get hurt.

We hope you found this article on why do marlin jump useful and informative. Marlin are a blast to catch, but their numbers are dwindling. We urge you to focus on catch and release next time you go marlin fishing. If you do end up keeping one, we recommend smoking the meat. They have a very strong flavor similar to how sailfish taste.

This way generations after ours will still have a chance at catching one of the ocean’s most majestic fish. Similarly to other rare fish (like Opah), please respect their populations.

Happy Hunting!


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