Scott’s Species – black marlin, a fearless bluewater predator

In this week’s Scott’s Species, published exclusively on Recfishwest’s website, Western Angler editor Scott Coghlan takes an in-depth look at a revered game fishing species — black marlin.

Species: Black marlin, Makaira indica

Eating: 4 stars

ID: Rigid pectoral fins that cannot be folded against the body.

Found all around Australia, black marlin are a prized catch for game fishers, and with good reason.

Dillon Paul with a lovely black marlin off Exmouth during the 2021 GAMEX! Credit Peak Sportfishing Adventures

Growing to 900kg globally but rarely encountered at more than 200kg in WA waters, they are as reasonable common bluewater catch in some areas, especially in small sizes.

The Great Barrier Reef is well-known for consistently producing 500kg-plus black marlin.

When it comes to fishing for them in WA it is hard to go past Exmouth, where the proximity of the Continental Shelf to the Ningaloo coast means they can regularly be caught from small trailer boats, including tinnies.

They are inshore in good numbers in the cooler months off Ningaloo and, as they are generally fish under 100kg, they can offer great fun on light gear rather than the traditional heavy trolling gear usually used for billfish.

I am usually not a keen marlin troller myself, but have enjoyed catching blacks on stand-up gear.

A small black takes to the air off Ningaloo. Picture: Western Angler

They are also taken regularly off Dampier, Broome and out behind the islands off Carnarvon, as well as west of the Abrolhos Islands.

In summer they also can show up off Perth, usually in years where there is a strong Leeuwin Current pushing them down south from the north.

Usually found in waters deeper than 50m, they will hit large trolled deadbaits and large skirted lures, and occasionally are caught by shore anglers using specialist gear and techniques to target them in spots where there is deep water close to shore, such as Quobba, Dirk Hartog Island and Steep Point.

Once hooked, they take off on fast runs and often jump high in the air.

Other than pending record fish, virtually all black marlin are released, often after being tagged for research purposes. They are one of the few recreational-only fish species in Australian waters, along with blue marlin.

How’s this fantastic photo Marco Fraschetti took of a black marlin off Exmouth!? Picture: Marco Fraschetti