IS BLACK THE NEW BLUE?
No, this isn't some fashion article about the new hot color for the season. It's about a strange turn in the tide when it comes to Marlin fishing here in southern Baja. For as long as we can remember, Blue Marlin have always been the 'big girls' around here. Seems like every time a really big Marlin was caught, it was a Blue. Lately, that's changed. This year appears to be bringing a changing of the guard with more big fish getting hooked than we've seen in years.... and they're not just big and blue... they're big and BLACK!!
To better understand why we're so impressed by the numbers and sizes of Blacks being caught here in Los Cabos, let's take a look at the two species and see what makes them tick.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BLUE AND BLACK MARLIN
Indo-Pacific Blue Marlin, Makaira Nigricans, are blue-water pelagic species that are predominantly found in open waters. They use structure as navigational aids in their migratory paths but do not remain on that structure for significant periods of time. Instead, they roam from place to place looking for schooling bait fish upon which to feed.
Black Marlin, Makaira Indicas, on the other hand, are structure hugging fish that tend to remain on pinnacles and reefs for long periods of time, often remaining on those spots for weeks or months at a time. While little is known about their migratory paths, the consensus is that they travel relatively short distances in comparison to Blues.
So what does all that mean? Generally, when fishing for Blues you're going to be covering a whole lot of water looking for signs of life, temperature or current breaks. While structure plays a role in finding them it's usually because that's where you'll find their prey, not that they'll remain there waiting for more to come by. When the food moves, so does the Blue Marlin. When fishing for Blacks, at least in southern Baja, the key is to find and target structure and stay on it, whether trolling live, dead or artificial baits. Unlike Blues, Blacks will stay on structure and ambush-attack schools of bait fish or tuna that pass by –– but once those schools move on, Blacks will stick around.
Blacks are known to feed on a wide variety of reef fish... something that Blues don't do. Often times, Blacks taken to the scales and hung for weight measurements will reveal a strange diet when their stomach contents are examined. It's not unusual to find remnants of reef dwelling species like Pargo and Snapper as well as crustaceans like lobster! Feeding habits like that point to one thing.... Blacks can and do hang around structure picking away at reef species and are likely to be there for long periods of time.
Here in the waters off of Cabo San Lucas we have loads of canyons, reefs and pinnacles. Places like the inner and outer Gorda Bank, Iman Bank, Destiladeros and the like provide the perfect environment for Black Marlin.
We venture to these spots often and are happy to report that they're here in larger numbers than historically seen.
WHY MORE BLACK MARLIN ARE BEING CAUGHT OFF CABO SAN LUCAS (we think!)
So, why more big Blacks than big Blues this year? We don't really know but common sense tells us that increased pressure on our fishery from commercial fishing operations
is taking it's toll on Blue Marlin populations.. whether directly taking them on long lines or purse seiners or as a result of a reduction in stocks of prey. As mentioned earlier, Blues are out cruising open water looking for food to eat... if there's no significant concentrations of prey, they'll move on to more productive waters and those waters may be too far away for our fleets to reach. Blacks, on the other hand, have it a bit easier as they'll forage on fish that hold close to structure while waiting for that next big meal to come swimming by. So far this year, that's held true with Blacks staying in easy striking distance of our fleet.
OKAY, PROVE IT!
Well, as the old adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words and in the right-hand column of this page you'll see a few photos of some big Blacks recently caught here in Cabo. In the last month alone we've seen or heard reports from reputable folks about some of the larger model Black Marlin being caught. Fortunately, most are being released to fight another day, but a few are coming to the scales either by choice or because the fish wouldn't revive after being landed. So far, the largest we've heard of has been in the high 700-pound range as estimated boat side pre-release, but there's been plenty of 400-500-pound fish landed as well. Just last week a pair of Blacks pushing 450-pounds and up have been brought in including one caught on a panga about 6 miles offshore in San Jose del Cabo at the Gorda Bank.
Perhaps even more significant was the fact that that a Black took top-honors at this year's Bisbee's East Cape Offshore Tournament. This happened on the first day of competition prompting tournament director, Wayne Bisbee, to christen it "Black Wednesday." The winning fish was a 581-pounder caught by angler Tom Lansing aboard his boat, Dreamweaver, earning him and his team a check totaling $93,646.
CABO MARLIN PHOTOS
Further evidence that Black Marlin are appearing in greater numbers is this photo of the winning marlin in the 2010 Bisbee's East Cape Offshore Tournament held at the Hotel Buena Vista Beach Resort. Angler Tom Lansing landed her after a 45-minute battle earning the team over $90,000!(Photo courtesy of Bisbee's, Danny Matthews)