Marlin is one of the largest and most powerful game fish found in the offshore waters of Georgia. Beyond Georgia, marlin is also common to North Carolina and South Carolina. They are such a popular game fish that marlin tournaments are held every year for seasoned anglers seeking high payouts for some of the biggest marlin landed. Just what exactly are marlin.

What is a marlin fish

The marlin, in its many varieties, is a spectacular type of billfish. Billfish are equipped with a long bill above the mouth and forward of the head. Different variations of marlin exist in the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. Beyond marlin, other types of Atlantic billfish include the hatchet marlin, longbill spearfish, sailfish, and swordfish. 

How to identify?

The marlin fish has two varieties in Atlantic waters. The first is the blue marlin, and the second is the white marlin. 

Blue Marlin

The upper portion of the fin along the dorsal fin is deep blue colored. Below the upper blue area, it fades to white. Stripes line the side of a blue marlin from head to tail in varying colors. Sometimes confusion arises when identifying a blue marling from a white marlin or a hatchet marlin. A distinguishing sign of the blue marlin is the pointed dorsal fin. 

White Marlin

Very similar in coloration to that of a blue marlin. The white marlin has a more rounded forward end to the dorsal fin. Difficult to tell the difference between white and blue marlin. The white marlin is smaller in size. 

What is a hatchet marlin

Some believe that the hatchet marlin is purely a myth. Anglers who have claimed to catch the hatchet marlin say they have distinct differences between the white and blue marlin. One of the notable differences anglers have noticed is the variations in the scales. All marlin scales are pointed while the hatchet marlin scales are rounded.  Lastly, the dorsal fin is hatchet shaped, unlike that of a white or blue marlin. 

What is the range of Atlantic marlin

Outside of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, the white marlin and blue marlin are found as far north as Novia Scotia and down through Florida. The Caribbean, Bahamas, and Bermuda have a significant population of marlin. 

How big do white and blue marlin grow

The marlin family grows very large. The white marlin is the smaller of the two. They are most frequently caught between fifty and one hundred pounds but do top 150 pounds. 

The blue marlin can grow to be a beast.  They are common up to 500 pounds but do tip the scales at over 1,000 pounds. 

How do you catch marlin

Both the blue and white marlin prefer to chase baits at the surface. Therefore, lures or rigged baits trolled at the top are the best bets to get a bite. 

White Marlin

Because the white marlin is relatively small, lighter gear is recommended, which most anglers have stored in the garage. Spinning and trolling combos with 20 or 30-pound line are best. Troll with artificial lures, rigged squid, rigged ballyhoo, and strip baits. White Marlin can also be caught with live bait such as goggle eyes. 

Blue Marlin

Break out the heavyweight gear. Only the most avid anglers will have setups for blue marlin because of the cost. Large trolling outfits with 50 to 80-pound line are capable of battling these giants. Troll with big lures, rigged mullet, ballyhoo, or bonito. Live baiting is also an option by using tuna or bonito along weed lines. 

Are marlin fish good to eat

It is best to practice catch and release when targeting marlin or as bycatch. In the state of Georgia, it is illegal to harvest any variety of marlin. South Carolina and North Carolina do allow the possession of white and blue marlin. 

Both white and blue marlin can be eaten. The flesh is firm in texture and has a distinct flavor. Because marlin grows so large and old, the meat can contain high mercury levels, so it should be eaten in moderation. 

Final thoughts on identifying marlin

For many, catching a single marlin in a lifetime can be a real feat. Whether it’s a blue marlin or a white marlin, a fisherman has caught a fish that is challenging to come by. Because of the heavy equipment and large vessel needed, consider hiring a charter to target the marlin. The best times of the year in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia peak in May and June and are productive through September. The captain may not be able to put you on a marlin despite their best efforts but will likely get you connected with tuna, dolphin fish, wahoo, or a variety of them all.