While both the marlin and the swordfish are considered billfish, the two are significantly different. The swordfish and marlin are common along the United States’ east coast, particularly off Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Each fish shares the desire to remain in blue water compared to nearshore but live in different water columns. Here are 3 differences between swordfish vs. Marlin. 

What Type Of Fishing Gear Is Required For A Swordfish Vs. Marlin

You will not need to buy extra rods and reels when targeting one versus another when it comes to gear. Here is the required equipment for catching swordfish compared to marlin.

Rod And Reel Combinations

Use them interchangeably rather than needing specialized and expensive rod and reel combinations for swordfish and marlin. 

Marlin tends to live near the water’s surface than swordfish at the bottom or mid-water column. 

We recommend 50-pound class fishing reels paired with medium-heavy offshore rods. The most notable brands for 50-pound reels and rods include Penn and Shimano. Read about where Shimano reels are made


When targeting marlin, focus on topwater skirted lures that dance across the surface, imitating a fish. The lures entice marlin to strike from the turbulence and similarities it possesses compared to a real fish. 

On the other hand, Swordfish feed in the middle or bottom of the water column on squid versus lures. Anglers deploy heavy weights or utilize deep-dropping gear to present rigged squid. In addition to weights, a hook and bait are bright flashing lights. 


Yep, you won’t be marlin or swordfishing from the coast of Georgia, South Carolina, or North Carolina without a boat. Expect long run times, so a twin-engine seaworthy vessel is a necessity. 

If you’re not equipped with the correct boat, consider hiring a fishing charter service to put you on marlin or swordfish. 

Ways to Identify A Swordfish Vs. Marlin

The swordfish and the marlin are marked distinctly and, therefore, easy to determine. Here are the differences between the two. 


First and foremost, check out the eyes; they are massive in size. In addition to the eyes, swordfish are identified by not having pelvic fins, teeth, or scales. The bills are wide compared to marlin and have a white belly and brown or purple upper half. 

Blue Marlin

When identifying a marlin, here are the key characteristics. The dorsal and pectoral fins are pointed, beath the body’s midline is silver and blue on the top, the top jaw is elongated, and the tail does not contain spots.

Regarding weight, the marlin exceeds 1,400 pounds measuring over 16 feet long. 

Swordfish and Marlin Fishing Regulation

Two of the most high regulated fish on the east coast of the United States are the Marlin and the Swordfish. Here is a state by state breakdown.


The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration allows for the harvest of swordfish measuring measuring 47” from the tip of the lower jaw to the fork in the tail. You must possess a highly migratorial species permit. 

Harvesting marlin in the state of Georgia is prohibited. 

South Carolina

Like Georgia, the same rules apply to catching and keeping swordfish in the offshore waters of South Carolina. Remember to purchase a HMS permit before fishing. 

Both the blue marlin and white marlin may be harvested when measuring 99 inches and 66 inches respectively from the lower jaw to the fork in the tail. 

North Carolina

North Carolina shares the same regulations as South Carolina and Georgia when it comes to harvesting swordfish. Swordfish are managed by NOAA compared to the state. 

In North Carolina, again, like South Carolina, anglers are permited to harvest blue and white marlin. The blue marlin must measure 99 inches from the lower jaw to the fork in the tail and the white marlin must measure 66 inches from the lower jaw to the fork in the tail.

Keep in mind that when fshing in any of these three states, conservation is critical. Ensure that the fish will be used in its entirety compared to wasting the delicious fillets both fish yield. Plan on giving the flesh away because of the quantity each fish yields. Purchase your HMS permit by visiting the NOAA site. 

Swordfish Vs. Marlin Now You Know The Differences

The next time you head offshore fishing in Georgia, South Carolina, or North Carolina try your luck at swordfish or marlin. Keep in mind that these two billfish are high in mercury because of the combination of age and food consumed. We have had the opportunity to catch both and the fights are equally as spectacular.