The giant blue marlin which three blokes from Muriwai caught last weekend off 90-Mile Beach from their runabout earned first-time marlin fisherman Wade Wilson membership of an exclusive club.
In game fishing terms it is known as a “grander” – which refers to a marlin over the magic pre-metric weight of 1000 pounds, equal to 454.54kg.
Even though metrics has been the official system of weights and measures for a generation now, serious anglers still rank their catches the old-fashioned way.
The snapper equivalent is 20lbs (9.1kg) and trout aficionados dream of catching a 10-pounder (4.54kg).
There have been a few granders – both blue and black marlin – landed in our waters over the years, and the record for blue marlin stands at 483.4kg (1063.5lb). This fish was caught on April 16, 2009, by R Jameson while fishing off North Cape.
Black marlin grown even larger than the blues, and the biggest specimens among all marlin species are females. The local record is a monster of 473.2kg (1041lb) hooked off Gisborne by a local angler, Alan Jorion, on February 9, 2002.
Big game fishing in this country goes right back to the early 1920s when the famous American writer and sportsman Zane Grey first visited.
He put our marlin fishing grounds on the map, and made several visits to fish out of Mercury Bay and the Bay of Islands.
Grey made so much money from writing his western novels that he operated his own ship which he sailed from California to New Zealand, and he also ventured into remote areas of French Polynesia and discovered giant blue malin in the waters around the Tuamotu and Marquesas groups of islands.
He introduced the first game fishing tackle and techniques and taught Kiwis how to handle the huge fish like marlin and sharks.
International game fishing really took off in the 1930s, a time when America’s sporting aristocracy viewed the sport on a par with big game hunting.
Game fishing started on the east coast from Miami to the Florida Keys, expanding north to Montauk and Novia Scotia, and 80km across the Gulf Stream to Bimini in the Bahamas.
Sportsmen realised they needed improved tackle to bring big fish to the boat quickly, or they would be eaten by sharks. The writer Ernest Hemingway, a fanatical game fisherman, carried a Thompson submachine gun to ward off sharks which attacked the hooked marlin and tuna.
Another keen game fishermen who was to become almost immortal in fishing terms, Alfred Glassell Jr, wrote to a friend: “Since the beginning of time it has been the dream of man, particularly those who follow the sea, to view or take a game fish weighing 1000 pounds.”
And he became the first person to achieve that, successfully hooking and boating the world’s first grander in 1952. Glassell caught the 1025-pound black marlin at Cabo Blanco, a new fishery on Peru’s Pacific coast.
But this was only the beginning. No story of big game fishing would be complete without the story of Hemingway’s 1952 novella, The Old Man and the Sea, Cabo Blanco and Glassell Jr’s still-standing world record 1560-pound black marlin (709kg).
The Old Man and the Sea was made into a motion picture in 1953 starring Spencer Tracy.
When the picture went into production they sought a filming location with the greatest likelihood of getting good footage of a large marlin being caught.
What the Old Man’s film crew got at Cabo Blanco on the afternoon of August 4, however, must rank high on the list of all-time luckiest film shoots ever made.
That afternoon Glassell hooked up with his record black marlin and the footage used in the film was that of Glassell catching the largest billfish ever taken on rod and reel.
An astounding total of 38 grander black marlin were caught in the first 12 years of the Cabo Blanco Fishing Club. Peru’s political instability coupled with a decline in the fishery led to the eventual closing of the club.
But we are still catching granders in New Zealand waters.
Tip of the week
Today most marlin hooked are tagged and released, with the data obtained from subsequent captures contributing valuable information about the habits and growth of these magnificent fish.
When using live or dead bait anglers should always use galvanised hooks rather than stainless steel hooks, as these will quickly rust out if they break off in the fish’s mouth. And circle hooks will snare the fish in the corner of the mouth, rather than being swallowed, which also raises the chances of survival after release.
It is the efforts of game fishermen through organisations like the Billfish Foundation and the International Game fish Association, founded in Florida in 1939, which have contributed the most to game fish research and international measures to limit commercial catches of these fish which roam the oceans of the world.
Bite times Bite times are 5.50am and 6.15pm today, and 6.45am and 7.10pm tomorrow. More fishing action can be found at GTTackle.co.nz.