A MYRIAD OF MARLIN
From the Gulf Coast northward recent weeks have been ones of fulfillment for salt-water anglers, but an abnormally exuberant dispatch from Ocean City, Md. ("We are having a phenomenal white martin run") prompted on-the-scene investigation by the OUTDOOR WEEK editor. Herewith Lineaweaver's report:
It isn't as if Ocean City has any record of past mediocrity to live down. In 1935 Paul and John Townsend, sons of the governor and later U.S. Senator from Delaware, John G. Townsend, brought Captain Bill Hatch from Miami and validated their conviction that Maryland water was marlin water. During August, 20-odd seaward miles southeast by east of Ocean City in a stretch of shoal known as the Jack Spot, the Townsends raised over 60 marlin to their baits. That same summer S. Kip Farrington Jr., a man who did much to develop American big game fishing, joined the Townsends and took a marlin on 9-thread. Ocean City and the Jack Spot had arrived.
The Jack Spot continues productive and Ocean City has become a white-marlin port probably without equal north of Cuba. Also, I discovered last week, it suffers from a logical marlin monomania. Marlin steak, quite good, is a menu feature. Mounted marlin hang in bars, restaurants, drug stores and motels. The waterfront is a forest of outriggers belonging to a fleet of almost 100 sport-fishing craft many of which have marlin painted on their flying bridges and all of which roar out of Sinepuxent Inlet at 7 a.m. It is an awesome sight. Steaming time to the Jack Spot and environs is approximately two hours. It can be spent in reflection, sleep or banter.
I sat in the cockpit of Captain Bill Rodenbaugh's Belle II and pried figures out of Mate Wardie Jarvis. They served to justify use of the word phenomenal to describe Ocean City's current marlin season. "Biggest year we ever had," said Wardie, "was '39. The fleet caught 1,343 marlin, released 84. Up to yesterday—July 18, wasn't it?—we had almost 800 fish and over 500 releases. Conservation's, catchin' on, I guess. If this keeps up through September we're a cinch to beat '39. I've got a lot of marlin fishing years behind me," added Wardie, "but I never saw anything like this."
Offshore fishing even in periods of plenitude is a chancy pursuit, and despite Wardie's and Ocean City's collective enthusiasm I expected one of those days of inactivity the epilogue to which is something to the effect that you should have been here last week. But this day was far from inactive. As we reached the marlin grounds, sailor gulls (shearwaters) planed and Mother Carey's Chickens (Wilson's petrels) skittered across the light chop, dipping now and then to snatch a small fish. It was a hopeful sign. The ocean's ecological progression dictates that larger fish feed on smaller ones. Hope became a reality as a shower of bait rose under the birds and a sickle-shaped fin cut the water. Marlin were feeding.
Captain Rodenbaugh circled the birds, and Wardie streamed whole squid baits in the wake. I fiddled and fussed with my tackle, injected the reels with an extra dose of oil, checked the drag, and fretted about whether I should have bought new line. The radiotelephone dinned a constant stream of interboat chatter of marlin seen finning, marlin raised, hooked and released. It is a blasé angler who is untouched in such circumstances.
I saw the shape behind one of my baits, then a fin, then a bill. The bait disappeared in a swirl. We had raised a marlin, and it had struck. I dropped back, and the spool accelerated. The fish was running with the squid. I threw the 4/ 0 reel in gear. My rod bowed, 15-thread line stripped out against the drag, and the marlin soared skyward in those antics which make it an acrobatic medley on light tackle.
It leaped five times within 50 yards of the boat and ran hard. Captain Rodenbaugh quartered and I retrieved some line. At this stage it was pump and crank, and Rodenbaugh took time to advise other boats that "my man is on a fish," and would release it if and when it was brought to the boat. By now I had been pumping a stubborn marlin for 10 minutes and my left arm was fast petrifying. There was still a hundred yards of line out, and the fish was still fresh. I hoped it would breach again. It did. In 10 years of offshore angling I have seen few marlin function more splendidly. It came out of water 11 times with hardly a pause between jumps. It greyhounded, tail walked, and simply bounced up and down. With that it was done. It sounded and sulked, and five minutes later lay exhausted by the boat. Wardie cut the leader and the fish finned slowly downward. "He'd go about 65 pounds," said Rodenbaugh. The world record white marlin is 161 pounds. My fish was average, but marlin enough.
All in all we raised 13 fish during my day at Ocean City. We hooked four, three of which threw the hook, and released the one. Another boat had raised 27 fish. One had released nine. I returned to the dock, collected the cigaret lighter which the Ocean City Marlin Club awards for the angler's first released fish and drove home with renewed faith in the veracity of our Ocean City correspondent.
A SALT-WATER SURVEY
THE PLACE AND THE FISH
TEXAS: Findings of Fish and Wildlife Service Research Vessel Oregon have spurred big game prospecting in the Gulf. Giant tuna, sailfish and white marlin are all there, but this year has seen astonishing blue marlin results.
Comparatively few boats are concentrating on offshore Texas fishing, but their success should give a sharp boost toward developing this area. There is no question about the angling potential, and it is ripe for exploitation.
LOUISIANA AND MISSISSIPPI: This Gulf area, like Texas, is benefiting from the Oregon's commercial research, and for first time white marlin are being caught. Tuna and sailfish have also been taken, and the future appears bright.
Here too is an embryonic sport fishery crying to be fished. Inshore tarpon have occupied most anglers, but three private boats out of New Orleans and a scattering of charter boats are now working blue water. Others will undoubtedly follow.
NORTH CAROLINA: Cape Hatteras waters this summer are boiling, and this area offers enormous game-fish variety. Large dolphin, white marlin, blue marlin, sailfish and many other deep-water species are being consistently taken.
The proximity of the Gulf Stream to Cape Hatteras is the key to this area's game-fish productivity. Charter boats are increasing in number every year, and now Hatteras can stand with any other sport-fishing locale in this country.
MARYLAND: The latest word from Ocean City is that the white marlin run is unabated. As of July 21, 853 fish had been caught and 527 released. The largest fish boated so far is a 115 ½-pounder, but larger ones have been hooked and lost.
White marlin should be present around the Jack Spot through September, but Mako shark, school tuna, dolphin and blue marlin are also available in fishable numbers. Ocean City boats, however, are frankly and understandably white marlin crazy.
NEW YORK: Vast schools of mackerel between Montauk, L.I. and Block Island have attracted an unusual run this year of giant tuna and the always wary sword-fish. Eighteen broadbill have already been hooked on rod and reel and five boated.
The continued presence of giant tuna is in doubt, but swordfish, white marlin, blue marlin, Mako shark and school tuna are now showing in unusual numbers and will probably stay through September. This could be Montauk's banner year.
MASSACHUSETTS: Cape Codders report an unprecedented striper run on Brewster Flats. As many as 20 40-pounders are being taken on one tide. School and giant tuna are also in Cape Cod Bay, with some estimated at 1,000 pounds.
A new world's record tuna may be taken in Cape Cod waters, but most charter boats concentrate on stripers, bluefish and school bluefins, and no all-out effort is made for the giants. They are there, nevertheless, and can be caught.
Even the fish which can be taken more or less for granted seem to be running bigger and better. The Gulf is enjoying excellent tarpon angling, and large bluefish are on the move from Hatteras to Cape Cod, with Montauk reporting a spate of 15-pounders. Three stripers over 60 pounds have already been taken in New England waters. Wherever you look, 1956 seems to be the year for salt-water angling.