The smallest of the four marlin in the Istiophoridae family of billﬁsh, the white marlin is a top-rated light-tackle gameﬁsh and the most frequently encountered marlin along the East Coast of the United States, where it is almost exclusively released (often tagged) after capture.
IdentificationThe body of the white marlin is elongate and compressed, and its upper jaw extends in the form of a spear. It is generally lighter in color and tends to show more green than do other marlin, although it may at times appear to be almost chocolate brown along the back; the ﬂanks are silvery and taper to a white underbelly.
Several light blue or lavender vertical bars may show on the ﬂanks. Its most characteristic feature is the rounded, rather than pointed, tips of the pectoral ﬁns, the ﬁrst dorsal fin, and the first anal fin. The first dorsal ﬁn is convex, and the ﬂat, movable pectoral ﬁns can easily be folded ﬂush against the sides of the body.
SizeFish to 8 feet in length are common throughout their range, although white marlin can attain a length of 10 feet. The all-tackle world-record ﬁsh weighed 181 pounds, 12 ounces, and was caught in Brazil in 1979.
Life history/BehaviorAlthough this pelagic and migratory species usually favors deep-blue tropical and warm temperate (exceeding 81°F) waters, it frequently comes in close to shore where waters aren’t much deeper than 8 fathoms. It is normally found above the thermocline, and its occurrence varies seasonally.
It is present in higher latitudes in both the Northern and the Southern Hemispheres during the respective warm seasons. It is usually solitary but sometimes travels in small groups, the latter tendency reﬂecting feeding opportunities. Spawning occurs in the spring, with both sexes reaching maturity at around 51 inches in length.