White Marlin (Tetrapturus albidus)

White Marlin (Tetrapturus albidus)

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.


The 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.


Fish 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/Behavior

Although 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.

Food and feeding behavior

White marlin feed on assorted pelagic fish and squid, including sardines and herring.

Other Names

spikefish, Atlantic white marlin; French: espadon; Italian: marlin bianco; Japanese: nishimaka; nishimakajiki; Portuguese: agulhão branco, espadim branco; Spanish: aguja blanca, aguja de costa, blanca, cabezona, marlin blanco, picudo blanco.


The white marlin occurs throughout the Atlantic Ocean from latitudes 45° north to 45° south in the west, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, and from 45° north to 35° south in the east. In North America, it is prominent in offshore waters off Maryland, North Carolina, and Florida.