Marlin

Maryland stands alone when it comes to world-class white marlin fishing. As the White Marlin Capital of the World, we know a thing or two about these big, strong, exciting billfish. Sticking to the ocean, white marlin are famous for being fierce fighters when hooked, engaging in what’s called “tail-walking” on the water’s surface and high-flying acrobatic leaps. With a maximum weight of nearly 200 pounds, Maryland offers the chance to battle the fish of a lifetime.

101219286The white marlin is a popular game fish, which can be caught by trolling at or close to the surface. The largest fishery for this species occurs in the summer, between Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Baits including mullet, mackerel, herring, and squid as well as lures can be successful in getting a white marlin to bite on a line. When fishing for white marlin, wear protection on your hands, and take care in handling your catch; they are capable of inflicting serious wounds due to the roughness of the bill.

The white marlin’s upper jaw is twice as long as its lower jaw. The upper jaw forms a bill, which is long and slender in comparison to many other billfishes. The body is dark blue above and silvery white below, with brown spots on the sides of the white portion. In some specimens, many rows of blurred white lines may run the length of the body. The first dorsal fin, which runs almost the length of the body, is dark blue with many black spots, although these may fade towards the back of the fin. The second dorsal and pelvic fins are dark blue. First anal, first dorsal, and pectoral fins are blunt or rounded at tips. The pectoral fins and caudal fin are blackish brown; the long pectoral fins may be tipped in white. The body has a dense covering of bony scales. The lateral line is distinct, and with the exception of a single curve over the origin of the dorsal fin, runs straight along the body. The white marlin is smaller than many other billfishes. The maximum length for the white marlin is 110 inches and the maximum weight is approximately 180 pounds. More commonly, white marlin range from 51-83 inches in length.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

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Although white marlin can be caught year-round, the high season occurs in August along with the Annual White Marlin Open. Some exceptions include the Tortugas Marine Reserves (closed year-round), Madison Swanson and Steamboat Lumps closed areas (closed year-round except for surface trolling allowed May-October), and Edges 40 Fathom Contour closed area (closed January-April).

Closure dates and restrictions are subject to change. Anglers are responsible for knowing updated restriction prior to fishing. Be sure to check with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for the latest closures, regulations, and restrictions.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

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To catch a white marlin, you’ll need to venture out into the Atlantic Ocean from Maryland’s Eastern Shore. For those without a boat, the area boasts a number of charters with experienced captains that will take you out fishing for the day. Great for families or the spontaneous group trip, charters supply all the necessary gear and have the appropriate licenses allowing for a worry-free day of white marlin fishing.

If you have your own boat, licenses, tackle, and crew, great – happy fishing! There are a ton of access points on the Eastern Shore where a boat can easily be dropped and white marlin can be reeled in. Please check with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for out-of-state vessel license requirements. Owners of recreational fishing vessels (i.e., no sale of fish) for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species (HMS) – i.e., billfish, swordfish, sharks and tunas – are required to obtain an HMS Angling category permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website for a full description of these permits.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

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Getting a fishing license in Maryland couldn’t be easier. Download DNR’s app on your smartphone (MD DNR), click Apply for License, and enroll. From here, you can register any catches, post photos, and check for regulations updates. Simple, quick, and at the palm of your hand, DNR’s app is the easiest way to get your Maryland fishing license. Or, you can apply for a license through Maryland DNR.

The Highly Migratory Species Division (HMS) of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) manages Atlantic highly migratory species including Atlantic tunas, sharks, swordfish, billfish (blue marlin, white marlin, sailfish, and longbill spearfish), and Atlantic swordfish to ensure long-term, sustainable fisheries for these species. Owners of vessels used to fish recreationally (i.e., no sale of fish) for Atlantic HMS (billfish, swordfish, sharks and tunas) are required to obtain an HMS Angling category permit from NMFS online.

There is an annual U.S. landings limit of 250 Atlantic blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish (combined). Landings updates and seasonal closures are posted under “Recent News” on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s website. Billfish may be gutted at sea, but must be landed whole with the head, fins, and bill intact.

Recreational anglers must also fill out a Billfish Catch Card at a designated reporting station. For more information, visit http://dnr.maryland.gov/fisheries/Pages/coastal/tagging.aspx.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration strongly encourages the release of white marlin to maintain healthy populations of mature adults.

Visit the Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ website for a full list of Maryland’s Fishing Regulations.

Money generated from the sale of licenses goes directly to the conservation, protection, and preservation of Maryland’s natural habitat and cherished wildlife. Maryland DNR works tirelessly to maintain a healthy population of white marlin and the regulations needed to sustain fishing in Maryland. Changes in regulations, dates, and requirements vary year-to-year. Please check with DNR frequently for the most up-to-date information.

Looking for the perfect fishing spot? Access Maryland DNR’s Public Fishing Access Map.

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