To understand where to fish for blue marlin, you need to know as much as possible about where they live and what they eat. Most predators follow their prey, and blue marlin sit at the top of the food chain in whatever neighborhood they are passing through.
However, an abundance of prey is not sufficient to guarantee plenty of marlin. Nassau in the Bahamas is a classic example. While the Bahamas offer up some excellent marlin fishing and Nassau's deep waters abound with small tuna, anglers rarely encounter blue marlin in the immediate area.
Blue marlin represent a truly oceanic species, spending most of their lives in deep blue water. Most of them thrive hundreds and even thousands of miles from the nearest land, far out of reach of even the wealthiest and best-equipped sporting anglers and their boats. Only large, ocean-going commercial boats, often vessels deserving the designation of ship, not boat, can follow them in their wide-ranging travels.
The best places to fish for blue marlin, which are the largest of all the piscatorial pelagic apex predators, are all either islands or promontories of continents that project out into waters beyond the 100-fathom curve.
True, some blue marlin forage along or even slightly inside the edges of continental shelves, and these marlin are the ones most likely to be caught by nearshore anglers - but they are strays. The large majority of blue marlin caught are either in, or in close proximity, to the deep waters beyond the continental shelf.
What They Eat
A study of blue marlin done by the University of Miami in the 1950s examined the stomach contents of Atlantic blue marlin. Among the wide variety of prey researchers found were surface, mid-water and bottom-dwelling creatures, including squid, spiny lobsters, gurnards, flying fish and nautilus, as well as mid-ocean trigger fish, mackerel, scad and tuna.
The presence of small mackerel, tuna, flying fish and squid showed that many of our common bait choices were likely, in at least some degree, to be common prey species for marlin. However, conspicuously missing from a marlin's diet was one of the most successful and commonly used baits at that time - mullet. This shouldn't be a huge surprise since few marlin are ever taken, or even observed, in the shallow estuaries where mullet are most commonly found.
The paper's final summation of marlin feeding habits was that marlin eat the most of whatever is most abundant in the local area. Marlin are almost the perfect representation of a wide-ranging omnivore. My personal observations have convinced me that top captains always catch more marlin on whatever bait or lure they use most frequently. The same applies to color.
Where Are They?
A wealthy angler once told me, "Blue marlin fishing is dangerous!" When I replied that it was in fact rare for an angler or crewman to get seriously hurt, he responded, "I have millions of dollars invested in my boat and the motherboat. I spend hundreds of thousands every year on my boat and crew. We go to all the best places, and sometimes we don't ever see a marlin! I tell you, blue marlin fishing is very dangerous - from a financial point of view!" I had to agree with him on that point - blue marlin fishing can indeed be dangerous to your wallet.
Trying to pick the five best places to fish for blue marlin pretty much represents a classic no-win situation, guaranteed to aggravate numerous charter operators, local resorts and chambers of commerce. Even listing 20 top spots requires missing ports that sometimes enjoy excellent blue marlin fishing, and in a sad footnote, we must reiterate that no one place has good fishing all the time. Marlin swing big tails and can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time.
With apologies to the Azores, Ascension Island, Bermuda, parts of mainland West Africa, the mid-Atlantic states, the Gulf Coast states (especially those with oil rigs), Puerto Rico, Brazil and the offshore Caribbean rim islands, all of which can have excellent marlin fishing, here are my five favorite blue marlin hot spots in the Atlantic. Any of these five can be red-hot, but not one of them is hot all the time.