4. Tahiti and French Polynesia
Tahiti has long been known for harboring some really big fish. Zane Grey landed a 1,040-pound fish in Tahiti back in 1930. The fish was mutilated by sharks and as such was not recognized as a world record, but it remains the first 1,000-pound marlin taken on rod and reel. Other stories also tell of some monster blues caught here, including one marlin that was so large it had to be cut in half to be weighed. Although it's unsubstantiated, the two halves supposedly totaled 2,700 pounds. While the validity of this catch was never proven, Capt. Peter Wright tells a story of spotting two giant marlin tails on the wall at Dave Cave's Hertz rental-car agency in Papeete. One tail was from a commercially caught blue that weighed more than 1,800 pounds. The other tail was larger, but the fish was never put on a scale. "The unweighed fish's tail had a much greater span from tip to tip. The tail was much larger in circumference at the base. I think this fish probably weighed 2,000 pounds," Wright says.
Big-game fisherman Richard Richardson fished these waters, including the Marquesas, Tuamotus and the Society islands, more than 40 times in search of granders and world records.
"The remoteness of the location, year-round moderate water temperature, abundance of sea life surrounding the islands, lack of fishing pressure and pollution, and the more than 186 different islands and atolls spread out over some of the most prime real estate in the south Pacific are all contributing factors to the presence of large marlin in French Polynesia," Richardson says.
The period between January and June is best for big marlin, with the hottest bite occurring in March and April. While record keeping is shoddy, Richardson predicts more than 50 granders caught here, though most of the big fish were taken by local commercial buoy fishermen. The buoy fishermen, called bonitier, target FADs put out by the government.
"Probably 90 percent of all fishing is with lures, but some live-baiting is done around the FADs when the conditions and bait are right," Richardson says. "Most of the fish are released, especially during tournaments or club events, but some are taken to be eaten by the local indigenous population - but not enough to be an ecological threat of any kind."
As far as the granders go, put in some time and you will see one. "I had one on in the Marquesas on the lee side of Nuku Hiva that I am sure would top the 1,000-pound mark; it almost spooled us twice, and being on a 75-foot expedition trawler, we were totally outmatched and lost the fish after a prolonged fight," says Richardson.
When to Go: January through June, with March and April the prime months
Where to Stay: The waters surrounding Tahiti, Papeete and Raiatea all feature big marlin. All of these areas cater to tourists who make the journey. Visit www.go-to-tahiti.com for more info.