We left the dock in Mindelo, Cape Verde, at 6 a.m. on May 9, 2016, aboard the 78-foot Garlington Dreamin’ On, heading straight for Capt. Randy Hodgekiss’ favorite spot: the Northwest Banks. In the previous three days, we had great fishing, with catches of 500-, 650- and 750-pound blue marlin in the same area, and we released a 350-pounder about an hour before the big fish struck. We were raising an average of six blue marlin a day, but the smaller fish were hard to keep hooked — Dreamin’ On pulls large lures with pretty big hooks in the spread.
At 8:15 a.m., Hodgekiss asked me to take some pictures of the yellowfin tuna jumping out of the water around us. It looked really fishy, and the thought of a large blue marlin in the area was in the back of everyone’s mind. Fifteen minutes later, Hodgekiss screamed, “Center rigger!” We looked out and saw a very large marlin slowly lunging at the Marlin Magic Ruckus lure. It seemed as if everything was in slow motion as Steve (also known as Swabbie) dropped back and tried to tease the fish into eating. Knowing the Ruckus was harder for a big fish to eat than the other lures, Hodgekiss turned the boat into the beam sea to keep the lure swimming down just a bit more.
The marlin swam past the lure on the right side and then committed 100 percent to the bite. It looked like a bomb went off when she finally ate. About 35 minutes into the fight, we saw the fish for the first time as it jumped completely out of the water six times, about 200 feet away from the boat. The show was amazing; everyone started guessing the weight and agreed it could be a very solid 850 pounds based on its jumps and comparing it to the previous 750-pounder we caught two days prior. No grander would jump like that, right?
At 9 a.m., the fish was boat-side, and the debate started. The team thought it would be over the 1,000-pound mark, so the gaffs were quickly grabbed from the engine room. The first attempt just pissed off the marlin, and she jumped along the port side of the boat letting us know it. When the marlin came alongside for a second time, the line was wrapped around the fish’s body, and we never were able to get a shot. While on the leader for a third time, she made a surge under the boat, and it looked as if the leader was caught on the rudder. After a very long two minutes of worried silence, the marlin popped up on the starboard-side, and we sank the gaffs into the big blue. It took all of us to finally wrestle the massive fish aboard.
We knew we had a grander because the fish was too long to fit in the cockpit, but we didn’t know how much she really weighed. It wasn’t official until we arrived at the Mindelo Sportfishing Club and weighed her. The IGFA-certified scale flashed 585.5 kilograms, translating to 1,290 pounds, and the celebration began. To our surprise, Capt. Berno Niebuhr — who has 13 granders to his credit — confirmed the catch was the largest blue marlin ever caught in Cape Verde.
— As told to Sam White by a crew member on Dreamin’ On