On the Hunt for a Billfish Royal Slam

A teen's pursuit ends in success

man and son holding sailfish in the water
Patrick Haley and his father, Chris, with Patrick's spearfish.Courtesy Chris Haley

Patrick Haley started fishing out of Orange Beach, Alabama, aboard his family's 36-foot express, Skin Deep (the family now has a 63-foot Ricky Scarborough) when he caught his first blue marlin at the age of 10. As the Haleys began to participate in some of the Gulf of Mexico's big-name tournaments, the Atlantic species list started to dwindle, so Patrick set a goal for himself to catch all nine billfish species before he turned 17.

Family vacations to charter some of the best boats in the game, in the most billfish-rich corners of the world—Cabo San Lucas, Mexico; Los Sueños, Costa Rica; and Kona, Hawaii—allowed Patrick to catch all but one of the Pacific billfish on his list.

After catching a blue marlin and a spearfish in Hawaii at the age of 15, he soon realized the only species he needed to achieve his goal was a black marlin.

In hopes of Patrick completing the IGFA Royal Billfish Slam as a junior angler, the Haley family traveled to Cairns, Australia, for a liveaboard adventure that unfortunately left him without a shot after four consecutive days.

Another trip to Costa Rica netted him plenty of Pacific sails, but the black marlin had eluded him once again—and before he knew it, Patrick was staring down the proverbial barrel of his 17th birthday. With his last shot at obtaining the Royal Billfish Slam as a junior, Patrick and his father, Chris, were off to Tropic Star Lodge in Panama. Although it was the off-season, blacks are known to be found occasionally on the Zane Grey Reef at this time, but the sharks were the only ones biting.

It was now the winter of 2017-18, and the father/son team headed back to Los Sueños. Fishing the 26 Reef again for two days without a black marlin bite, the Haleys were beginning to feel jinxed. However, all good things come to those who wait.

Their friends on Team Supreme, a 76-foot Viking, had arrived in Panama for the 2018-19 Piñas Bay black marlin season. Feeling optimistic and fishing with a crew of experienced Gulf live-baiters, Haley managed to hook up to what would become the final notch on his royal-slam belt: a 400-pound black he fought on stand-up, thanks to Capt. Chase Lake. "It's a hell of a story," Lake says. "He spent a lot of time trying for that fish—I'm glad I was there to help make his dream come true."

“That fish put on a great show,” Haley says, “with some spectacular jumps on the wire.” And while it took him a bit longer than expected, he still managed to achieve a Royal Billfish Slam at just 19. “The best part of this experience is the memories we created. My dad and brother were on board for most of them, and catching all the fish either on our family boat or on family vacations really made it special.”

Patrick Haley's Royal Billfish Slam

  • Atlantic Blue Marlin (age 10): Skin Deep, Orange Beach, Alabama
  • White Marlin (age 10): Skin Deep, Orange Beach, Alabama
  • Atlantic Sailfish (age 12): Skin Deep, Orange Beach, Alabama
  • Pacific Sailfish (age 12): Bushwacker, Flamingo, Costa Rica
  • Striped Marlin (age 13): Picante, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
  • Broadbill Swordfish (age 15): Skin Deep, Orange Beach, Alabama
  • Pacific Blue Marlin (age 16): Marlin Magic, Kona, Hawaii
  • Spearfish (age 16): Marlin Magic, Kona, Hawaii
  • Black Marlin (age 19): Team Supreme, Piñas Bay, Panama