While we typically highlight the action in exotic fishing destinations, it’s also pretty cool to see some outstanding catches made in places you might not think. So, when Capt. Norm Bekoff reached out to us via Instagram with a report from South Florida on June 26, it got our attention.
Bekoff, a charter captain fishing out of Fort Lauderdale, had noticed that each year, usually later in the summer, boats in the area would report seeing blue marlin. Many times, these were incidental encounters.
Often, while anglers were bailing small mahi, a blue would show up unexpectedly, smash up a few of them, and then disappear just as quickly, or maybe someone would even hook one on a dink rig. Unfortunately, few of those encounters ended in a legitimate release.
“I got my captain’s license at 19 and grew up on sport-fishing boats, fishing everywhere from Massachusetts to St. Thomas and the Gulf of Mexico,” Bekoff says. “People always think that you have to go to the Bahamas or the Caribbean to catch a blue marlin, but I just think there are more in South Florida than people realize.” He researched the fishery and noted the old days of the Castaways charter dock in Haulover, with a fair number of old black-and-white photos of blue marlin from the 1960s and ’70s. But could it be done today?
Fishing from his 28-foot Scarborough, Finest Kind, Bekoff set out with a charter client who wanted to catch a big dolphin. “I’ve found that we catch most of our big dolphin with a blue marlin spread, so we trolled a mix of lures and skirted ballyhoo,” he says. “We had worked our way out into about 1,100 feet of water and had good conditions—the water was right, birds were working, and the weed lines looked good, but we didn’t find any mahi. We were about ready to turn around and start back in when we raised the fish on a pink Mold Craft squid chain.” The fish swiped at the teaser, then faded to eat a skirted ballyhoo on the flat line, and the fight was on.
“It did all the things a blue marlin usually does, from big jumps and runs to a deep dive that we had to work on changing the angles,” Bekoff says. “But after about an hour and a half, we had the leader on the rod and were able to release the fish successfully.”
Aside from proving that blue marlin indeed live off South Florida, Bekoff also says that he’ll always be ready with the appropriate tackle for those encounters while fishing for mahi or bonito, because you never know what will happen on the ocean.