White Marlin Invade the Hudson Canyon

Epic numbers from the last half of 2018

white marlin breaking surface
A Hudson Canyon white marlin goes airborne.Richard Gibson

The late-summer and early-fall white marlin fishing in the northeastern United States this year was off the charts. As our social media feeds jammed up with picture after picture of boats flying a ridiculous number of flags, we asked Matthew Upton, of Roffer's Ocean Fishing Forecasting Service, for some insight on exactly why this white marlin bite remained so hot for so long, and as far north as the Hudson Canyon.

Upton says it is very common for white marlin to congregate in certain areas in the region as they get ready for their fall migration south. He says the good fishing was aided by ideal ocean conditions and good moon phase, and likely was also due to an attractive amount of bait.

“We observed a clockwise-rotating eddy circulation east of the Hudson Canyon, which was pulling up and holding the bluer, warmer filament water into the outer Hudson Canyon area,” Upton says, “and this had butted up against some greener, cooler water.”

While these two bodies of water created the dynamics to hold fish, it rarely ever lasts that long. Upton says the conditions were held there for a minimum of a week, and would have likely hung on if the calm ocean and atmospheric conditions persisted — or until the eddy started to drift south to southwest. “The bait biomass must have been there too,” continues Upton, “since the Hudson Canyon contains the ideal bottom structure and habitat for a number of different bait species.”

But, as the white marlin prepared to head south for the winter, the bite continued, with boats seeing — and catching — 50 to 70-plus marlin in a week on overnighters and day trips, including the team aboard Reelin' Feelin', which released 37 whites and one blue marlin out of Cape May, New Jersey, on a day trip.

sport fishing boat with blue flags
The 61-foot Spencer Fishaholic was one of many boats capitalizing on the great fishing in the Northeast this year.Jimmy Gatto/Blue Water Photography

"This was the best way to start September," says Viking 72 demo team member, Justin Healey. "Our [Labor Day] overnighter was something you dream about." With light winds, the team encountered white marlin cutting bait on the surface, free-jumpers and flurries of multiples all day until dark. Viking 72's captain, Ryan Higgins, echoes Healey's enthusiasm. "We were trolling to a free-jumper when we got covered up with a quad of whites in the spread. We ended up with 54 in just three days." Epic fishing, to say the least.

Many other boats posted big numbers during the incredible bite, including Canyon Lady with 53 white marlin on an overnight trip; Fishaholic, 30 whites on an overnighter; Silver Lining, 58 on a triple overnighter; and Singularis, 28 white marlin on a day trip. It was definitely the bite of the year.