Marlin, Black

(Makaira Indica)

Commonly referred to as Blacks!

The mighty black marlin is the largest of all billfish species and is famous for frequenting shallow waters during their long migratory travels providing anglers with an unforgettable angling experience along the way. Black marlin are frequently landed on the east coast weighing as much as 1000lbs and more with the Great Barrier Reef proving to be the only giant black marlin spawning ground left in all our oceans! Many of these magnificent fish are killed needlessly by commercial fishing fleets every season with angling associations doing their best to promote tag and release fishing to ensure the survival of this great species for many years to come.


Black marlin can be located from as far south as Rottenest Island in W.A. right up over the top end of the continent and down into N.S.W.


Black marlin can grow to around 3000 lbs in weight and reach a maximum length of around 6 meters although a typical size black is around 30 – 60kg in most Australian locations with larger fish averaging between 100 – 180kg. All black marlin are born male and change gender to females at around 160kg in weight. The largest black marlin ever landed on rod and reel was 707.60kg and was taken off Peru in 1953 by Alfred Glasel Junior. The largest weighed here in Australia is not far behind at a staggering 654.08kg taken out from the Great Barrier Reef in 1973.


Black marlin prefer offshore coastal waters and oceanic currents with depths of between 30 – 500 meters with large numbers of bait fish present. Water temperatures of 22 – 27 degrees and higher are preferred.


Black marlin can be easily identified by their shorter, thicker bills and rigid pectoral fins although smaller specimens under 100kg will have folding pectoral fins making the identification of all three Australian marlin species quite difficult for the inexperienced.

Taste rating

  • Zero Taste Rating

Black marlin deserve the respect of all who target them and in my opinion should always be released immediately upon capture unless the fish had died throughout the struggle or it is the anglers first.

Sport rating

  • One hundred Sport Rating

Due to their impressive looks and outstanding fighting qualities the mighty black marlin is one of the most impressive game fish this state has to offer!

Tackle requirements

Medium to heavy lever drag trolling outfits are required for this substantial style of game fishing. They must have large line capacity and high quality drag systems capable of battling large fish in uncomfortable to rough sea conditions. Stand up outfits rated from 15 – 24kg are ideally suited for targeting small blacks to 150kg where as 37 – 60kg stand up or game chair outfits are needed to subdue larger specimens to over 1200 lbs. Wind on leaders of between 200 – 600lb need to be connected to plaited doubles via a cats paw knot and then attached to the lure or bait trace with a quality stainless steel snap swivel or cork screw style snap for heavier 60kg line classes. 1000lb wire is often used when bait fishing for larger blacks to 1200lbs but is not necessary for smaller fish.

Recommended baits, lures and rigs

Small black marlin to 100kg will eat a variety of small bait fish such as garfish, mullet, blue mackerel, tuna, milk fish and queen fish. Small to medium skirted lures around 6 – 10 inches in length are also suitable for black marlin in this size range and should be rigged with 8/0 – 10/0 sized trolling hooks when using 15 – 24kg line classes. Trying to drive in hooks larger than this whilst trolling lures is not recommended on these light line classes. Trolling hooks are generally made from high quality stainless steel and have a straight rather than off set gauge. The anodes on most vessels will eat away at chemically sharpened hook points making them blunt in minutes, this does not occur with good quality stainless hooks. Larger black marlin of 200kg and bigger prefer to eat larger baits such as 10 – 15kg shark mackerel, yellow fin tuna and yellow tail scad. It does take a fair amount of skill to rig these baits for presentation to large billfish with skirted lures proving to be a much easier and popular option for chasing billfish here in Australia. Large to extra large skirted lures are preferred for larger black marlin and are generally rigged on heavy 600 – 800lb nylon leaders with 12/0 – 14/0 sized stainless steel hooks.

Handy hints and tips

Place lures or baits onto the bottom two thirds of the pressure waves following the vessel whilst trolling for billfish as these waves act as large mirrors to approaching game fish such as marlin making your lures or baits much more visible!

Preferred fishing times and tides

Most pelagic game fish species prefer low or high tide changes and new moon phases although some studies have proven the best feeding times for marlin to be two weeks before and after a full moon.


[What The Fish]