Mid-Atlantic Marlin Hotspot

big fish

The waters off the mid-Atlantic are the new 1,000-pound marlin hotspot.

Over the last three years, record-setting blue marlin of more than 1,000 pounds have been brought to tournament scales in the mid-Atlantic region three times. The White Marlin Open (WMO) in Ocean City, Maryland, hoisted two in consecutive years (1,062 pounds in 2009 and 1,010.5 pounds in 2010), and the biggest (1,228.5 pounds) won at Pirate’s Cove in Manteo, North Carolina. Are these catches freak anomalies, or have these fish always been here and modern-day crews are now better equipped to catch them? After talking to two teams in this 1,000-pound club, it seems to be the latter.

Trey Irvine became the first angler to best a tournament grander while aboard his 59-foot Spencer Mimi during the 2008 Pirate’s Cove Billfish Tournament. After three days with little to show for their efforts, the crew decided to change up the plan and head to the boundary area (tournament travel limit) where Capts. Paul Mann and John Bayliss had previously seen signs of life.

The crew, which consisted of Irvine, Paul and Cliff Spencer, and mates Chris Chase and Patrick Byrd, made last-minute inspections to the arsenal of 30-, 80- and 130-pound tackle as Capt. Mike King ran for the edge.

“We were heading for a big blue,” Irvine tells me.

Mimi had bowling pin teasers set tight off her aft cleats, and the big fish—originally thought by the crew to be the killer whale previously seen in the area—looked at the pins, stuck its fin way up, pivoted, and nailed the short rigger bait.

“It took off jumping, and we all got a good sideways view. We knew it was big,” Irvine excitedly recalls. “It was throwing so much water it looked like a seaplane landing. Everything was set. With the drag backed off, I moved to the chair that was already set for whichever one of us fought the fish.”

The record fish followed a seemingly scripted scenario, going ballistic on the surface and never sounding. The Tiagra 80 reel was nearly dumped six or seven times. On each sprint, Irvine eased off the drag, sliding it up only as they backed down. (When a spool’s line is reduced during a run, its diameter gets smaller, which increases drag. Backing off prevents breakage.) The Mimi’s team had backed down almost seven miles by the end of the fight.