While South Florida is home to excellent offshore fishing, those seeking marlin will often look to the east and the islands of the Abacos, located in the northern Bahamas. When the conditions are right, the action can be very good for all kinds of offshore species, but for now let’s take a closer look at the marlin fishing, Abaco-style.
Located about 165 miles east of Palm Beach, Florida, Great Abaco is the third-largest island in the Bahamas. It’s home to Marsh Harbour, the third-largest city in the Bahamas and the largest naturally protected deepwater harbor in the Abacos chain. To the north, Treasure Cay is another epicenter for sport fishing in the region (it’s not a separate island but is located on Great Abaco). Off the eastern side of Great Abaco is a string of much smaller cays that stretch from roughly north to south like a delicate string of pearls; at the northern end is Walker’s Cay, once a legendary sport-fishing destination that’s now relegated to the pages of history — for now, at least — and Elbow Cay anchors the southern portion.
While excellent marlin fishing is available anywhere along the eastern Abacos, a local favorite is the area just off the lighthouse on Elbow Cay (N 26.32, W 76.52). Capt. Bill Diamond has been fishing the area for the past 12 years and says he likes to put the lines in the water just off the edge, starting in about 600 feet of water east of the light.
“That area tends to hold bait and fish,” he says, “and especially if there’s an outgoing tide and a nice color change, it’s a good place to start. I’ll usually work the edge to a spot called the Thumbprint (N 26.37, W 76.51), and then we’ll wander offshore to places like the Bridge and the Mushroom (N 26.37, W 76.45).” He’ll target birds under tuna or look for current, structure and bait holding deep. Most of the bills will be blue marlin, but don’t be surprised to see more than a few white marlin in the spread earlier in the year, especially for boats pulling natural dredges and light tackle.
And while most Bahamian blue marlin average 500 pounds or less, there are a few sea monsters roaming around. In 2011, during the Treasure Cay leg of the Bahamas Billfish Championship, the team on Double Dog bested a 1,119-pound blue to set a new record for the islands.
“When we saw the fish in the spread, we couldn’t believe our eyes,” says Double Dog owner Don McKinney of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. “We scrambled to clear the light tackle and get the 80s in position, just in time for the giant blue to crash the left short.” Bahamas native and Man-o-War Cay resident David Albury fought the fish for several hours, and the team struggled for two additional hours to finally boat the massive blue marlin.
Giant bluefin tuna will occasionally make a surprise appearance off the Abacos. On May 9, 2003, while fishing the Walkers Cay leg of the Bahamas Billfish Championship, Frank Rodriguez and the team on Fa-La-Me had an experience that not many (if any) team has ever had: They hooked and fought three 1,000-pound bluefins, all at the same time. Rodriguez caught the first one in about an hour, with the team finally wrestling the beast aboard in another hour, while the other two fish remained hooked. They were able to release the second tuna and broke off the third. The fish weighed 1,058 pounds and is the largest ever caught in the Bahamas.
The marlin action can start as early as April and it usually stretches through the summer, although the best fishing is historically in May and early June for blues.
White marlin usually push through earlier in the season and are mixed with some of the larger blues of the year….