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Crooked Island Blue Marlin

2/9/2007

  • Editor's note: "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" airs each Sunday at 8:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2 television. Episode 6, catching blue marlin around Crooked Island, Bahamas, debuts Sunday, Feb. 11; it re-airs Feb. 17 at 6 a.m. ET and Feb. 18 at 6:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2. For more on George Poveromo, visit www.georgepoveromo.com.


    To reach Crooked Island, in the far southeastern Bahamas, it's 375-miles by
    plane or some 425-miles by boat from Fort Lauderdale.

    Boat traffic is light down here and fishing pressure even scarcer. It's one of the few areas in the Bahamas
    where you can fish for blue marlin and rarely see another boat.

    And when you're
    the only game in town, you have the undivided attention of the blue marlin that
    roam in these waters.

    Catching blue marlin was the reason I returned to this section of the
    Bahamas. I've enjoyed excellent trips to nearby San Salvador, Cat Island and
    even Diana Bank, catching big dolphin, tuna, marlin and wahoo as large as 143-
    pounds, three-ounces.

    Simply put, I've yet to have a less-than-spectacular trip
    down here. So with my perfect track record in the southeast Bahamas, I
    boarded the Over-Under Adventures private plane and headed for Clarencetown,
    Long Island.

    Waiting for me to arrive was Trey Rhyne, President of Over Under
    Adventures, Captain Bob Balut and mate Joe Trainor. We planned to leave
    Flying Fish Marina on Long Island aboard their 54-foot sportfishing boat in the
    morning and cruise 35 miles to the northernmost tip of Crooked Island, near Bird Rock.

    Where the fish play

    Between Long Island's easternmost point, and the northernmost tip of Crooked Island by Bird Rock, there's a 26-mile "gap",
    which serves as a reasonably small passage where good numbers of blue marlin
    funnel through during their early summer migrations.

    In addition, many marlin
    travel with the northbound current which flows along the western side of Crooked,
    frequenting the precipitous shelves and dropoffs paralleling this island mass.

    There's also a deep water hump — not too far off the tip of Crooked — that also attracts marlin. The bottom here rises to approximately 1,700 feet of the surface
    from a surrounding depth that varies between 3,600 and 4,800 feet deep.

    On the first day, we set out a five-lure spread and two large hookless lures for
    teasers. The lures of choice were the Rick's Fancy — a blunt-headed design made
    by Bluewater Lures (561-394-6497).

    Most were purple and black, but we
    integrated a green/blue/yellow pattern as well as a blue and white one into the
    spread.

    Each lure was stiff-rigged with two size 10/0 hooks rigged at a 90-degree
    angle, and six feet of 400-pound test monofilament leader. We fished with Penn 50
    and 70 International reels spooled with Sufix Superior, Hi-Vis Yellow line. Each
    reel was rigged with a 200-pound test wind-on leader and a size 6 (300-
    pound test) SPRO Ball Bearing Snap Swivel.

    Timid they aren't

    Blue marlin aren't shy, as they often gravitate to the
    boat and teasers. What's more, when a blue eats close to the boat, there's less
    stretch in the fishing line to deal with — a huge advantage when setting the hook on
    one of these fish.

    We deployed our "long" outrigger baits 130 feet back and
    parallel with each other, whereas the two "short" outrigger baits were placed 90-feet back.

    Next, we set our hookless teasers some 20 to 30-feet behind the boat.
    The "shot gun" bait was positioned in between the long and short 'riggers and
    in the middle of the spread.

    All the fishing lines were run from the outriggers.
    The theory here is that the amount of slack generated between the time the
    line parts from the release clip to when it comes taught to the fish enables the
    marlin to gain complete possession of the lure. So when the line comes tight and
    the lure is deep in the fish's mouth, hook-up percentages soar.

    Butter fingers

    Our first day off Crooked was disappointing, but not
    from lack of fish. We ended up hooking three blue marlin — and losing all three!

    Trey Rhyne's fish threw the hook during its initial run, whereas I got two jumps
    out of my fish before it tossed the lure back at me.

    Trey accounted for the final
    marlin hit that day, but missed setting the hooks.

    To maximize our fishing time off Crooked, we overnighted in 40 feet of water,
    fairly tight to the Island. We enjoyed a delicious dinner, relaxed and regained our
    positive attitude. We would fish long and hard the following day, and make every
    strike count.

    The makings of a long day

    As charged up as we were after letting
    out the baits, our enthusiasm began to wane with each fish-less hour. By 4
    p.m., I began to think that we had seen our shots the previous day. Had our luck
    run dry?

    Just when I was really down in the dumps — around 5 p.m., a blue
    crashed a lure. With 80-pound test line screaming off the reel at a frightening
    pace — tethered to an acrobatic blue marlin, I grabbed the rod and held tight,
    waiting for the fish to settle and the opportunity to reclaim line.

    Most of all,
    I was holding my breath that the hook wouldn't pull. It didn't, and the fish eventually settled in the depths.

    Captain Bob backed down the boat in hot pursuit of the marlin, while I cranked for all I was worth.

    Battling that marlin was tough, but very rewarding — especially when Joe
    Trainor grabbed the leader some 45 minutes later. We were on the board with an
    estimated 275-pound marlin! We trolled another 30 minutes, with no luck, and
    then headed back to our anchorage for the evening.

    We were in a much better
    mood! The plan for the next day was to troll until noon, then run back to Flying
    Fish Marina on Long Island.

    Mid-morning marlin

    About 10 a.m., a blue marlin appeared behind
    the teaser. Trey and I each dropped back a pitch bait by the teaser, which was now
    being retrieved.

    However, we couldn't steer the marlin's interest away from it.
    Seconds after the marlin disappeared, we thought it was all over. Then, suddenly,
    the fish reappeared and piled on the dolphin-hued, Bluewater lure that was
    swimming some 50-feet beyond where the teaser had been!

    The strike was violent. I grabbed the rod and basically held on. After a wild
    and strenuous 20-minute battle, I led the estimated 275-pound blue marlin along
    side the boat. Trey and Joe removed the hooks, tagged the fish and set it free.
    What a way to end our trip! But it wasn't over quite yet.

    Surprise in the marina

    Back at Flying Fish Marina, we cleaned up and were waiting on a crew member before heading up to the restaurant for dinner.

    To pass the time, I grabbed a 20-pound spinning outfit rigged with a Yo-Zuri
    Surface Cruiser and made a cast in the marina. You can only imagine how
    surprised I was when a huge mutton snapper followed in right to the boat.

    I paused
    the lure, and the mutton ate it! After a spirited fight around and under the boat and docks, we boated the 15-pound snapper!

    June is marlin time off Crooked, and Over Under Adventures will be back this
    coming season. In fact, they specialize in fishing trips to the far southeastern
    Bahamas.

    Their schedule puts them in either Cat Island or Rum Cay between
    January and May, and Crooked Island in June.

    To simplify travel to the boat, they
    also have private aircraft that flies direct from Fort Lauderdale.

    For more
    information on Over Under Adventures, call 1-866-OUA-TUNA, or visit
    www.overundercharters.com.

    As for me, I'll be back down there with them in March, chasing giant wahoo off
    San Salvador! Let's see if my perfect record in the southeastern Bahamas remains
    in tact!


    For more information on George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing, visit: www.georgepoveromo.com