BILLFISH ON THE FLY
About Marlin and Sailfish in Baja, Mexico
The striped marlin, blue marlin, and sailfish belong to a family of fish species generally called billfish. Billfish have broad, flat bodies and dorsal fins that are close together toward the rear of their body. Most marlin we catch are in the 5-6 foot range and weigh up to 200lbs. They are large, powerful predators that have a long, swordlike bill used for stunning prey.
Billfish have several unique adaptations for hunting other fish. Their eyes are extremely large, which allows them to see in dim light when most other animals cannot; they also have an excellent sense of smell with nasal cavities extending up to their eyes. Like sharks, billfish swim with their mouths open, using their highly developed olfactory senses to locate prey even in murky water.
Billfish feed near the surface when possible; below the surface, they tend to move in schools like tuna and mackerel.
Billfish are powerful swimmers with rapid bursts of speed; they can easily accelerate to more than 50 mph (80 kph). Blue marlin have been clocked at 68 mph (109 kph), sailfish at about 75 mph (121 kph). The power and speed, combined with their size put billfish right near the pinnacle of fish to catch on a fly. Something every serious angler should do at least once.
Where to catch billfish in Baja
Billfish can be found in both the waters of the Sea of Cortez and off the pacific. Marlin and Sailfish are pelagic fish, meaning they inhabit neither the deep ocean depths nor are they coastal fish. So targeting them requires a boat.
Our favorite place to fish billfish is off the coast of Magdalena Bay. Here bait balls are plentiful, and the action is intense.
The best times to target billfish in Baja
How to catch a marlin on a flyrod
We use two main methods to catch marlin on a fly.
The first is to sight cast to them. This is especially effective in October and November in the fertile waters of the Magdalena Bay area where numerous fish will work bait balls. We quietly move the boat within range of the action, and sight cast to feeding fish. The idea is that a marlin sees your fly as a bait fish that's been separated from the ball, and is easy pickings.
The second method is what we call bait and switch. We use hookless lures to bring the fish into range of the boat. When the fish is close, the lure is pulled and you make the cast. The fish loses the lure and hopefully eats your fly in its place.
What Flyfishing gear do you need to flyfish for marlin