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Striped Marlin (Tetrapturus audax)
Written by: Dr. Larry G. Allen
Okay, all you billfish fanatics - it's that time of year. You don't have to travel all the way to the East Cape to catch a marlin. You can do that right here off good ol' southern California. But, don't wait too long, the water will not stay warm enough for very much longer. Here is a brief summary of what we know about this magnificent fish.
SCIENTIFIC NAME - Tetrapturus audax, family Istiophoridae (billfishes)
COMMON NAMES - Striped marlin, stripers, marlin (Mexico)
DISTRIBUTION - Tropical and temperate waters of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In California waters, striped marlin are rare north Santa Barbara Island, occurring almost exclusively in the late summer and fall. Most of the southern California stripers migrate up from the area off Baja California and are caught from Santa Barbara Island southwards including Santa Catalina and San Clemente Islands. During El Nino years, striped marlin may range as far north as Oregon.
SIZE & AGE - To 13.5 feet and 570 pounds (current IGFA world record is 494 pounds). Most fish taken off southern California weigh between 90 and 200 pounds and are thought to be three to six years old though much more research on age and growth is needed.
DIET - Tunas, jacks, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, sauries, flyingfish, squid and pelagic red crabs.
REPRODUCTION - Striped marlin mature at around 4.5-5 feet (eye to tailfork length). Female stripers produce between 11 million and 29 million eggs per season. Spawning in the eastern Pacific occurs mainly from May through July in Mexican waters. Fish found off southern California in the late summer and fall have already spawned off Mexico possibly in the area around the Revillagigedos Islands. Mature females have been taken in the spawning areas off Mexico, but larval striped marlin have only been found in the western and central Pacific.
FISHERY - Off Southern California, striped marlin are popular sportfish taken principally by private vessels in the late summer and fall. While most fish are taken while trolling artificial lures, some can be coaxed into biting live bait. In either case, the angler better get ready to hang on! Commercial fishing for striped marlin is prohibited in California waters, however, worldwide, they are taken by long line and gill net fisheries. In the decade of the 1980s worldwide catches ranged between about 12,000 and 18,000 metric tons. But, don't panic -- according to the California Department of Fish and Game, the north Pacific stocks of striped marlin are not considered to be fully exploited.