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Marlin Fishing the Atlantic

virginia beach white marling

For many recreational offshore anglers, marlin fishing is the Holy Grail. They’re ginormous, powerful, lightning fast and will break you down if not treated with respect. Like sailfish and swordfish, marlins are classified as billfish. Billfish are characterized by their spear-like bill. These predatory fish use their speed and strength to slash at their prey and stun them before devouring. Although marlins are found in tropical or sub-tropical waters, they migrate throughout the ocean and will follow warm water temperatures.

There are several different marlin species roaming the waters of the world; Blues, whites, blacks and striped, but they do all tend to look alike to the untrained eye. Here off the coast of Virginia Beach, we target two main species; White and Blue Marlin. We have an advantage when it comes to fishing for marlin here in Virginia Beach. The Gulf Stream is only a mere 15 miles or so from our banks and is the ideal area to target marlin as they migrate through the warm current. Fishing for marlin is not for the faint of heart. Booking a trip with an experienced charter boat captain like Capt. Josh Wentling of Instigator Sportfishing Charters, is by far the most ideal way to go mano e mano with these beasts of the deep blue.


White marlin can be identified by rounded dorsal, pectoral and anal fins with the maximum height of the dorsal fin often greater than the depth of its body. It is also lighter in color than other marlins and will show more green along its back. White marlins are found within the Atlantic Ocean in tropical temperatures. Although smallest of all the marlin weighing it at a maximum of 120 pounds, they tend to be the most acrobatic of them all and highly targeted due to their speed, elegant beauty and the difficulty that anglers encounter when trying to hook them. White marlins are also unique in a sense that they do not slash and stun their prey, but by overtaking it instead. White marlins are also known to hunt in packs by balling up bait and attacking aggressively. It is not uncommon to hook up with more than one at a time.


Blue marlin can be identified by a cylindrical body with a pointed dorsal fin that is never as high as the depth of its body. The blue marlin boasts a beautiful cobalt blue back that fades into white. Several vertical pale blue stripes are also present and fade after death. The blue marlin is the largest of all the marlins and one of the largest fish in the world. Boating one of these beauties is considered the ultimate goal for an offshore angler. The female blue marlin grows significantly larger than the males growing up to 14 feet in length, weighing almost 2,000 pounds and living up to 27 years! Although those stats are fairly uncommon, the average sized blue marlin goes for about 11 feet in length and between 200-400 pounds.

They can be found hunting the waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. This wide distribution gives anglers from all over the world a shot at the majestic blue marlin. They spend most of their lives out at sea and can travel up to thousands of miles when following the warm ocean currents. Here’s a little known fact: The author, Ernest Hemingway, was an avid blue marlin fisherman that would target them in the Florida Keys, Bahamas and Cuba. In his novella, The Old Man and the Sea, it was a blue marlin that the fisherman battles.

Marlin Fishing

Fishing for marlin can consist of a couple different tactics. Trolling or drifting seems to be the two preferred methods using live bait or artificial lures. However, marlins aren’t the only ones swimming the seas looking for a meal. There are lots of by-catches when targeting marlin. Fish like Wahoo, mahi-mahi, mackerel, sailfish and more will gladly take a swipe at your presentation and run with it. That is why it is important to get with local knowledge when targeting your once in a lifetime shot at your bucket list fish. Be sure to contact Captain Josh Wentling of Instigator Sportfishing Charters to get the latest scoop on the marlin fishing off the coast Virginia Beach and to book your trip today. The season is upon us!

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