What is a White Marlin?

Christina Edwards
Christina Edwards
A white marlin's diet might include small squid.
A white marlin's diet might include small squid.

Belonging to the Istiophouidae, or billfish, family, the white marlin is a large saltwater fish. Like other marlin, these types of fish have a long body and an abnormally long upper jaw, in addition to a long upright dorsal fin. They are typically found along the coast of the Americas in the Atlantic Ocean and considered to be an excellent game fish.

Other names for this fish include spikefish and Atlantic white marlin. Similar to other billfish and marlin, Its most noticeable feature is its extremely long upper jaw, which comes to a thin point at the end. This spear-shaped bill is generally twice the length of its lower jaw and is often used when hunting for food.

Along the back of a white marlin's long body is a stiff, upright dorsal fin. This fin starts off higher in the front, drops down to the back, and continues down the length of the back. Unlike its cousin, the blue marlin, the top of this marlin's dorsal fin rounds off instead of tapering to a sharp point. Dorsal fins of these types of marlin are often blue-green or brownish in color and covered with dark blue, purple, or gray spots.

Moving from the top of the body down, the white marlin is typically a few different colors. Its back is usually a blue-green or brownish color. This then typically fades to a lighter shade on the sides, which fades again to a white or silver underside, or belly. Like some other marlin, it has a series of stripes on it side, running from top to bottom. These stripes generally range in color from a light blue to a purple.

Although this fish is somewhat large, compared to other marlin, especially blue marlin or the black marlin, it is relatively small. In fact the white marlin is considered to be the smallest of all marlin. On average, this fish will generally weigh roughly 60 pounds (27.2 kilograms) and measure 8 to 10 feet (2.5 to 3 meters) in length. It is not unusual, however, for these fish to get much larger. One record white marlin caught in Brazil weighed in at more than 181 pounds (82.1 kilograms) in 1979.

Besides Brazil, white marlin are commonly found off the coast of the Bahamas and the eastern part of the United States, especially in and around the Gulf of Mexico. These fish usually prefer deep blue, warmer waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Ideal water temperature for this type of marlin is roughly 65 to 75 degrees F (18.3 to 23.8 degrees C), and they are considered to be migratory fish, traveling to stay within the warm water.

Although white marlin generally travel alone in the ocean, they can sometimes be found traveling in small groups. It is believed that these groups aid one another in catching prey and feeding. Some groups have been found herding prey to more suitable feeding positions. Its diet usually consists of smaller fish, squid, and crustaceans, depending on what is more readily available at the time. Sometimes marlin will use their long, pointed bills to slash at or impale their food before eating it.

Like many other marlin, the white marlin is a very popular game fish. In some areas, anglers will gather in huge groups, hoping to be the lucky one to have the "catch of the day." Annual tournaments are often held along the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. One such week-long tournament, The White Marlin Open, happens every August in Ocean City, Maryland, often attracting hundreds of fishermen and women every year.

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    • A white marlin's diet might include small squid.
      By: hiphoto39
      A white marlin's diet might include small squid.