The line snapped out of the Roller-Troller outrigger clip and the rod just barely bent, but no line was coming off the reel like you would expect with a typical striped marlin strike. My son, Zane, looked at me and we both said the same thing…“Mako shark on the marlin lure”!
Zane scrambled down the bridge ladder and grabbed the rod and started winding, but the fish just kept tracking along at the same speed as the boat. Outdoor writer and good friend, Rich Holland, started clearing the other 3 trolling lines as Zane worked the fish closer to the boat. Rich just got the last troller out of the water, when Zane said the double line was coming out of the water. I looked over just in time to see the “mako shark” had grown a bill, as 150lbs of angry Catalina Island striped marlin exploded into the air just outside the port outrigger!
Rich, my son Zane (13) and I were off the east end of Catalina Island in Southern California trying to put a couple of the first Pop-up Satellite Archival Tags “PSATs” in our local stripers.
A PSAT is an archival tag that is equipped to transmit the data via direct satellite upload when it “pops” to the surface. The PSAT’s major advantage is that it does not have to be physically retrieved like an archival tag for the data to be available. They have been used to track movements of ocean sunfish, marlin, sharks, tuna, swordfish and sea turtles. Location, depth, and temperature data are used to answer questions about migratory patterns, seasonal feeding movements, daily habits, and survival after catch and release. The sophisticated – and very expensive – $4000 PSAT tags had been supplied to us through the joint efforts of the Avalon Tuna Club, Paxon Offield and The Pfleger Institute of Technology (P.I.E.R).
We had been having a very successful marlin season on our boat “Kawakawa,” and were excited to be selected to place the tags. But, with an outdoor writer and two expensive PSATs aboard, the pressure was on to get the job done!
Zane’s marlin gave us a good scrap, but on the 30lb tackle he was soon boat-side and ready to be leadered and PSAT tagged. We were very careful to keep the marlin away from the props and also to keep him from hitting the side of the boat during the leadering and hook removal process. Luckily the fish was hooked right in the corner of the jaw and cooperated well once I was able to grab his bill in preparation for tagging. We removed the little magnet which was taped to the tag, and this turned on the PSAT transmitter. We then carefully placed the tag at the base of the dorsal and gently released the striper.
After high-fives and victory shouts we put the lures back in and continued trolling up the famous Catalina Island east end ridge looking for another striper. It didn’t take long before we were “wired” again on our second striper of the day in only 300 feet of water. Rich graciously insisted young Zane take the second fish so he could shoot photos. Twenty minutes later we had the fish to leader and were able to place our second PSAT in a perfectly healthy Catalina Island striped marlin!
We learned several months later from PIER scientist Dr. Michael Domeier, that one of our stripers immediately left Catalina water after we placed the PSAT and charged straight south 400 miles, where the tag stopped transmitting off Cedros Island in Baja, Mexico. Domeier theorized that the marlin had possibly been eaten by a predator, due to the data profile he received from the PSAT.
We were stunned and disappointed to learn that our second PSAT tagged marlin was re-caught the same afternoon after we placed the tag! It turns out the fish was re-caught by a boat fishing in a tournament which was held the same day we were out. Sadly, the fish was killed and the PSAT was removed by the boat that caught the fish. Dr. Domeier later recovered the PSAT and was able to upload the few hours of data from the overly-hungry striped marlin.
We were thrilled and honored to be one of the first boats in California to place a PSAT in a striped marlin. Since that day back in 2004 there have been many stripers PSAT tagged off Mexico, and a few more have even been tagged in Southern California. The data gleaned from the PSATs has greatly increased the knowledge base of the striped marlin’s habits at this northern limit of their usual range.
— Greg Stotesbury
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