Dive Report: Striped Marlin Expedition

Written by Amos Nachoum

In the Company of Striped Marlin  - an Underwater Expedition

The first year I led my Striped Marlin Expedition to Todos Santos in Mexico, it was splendid. Last year was almost a bust because we hardly saw any Striped Marlin. The reason for that was the water temperature rose to over 81 degrees, and that meant there were not many plankton and the sardines had nothing to feed on. The marlin somehow figured that out and almost totally avoided the normal pattern.

This year with support and reports from the University in La Paz and the local fisherman, I have understood that the marlin will show up, but later than last year. What you see below are images from the first two days here. The sea is placid, the wind very calm and water temperature is between 76 – 78 – just right for the plankton bloom, the sardine are feeding and … the marlin are here. Take a look:

My Team of Guests

Chris and Jerry were with me last year – they understood very well what was happening with the water temperature and feeding patterns. We did all that was humanly possible to show them a good time and we succeeded to a limited level. Both were so impressed by the effort they have joined me again and they are here with us and they are so happy that they counted on my research. I am so proud to be able to deliver to such loyal guests, pictured above.

Every day we leave at 6:30 am along the western cost of Baja (on the Pacific side) and stay out till 5pm – watching the Frigate birds feeding action and formation. It’s the birds who actually give us information about the marlin. When a formation of two dozen or more Frigates is tight and close over the water I know the birds are feeding on sardines below – and the marlin are in pursuit.

All day we jump in and out of the water. The encounters last from just one minute up to sometimes 20 minutes. It’s a dance among the birds and fish. The “bait ball” of sardines, the Striped Marlin below, and the birds above all work in opposite directions from each other. The sardines run for their life but they are not much of a match for the quantity and skills of the birds up above and the marlin under the water. Both the flying and swimming predators are relentless and work the bait ball till it is consumed. It’s dramatic and exciting, especially when visibility ranges from 80 to 150 feet plus … next year we will come back in December. There will be room for only four people to join in the adventure, to be in the company of the ocean giants like the Striped Marlin.

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10 Best Marlin Facts

Written by Amos Nachoum

My striped marlin adventure is leaving on December 4th, 2010. Want to come along? To get you started, here are the ten best things I know about the striped marlin.

1. You might have seen a marlin on the wall of a sportsman’s lodge and were impressed. I can assure you that the striped marlin is much more impressive in person.

2. Sport fishing is really big in Cabo San Lucas, and marlin are some of the most prized catches. I’ll tell you a secret, though. If you come with me to warm and sunny Todos Santos, a Baja California artist’s colony and surfer’s mecca up the coast from Cabo, you’ll find a special kind of inner peace in a beautiful location. And you get something else: You can scuba dive with a legend of the ocean.

3. Marlin are legendary animals, and not just because Ernest Hemingway wrote about them. The striped marlin we’ll encounter are said to be among the fastest fish in the ocean. I’ve seen them attacking schooling mackerel “bait balls” with their spear-like bills and I can tell you, they’re fast. They can even use their spear as a defensive weapon and to help catch food.

4. If you want to come on my expedition, the timing is critical. First of all, there are only a couple of spots remaining. The people who have signed up know that in December we’re in the peak feeding time for whales, seals and marlin. When the ocean’s that busy – it’s good news for scuba divers. We’ll see some spectacular displays of striped marlin feeding on mackerel, but we’ll also see the intense aquatic competition between the Bryde’s Whale and California Sea Lions. See it once, remember it forever. The photographs you get of this feeding frenzy will be among your most treasured.

5. Our boat is meant for 24 divers, but I like to take just four people on this trip. We can move fast to the best spots for marlin. How do we find them? We watch carefully for birds who are fishing for mackerel. Down below, we’ll find big groups of as many as a dozen striped marlin going after the smaller prey. They’re joined by seals, sea lions and Bryde’s whales up to 40 feet long.

6. It’s likely that you’ll see a lot more striped marlin with me on this trip than if you go anywhere else. Other divers report seeing just two or three, and they have to travel as far as Tonga or Ogasawara, Japan to have the experience.

7. On our adventure, we are there to capture the spirit of the animal, not its life.

8. Little known striped marlin fact: They can change the color of their stripes. When feeding or courting, the stripes on this amazing animal can light up – glowing with a blue or lavender phosphorescence.

9. If you check out Todos Santos on Google Earth and have the new Oceans plug-in, you can get a taste of what it’s like without leaving your desk. I recommend leaving your desk, though. You’ll have an experience on this expedition that you’ll never forget.

10. Did I mention that the timing is critical? December is when it’s all happening. I hope you can join me in this incredible adventure!