World Records for Black Marlin

Brad Neilson
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Current World Record: The story of Brad Neilson's Black marlin—263.9 kilograms (581 pounds), Lighthouse Reef, Mapelane, South Africa, May 29, 1999

I was spearfishing at Lighthouse Reef, Mapelane, on the East Coast of South Africa May 29, 1999. My buddies were Jimmy Uys (Jimmy held the previous record) and Koos Jordaan with Frans Botes as topmnan. We were diving from Jimmy's boat and the visibility was about 6 meters.
On our third drift, Jimmy shouted for help--a Zambezi Shark was attacking a fish he'd just speared. While I was swimming toward him, he shouted again saying he thought there was a marlin below him, apparently also attacking his speared mackerel.
Apprehensively, I dived down and saw a huge marlin tackling Jimmy's fish. The marlin turned to face me and then swam off. I gave chase, waiting for lit to give me a clear shot. When it finally gave be a broadside, I speared it just behind the left gill plate. My spear did not exit on the other side. I let go my gun, playing our my buoyline. When most of my line was out, I wrapped some around my forearm.
The fish dragged me in  huge circles, for over 2 hours, but I managed to keep it in relatively shallow water. I was dragged about 5 km with Jimmy and Frans following in the boat. By this time I didn't have much strength left. I just couldn't seem to be able to haul the fish to the surface. The fish had swum almost into the surfline when I called for a second gun, which Jimmy threw to me from a safe distance--he was nervous to bring his boat into the surf.!
I hardly had enough energy to load this gun, but finally managed. I tried to place the second shot into the head, but I was too exhausted to swim up as far as the head, as the fish was still swimming strongly. Eventually, I placed the shot into the back. This took most of the fight out of the fish. I rested a bit and then after hauling the fish to the surface, swam it out of the surfline into safer water. In the process of finishing the marlin off with my dive knife, it managed to whack me on the shoulder with its bill.
We had to wait about 30 minutes for Koos to swim to the boat--the others had left him behind to follow me. Between the four of us, we eventually managed to haul the fish aboard using a series of ropes as the boat listed dangerously.
On the way back, the boat continued to list badly. As we approached the surf through the breakers (all boats in South Africa are launched through the surf), Jimmy lost his footing and was thrown off--we beached skipperless!
We weighed the marlin at my club where a large crowd had gathered.


Jimmy Uys
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Previous Record: The story of Jimmy Uys's Black marlin—242 kilograms (533 pounds) as told to Terry Maas

Jimmy Uys has the distinction of holding the world record for the largest bluewater gamefish taken while spearfishing—a 242-kilogram (533-pound) black marlin that he nabbed in May 1988. A chemical engineer and competitive diver, Jimmy moved to Durban, South Africa, to "shoot some decent fish."

Jimmy recalls being chastened a year before his record catch by a fellow diver for not spearing a near-dead marlin that had escaped from a long-line boat. Jimmy retorted, "Relax. One day I will shoot my own big marlin." Spoken in jest, Jimmy’s words proved prophetic.

Almost a year later to the day, Jimmy and two diving buddies found themselves looking at a wall-mounted 100-pound black marlin while they waited in line to pay for their Zululand campsite. A lively discussion ensued among the three divers about the exact location for a kill shot. One of Jimmy’s friends, a marine biologist, identified the lateral line just behind the gill plate as the best spot. Jokingly, Jimmy said,"OK, I’ll shoot one today." Everyone laughed.

Signed in, the divers rushed for the beach, launched their boat and headed for the north end of Nine Mile Reef, where they anchored in windy conditions. The water was incredibly clear, the clearest any of them had seen—50 meters visibility. Jimmy recalls:

After relaxing, I made my first dive to 70 feet. Spiraling upwards, I was looking for ‘cuda.’ About 20 feet from the surface, I spotted a dark looming shape backlit by the sun; its long protruding pectoral fins suggested a great white shark. I froze. The fish turned and I recognized it as a marlin. Hundreds of thoughts entered my mind as I acted instinctively, almost in a trance.

I slowly pulled my gun underneath me because of the local belief that fish stay a certain distance from the tip of your gun. The giant fish shone coppery bronze as it passed me at 4 meters. Its large blue eye rolled backwards as it moved, and suddenly I realized I must shoot or lose my chance. In one sleek move, I aimed my gun with two hands, like a rifle, at the exact spot we’d marked on the mounted marlin hours before.

The spear thudded home precisely, stunning the fish. To my despair I saw my spear had penetrated just 8 cm, leaving my barb exposed and unengaged. I grabbed my spearline intending to at least recover my untoggled spear when the fish took off. Nothing happened. Looking closer, I realized that the fish was slack-jawed with blood pouring from its mouth. Slowly the fish toppled over and than sank to the bottom like a stone.

According to Jimmy, the most exhausting part of the battle was hoisting the dead marlin into the inflatable boat.


Notable catch a 240kg Black marlin by Tim Sluis

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This is the account of my black marlin.My name is Tim Sluis. On Saturday 5/5/2007 i was diving off Aliwal Shoal,Natal South Africa. I have a 14ft inflatable and was diving with 2 buddies,Alister and Garret. This is the account of my black marlin, 240kg. it is a little off the world record of 264kg, although it all but equels the previous world record of 242kg. Please consider it for a meritous fish award. I was diving with Alistair Louw and Garett Staats off my boat (a 4.8m duck with 2x 30HP motors). We launched early through the Umkomaas river and headed straight for the Shoal. Vis was about 15 to 20 meters, a bit patchy with Saicor pulling in on the tide. The current was reversed which is not good for the area. A few drifts on the North East pinnacle with the sunrise revealed nothing, so we cruised south to Deep Scottbugh to a mark that usually produces couta on the South - North current. Again no fish but the vis was a bit better, about twenty metres. A fishing boat was bending with a couta they had picked it up off the bottom in about 37m of water, which they said almost got taxed next to the boat. We decided to try another , deeper line and thought the vis was clean enough to chum, trying to raise the fish off the bottom were they seemed to have holed up. Al and I were on the first drift. The area is known for having some big sharks, tigers and zambies, and sure enough within about 15 minutes we had our first visitor. A 3.5+ meter tiger came out of the blue, drawn to the smell of sardines and neoprene. He came in from my right side while I was on the surface, so i saw him early. Al was on the left of me, facing away and breathing up to dive. He descended as the shark came in and didn't see it as it followed him down inquisitively. I was on the surface watching in amasement as Al hovered in mid water and started shaking the chum bag at the end of his flasher, with the shark sitting over his shoulder. He still hadn't seen it. I was a little worried with the shark so close, that Al might get a fright, make a sudden movement, and convince the shark that he was a prey species. By now I had a power head on and was breathing up, when i saw Al turn slowly toward the tiger. It was stationary about a meter and a half off on his right, watching him intently. From above it was obvious the moment he saw it. But full credit to Al , who composed himself quickly and calmly stared the shark down, not moving away. It turned, circled him once and then came onto my flasher. Only after it had moved away did Al slowly ascend. The tiger circled us a few times and then suddeny was gone. It was amazing to see such a beautiful animal up close, but i was glad he left without an incident. Still no fish. The water was looking better though, and we headed further south to a good mark, a pinnacle that comes off the bottom of 31m to plateau at 22m. This area is known by the commercial boats to produce good couta catches but there were none to be found. We didn't even manage any bottoms. Heading back to our first mark we saw a chase on the surface, probably a saily and started talking about how these looked like billfish conditions. We even talked about marlin, Garret landed a nice Black marlin of 98.4kg earlier this year, and in my mind i wondered where i would place my shot. Who would have guessed. A few drifts along the ledge in water ranging from 22m to 26m and still no fish to be seen, despite the increase in baitfish action and the ever present garfish were looking pretty skittish. A school of bonnies came through so i took one and then on my next dive dropped a small kaakop on the bottom. Again it was Al and i in the water and Garret in the boat. I made a dive and was sitting a little up off the bottom, around 20-22m,hoping for another chance at a bottom when i saw movement out the corner of my eye. Turning, i could make out a large shape coming toward me and my first thought was that it was the tiger comming in again. The shape grew larger and clearer and it was obviously not a tiger shark, they are very square in the face, and this was more pointed, but it was swimming straight in and the vis was about 15m on the bottom. My next thought was a hammerhead, and i put up my gun to poke it off if it came in too close. By the time i realised it was a marlin it was about 3m away and was stopped, staring straight at me. I was using my Rob Allan 1300 Tuna Railgun, it has 2x 16mm rubbers and a 7.5mm spear, factory sharp. And i was lined up directly on the marlin. I initially didn't realise how big it was because i hadn't seen it side on, and i thought it was closer than it was (in fact i thought it was going to swim into me!). My next thought was that if i shoot it in the face its going to charge me and i'm going to be impaled on either the back end of my spear, its bill or more likely on both. So there we were, staring at each other, a type of mexican stand off. Spear vs spear. It was probably no more than 15 seconds from when i first saw the fish but it felt like forever waiting for him to turn. It was opening and closing its mouth. i will have that picture burned into my mind forever. And then i commited: when it turns,i thought, i'll put a shot behind the gills on the lateral line, and if i lose my rig in a blaze of glory so be it. Then it turned and i stretched out my gun and squeezed the trigger. The spear connected with a thud unlike any i have heard and i saw it was good. The fish stared at me with these intense blue eyes and I let go my gun, expecting it to take off. Instead it rolled. I had stoned a marlin. I reached the surface with my heart pounding. i was still expecting to see my float disappear into the distance but it never did. A marlin. Rolled. how big is it Al asked me, a hundred? I don't know. Two hundred? I don't know. I'd never seen a marlin before, had no frame of refferance. But it was big and it had settled on the bottom off the ledge in 31 meters. My heart racing i took Al's gun and tried to dive for a second shot, fearing that some how it would come back to life and disappear. I made it down to about 5m before i had to turn, gasping to the surface. Calm down bru. Breath up, try again. I didn't want any one to help me, even though the fish was dead, i didn't want to loose out on a potential record. i took Al's gun again and and dived. I made it closer on the second attempt, first i saw my gun, then in the distance a huge fish lying on the sand. I kicked on down, but knew i would't make it. I couldn't reach 31m on my best dive, especially not with my heart pounding in my chest. Getting desperate i reached out and fired, the spear fell short by at least 2m. I made it back to the surface gasping. I was being reckless in a very dangerous situation. I wasn't relaxed and i was trying too hard. But i didn't want any help. We decided to try lift the fish off the bottom on the first spear (it looked like a good shot). It took all 3 of us to get the fish up and i dived down to put a securing shot in mid water. For the first time i was able to see how big it was.I could'nt get my arms around it. It wouldn't't fit in the boat, and there was no way we were able to lift it anyway. We secured it to the side and started a long trek (about 7km!) back to shore, the boat listing like a drunken sailor. Now the worry was how on earth do we come back through the surf. We thought of swimming it in (ja right...) Thanks to Basie Ackerman who came out in a superduck to help us get the fish in. It took five guys to get it into the boat. Weighed at the traffic weigh bridge - 240kg!



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Current World Record For Women: The story of Nikki Watt's Black marlin—154.9 kilograms (334.5 pounds), Tathra, NSW Australia, April  2, 2017

By Nikki Watt
The conditions were cloudy, windy, and undesirable to say the least. Apart from that, we weren’t off to a good start; our alarm clocks were out by an hour thanks to an automatic time change on the iPhone, and the end of daylight savings in New South Wales. By the time we made it to the boat ramp, first light was well and truly up as we launched ‘the Predator’, captained by Ryan Pauline.

The rolling seas didn’t make the search easy, but by midday we found the bait ball, approximately 18 miles out to sea in 100m of water. It was so rough that we couldn’t trust the bird life to point us in the right direction, only the keen eyes of our skipper. The bubbling surface and the shadow of a seal a few metres below got our hearts racing… and there she was. A large black marlin had begun to take interest in the ball full of slimey mackerel. Time to grab the gear.

I had a combination float line setup. A 30m bungee rig line (with stretch of 3:1), and a 30m solid rig line. The benefit of this setup was that it allowed the fish to run and fight the bungee with a softer resistance, as well as allowed me to hold onto the float without too much opposing force. At full stretch my bungee component could go as long as 90m, so at max length (90m + 30m) the rig line set up could be as long as 120m. It could also take some of the hard work out of fighting such a fish; it could constantly fight against a bungee, instead of me! Obviously such a large fish would still run and pull me around on the surface however...

As I waited patiently to jump in with gear at the ready, Ryan positioned me up wind of the swell. Bryson Sheehy, my dive buddy, was seated at the stern with camera in hand, whilst deck hand Rod Skinner kept my float line set. It was go time. Bryson jumped in seconds before I did, and begun to film the ball. I jumped in, checked my slip tip was secure, and had about five seconds to take a breath, duck dive, and level out in time to take a shot. I was only a few metres deep when I took my last kick towards the fish, just in time for it to turn broad side and give me a good opportunity to pull the trigger. I was able to manoeuvre my inverted roller spear gun around so quick, thankfully, due to its short length and light weight.

The spear entered the fish right behind the pectoral fin; at this stage I wasn’t sure how far through the slip tip had engaged. The fish took off past the ball and seal, completely out of sight within moments. After I shot the marlin, I clipped off the gun to my Tommy Botha float. Because of the stretch in the rubber, I knew that as soon as I fired the shot I had to grab the float (and hold on), and could do, without tearing the fish.

The fish ran hard in a downwards direction at first, and then subsided slightly. Each time the pressure lessened, I shortened the rig line through the one-way cleat system on the board. The fish constantly ran and subsided less and less for most of the 50 minutes, until it just swam in slow circles at 15m deep. This is when I knew it was time for a kill shot.

From my experience with blue water spearfishing, I knew that if I could spend extra time waiting for the fish to die, given there were no other hazards around (like sharks), I could have less of a battle to deal with on the surface.

I had been fighting the marlin for a while, so by this stage it had all but died. After the gun was passed to me from the boat, I loaded it in the water. I still wanted to take the second shot so I could be sure not to get tangled or impaled on the surface. I was pretty confident my first shot was secure, so I took a gamble on that it wouldn't run whilst loading the second gun or taking the shot, and it didn't.

I made the decent to 15m, and put a clean shot in the fish’s brain. It was then I noticed the first securing shot had toggled neatly all the way through the fish! It had also swam in so many circles that it had pig-tailed the cable on my slip tip! As I returned to the surface, I took a big breath and started to pull it up on the reel gun line. For every pull, I’d sink just as far! I had to adapt my style quickly if I was going to get this fish up.

I had to forcibly kick hard in an upwards direction each time I wanted to make ground on that dead weight, as I would sink with it on each upwards pull otherwise. By clipping the butt end of my second gun to the float, and by shortening & locking off of the reel line after each pull, my float helped keep my ground as well. By using the float for the second gun, I also avoided getting tangled in the reel line had the fish run again. I found it much easier to use the reel line to pull the fish up, as compared to the stretchy line on my original rig. At no stage did the Tommy Botha float dive under the surface, due to the stretch in the bungee and possibly the shot placement.

After I got it to the surface, my anxiety faded and excitement grew; I’d landed THE fish of a lifetime. I gazed upon it’s luminescent skin, the number of parasites over it’s body, and felt the roughness of it’s bill, even through my gloves. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was so big I needed to use my entire body to pull it around, and swim it to the boat.

It had a very fatty flesh in the stomach so I couldn't actually get it the right way up in the water (as you can see from the underwater photo), but I think it may have helped keep it on the surface.

In no time Ryan and Bryson had alerted me to my surrounds – we had company. A firm notation to get in the boat meant I had to be hasty. We quickly got in as Ryan told us the size of the great white shark he spotted from aboard, and we unanimously thanked our lucky stars we didn’t lock eyes with it in the water.

It took all four of us to get it over the side of the boat, as there was no way it was going to fit through the door! I guess it can be hard to imagine how it got in, but it is also surprising at the same time what adrenaline and the excitement of witnessing such a catch can do for a one's strength!

Shortly after every ounce of effort was exerted to get it in the boat, we celebrated the catch with a round of beers. Safe to say I was, and still am, over the moon. A day I will never forget!

Nikki Watt is the first Australian woman to land a billfish by spear in Australian waters, and the first woman in the world to land a Black Marlin, according to the record books. It is also the current national women’s Black Marlin record in Australia and has superseded legendary spearfisherman Ian Puckeridge’s long standing Open State New South Wales record by 4.9kg. It is also the largest ever fish speared by an Australian woman to date.