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Posted on Feb 4, 2013 in
Q&A: Gary Merriman Recounts His Giant Pacific Blue Marlin and Tarpon Toad Fly
by Mike Mazur
Photo courtesy IGFA
Gary Merriman caught this 1,649-pound Pacific blue marlin in Kona, Hawaii, with Capt. Bart Miller in 1984. While not an official IGFA record, the fish remains the second-largest marlin ever taken on rod and reel.

SF: How often did you marlin fish back then? And where?

GM: I’d take three to four trips a year and fished all over the Bahamas, Mexico, Costa Rica and Venezuela.

SF: What brought you to Kona in 1984? I know they'd had an amazing string of several marlin seasons leading up to that timeframe?

GM: I was actually a guest of the former owner of the Atlanta Falcons, Rankin Smith. He was there for NFL league meetings. 

SF: How was the fishing in general during that trip? Did you catch any other fish?

GM: Overall, it was very slow. We were only able to fish two days -- and only two fish were raised during that time. We caught them both, on lures. The other fish was approximately 250 pounds.

SF: What went through your mind when you first saw the big fish?

GM: I thought, “Oh, my God!” She ate the short-right rigger line, so she was very close to us when we first saw her. She looked like an elephant eating a peanut.

SF: Did she jump at all during the fight?

GM: She tried to but was not able to clear the surface. She spent most of the fight on the surface, until she sounded to approximately 800 feet.

SF: That must have been quite a battle.

GM: It was. We fought her for a little over 3 hours in total. When she sounded, it wasn't too bad because her air bladders were full since she had been on the surface the whole time. But it was an excruciating fight -- we had 90 pounds of drag on her for most of the time on 130-pound-class tackle. The cockpit of the Merritt was full of water, as well, from backing down on her so hard. We had the leader at 1 hour into the fight, and then had it 19 more times before we were able to put a gaff in her. She was so large she would not fit through the marlin door in the back of the boat.

SF: What was it like when you got back to the dock?

GM: There were over 300 people waiting there to see our catch. She made the front page of nine newspapers around the world, and I received a call from Alfred Glassel, who at the time had the largest marlin on record, a 1,560-pound black marlin caught off Peru in the 1950s.

SF: I'm sure it was disappointing that the fish was ultimately not certified by the IGFA. Then again, I’m sure you were proud just the same, no?

GM: I was more disappointed for the fish than I was for myself. I knew I caught it and felt good about it.

SF: Pretty amazing accomplishments -- anything else you'd like to do in your angling lifetime?

GM: I’ve been very lucky to do and see the things that I have in my lifetime. There's nothing that I would change. All I need now is more time on the water!

SF: Amen to that. Thanks for the time today, Gary.

GM: Thanks, Mike.