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January 25, 2013

Slam Dunk!

Texas Offers Anglers the Next Big Billfish Battleground

Not so for Holden’s Booby Trap — but more on that later.

April through June constitutes the ­beginning of billfish season, with excellent currents, rips and blue-water lines forming along the continental shelf. As the water warms, the blues, whites and sails begin stacking in greater numbers along the shelf.

Because of the long runs, weather windows pretty much dictate everything here. The winter and spring windows are generally short lived, but summertime can offer lengthy stretches of nice, flat Gulf water, and comfortable fishing and overnighting.

It’s an added bonus that just happens to be during the time the fishery is on fire.

Getting It Done


Capt. Jeff Wilson watches the spread closely, as Booby Trap circles West Cerveza, an excellent blue marlin oil platform. (Mike Mazur)

We caught our marlin and sails on the troll. It was a relatively simple affair. We ran a mix of 30s and 50s in the outriggers, and a pair of 80s on the port and starboard flats. The outrigger lines were rigged with ballyhoo, both naked and outfitted with Ilanders. On the 80s, we pulled Makaira marlin lures.

“I like fishing a mixed spread when the whites, sails and blues are all in one area,” Holden says. “Why not target them all?”

The sails and whites first start showing up south of Holden’s waters and then migrate into the Hilltops as summer kicks in. It’s there that they’re joined by the blues.

Holden loves to live-bait blue marlin around the oil ­platforms with small tunas, rainbow runners and blue runners. But he cautions that this entire area sees radically changing water conditions from day to day because of the Gulf’s Loop Current. It makes fish move quickly and requires that anglers be prepared to fish for any of the various species on any given day with any given technique as well as monitor ocean conditions closely. Holden is a huge proponent of Hilton’s Realtime-Navigator service, and he constantly monitors its charts and maps.

“That’s the great thing about this fishery,” he says. “It’s changing every day, and the more versatile a fisherman you are, the more fun you can have.”

While Texas has never produced a grander blue marlin, Holden says he’s seen two that were in the ballpark. He’s released several in the 600- to 700-pound range and says it’s a great fishery for 400- to 600-pounders, though the average is more like 125 to 350 pounds.

It can also produce numbers. His best day netted seven blues — and he lost three others that same day.
But for as good as the marlin fishing can be, Holden has taken a break from them in the past year. Instead, he’s focused exclusively on broadbill.