Some reports stated that a blue marlin landed Sunday is the largest billfish ever caught off Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, weighing an eye-popping 1,213 pounds. Others claimed the behemoth fell short of "grander" status, weighing only 972 pounds on a marina scale.
Whatever the weight of the billfish, it was an extraordinary catch, especially considering that the struggle played out for nearly 28 hours, giving this yarn a Hemingway quality that seems more like fiction than fact.
The angler credited with the catch is Richard Biehl of Traverse City, Michigan, but he had help from the crew aboard the 31-foot yacht, Go Deep, which was plying the Pacific Ocean north of the resort destination on Baja California's tip.
After an offshore marathon that began Saturday morning at 8:20 and ended close to noon Sunday, those aboard the yacht either resembled or felt like very old men of the sea.
"That was the hardest thing I ever did in my life by far," Biehl told Pisces Sportfishing general manager Tracy Ehrenberg, who on Monday evening published the first detailed account of the remarkable episode. "I’ve shot bull moose and trekked out with 200 pounds on my back and it doesn’t even compare."
Nobody knew what was in store when the marlin attacked a trolled lure at what is known as the 95 Spot, and sped toward the horizon. They were targeting much smaller striped marlin and using only 60-pound-test line -- far too light for giant blue marlin.
When the great billfish first jumped, about 400 feet from the boat, the crew guessed its weight to be about 700 pounds.
Word of the catch didn't spread until Monday, when many in town and in the billfishing community considered the catch to be a rumor. Then photos and sparse details began to appear on Facebook. One photo showed the weight at 972 pounds, but that did not tell the story.
Ehrenberg on Monday afternoon interviewed Capt. Luis Abaroa and his crew, and briefly spoke with Biehl. (Efforts to reach Biehl for this story, via cellphone, were unsuccessful.)
Abaroa told Ehrenberg that the marlin registered only 972 pounds because the hook of the electronic scale used to weigh the fish was not high enough for all of the fish to clear the ground, so a time-tested measurement formula -- using length and girth -- was used to determine the 1,213 pounds. The marlin measured 137 inches long, or 11.4 feet, not counting its bill or tail. It was 75 inches, or 6.25 feet around.
Weight records for marlin caught off Cabo San Lucas are not kept officially, but an 1,111-pounder caught in the 1980s is believed to be the heaviest.
More recently, in this era of high-speed reels and other technological advancements, overnight struggles with giant billfish have become increasingly rare.
Biehl, bemoaning the use of light line, fought the giant blue marlin by himself until about sunset, then relinquished the rod to a deckhand. By then food and water had been exhausted and another vessel captained by Abaroa's brother, Frankie, was summoned via radio to deliver supplies.
The marlin leaped again, closer to the boat, as darkness fell. The weight estimate was revised upward to between 800-1,000 pounds.
A long night was fitful because to keep the line from breaking the captain and crew had to keep just enough pressure on the marlin, and constant maneuvering of the boat was necessary.
At sunrise a rejuvenated Biehl reclaimed the rod and resumed the fight. With the line and leader weakening, the crew aboard the other boat had devised a snag rig and managed to setting more hooks into the cheek of the wearying marlin.
Finally, the billfish tired and was brought alonside the boat, and according to Ehrenberg, Biehl chose to have it gaffed and brought to port. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime fish. I want to take him," he said.
Surprisingly, Biehl went fishing again Monday and caught and released a striped marlin, before himself succumbing to all he had been through by coming down with a bout of seasickness.
-- Images of giant marlin are courtesy of Go Deep Sportfishing. Top image shows angler Richard Biehl (holding rod) next to his prize catch. Click here to visit Go Deep's Facebook page