Fred Talmage of Pacific Palisades presumably suffered a heart attack while a lone crewman struggled to help the overweight fisherman back into the 22-foot panga.
The incident occurred nine miles offshore and just beyond Gordo Banks, a popular fishing spot about 40 miles north of Cabo San Lucas on Baja California's tip, in the Sea of Cortez.
Talmage, who was in his mid-60s, was fishing out of Gordo Banks Pangas and had reeled in a dorado (mahi-mahi) before hooking the marlin.
The sea was calm and Talmage was sitting in a stationary boat while fighting the billfish.
Eric Brictson, who runs the charter business, said that Talmage began to slip over the rail while adjusting his seating position.
"The skipper grabbed onto the elastic waistband of his shorts, but could not keep him from slipping the rest of the way into the water," Brictson stated, via email. "When Fred went into the water he did swallow some saltwater, but otherwise appeared okay, passing the rod back to the skipper, who simply slipped it into the nearest pole holder.
"Then the skipper passed the throw ring and strapped a life vest onto Fred as he held firmly on to the panga railing. Fred is very large man, approximately 280 pounds. He had mentioned health problems, diabetes, being overweight, and he did not have much upper body strength."
The panga skipper could not lift Talmage back onto the boat so he phoned for help on his VHF radio.
However, Talmage "suddenly became very week and slumped into unconsciousness."
Others arrived within 20 minutes of the call but efforts to revive the angler--both on the boat and back at Puerto Los Cabos Marina--were unsuccessful.
Brictson described this as a "freak situation" and added that it was the first fatality aboard one of his boats out of 20,000 charters.