Brazil's world-class blue marlin run

Visit "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" to learn more about the show and watch video clips. His show airs January through March, each Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on ESPN2. For more on George Poveromo, visit his Web site.

Would you travel nearly 12 hours to reach a destination where you could easily raise 10 or more blue marlin in a day?

With those kind of odds, friend Bobby Brack and I didn't think twice about packing our big game tackle and jumping on a flight from Miami to Canavieiras, Brazil.

Canavieiras is a quaint, safe, and historic city with a population of around 35,000, in the Brazilian state of Bahia. It boasts several excellent restaurants within walking distance of fishing boats, numerous shops and beautiful palm tree-lined beaches.

Canavieiras is also home to Artmarina Brazil: a sportfishing operation that caters to big game anglers.

Artmarina Brazil features two sportfishing boats, a 30- footer named Coyote I, and a 40-footer named Coyote III — which we fished aboard. Both boats are outfitted with quality tackle and top-notch crews. Our captain, Thiago Felzen, is an experienced and accomplished big game pro who knows these waters extremely well.

We stayed at Artmarina's beachfront guest house. It's a spacious facility comprised of three bedrooms and private bathrooms, satellite television, a wet bar and a friendly staff that serves up breakfast and dinner. Individual units are also on the property, to accommodate larger groups. The operation was recently purchased by a Miami attorney who had fished there regularly and fell in love with both the area and the world-class blue marlin action.

Bobby Brack and I flew American Airlines from Miami to Rio de Janeiro. We then had three hours to switch carriers and board a TAM Airlines flight to Ilheus. At Ilheus, we were greeted by the Artmarina crew and transported by van to the facility. Perhaps it was the excitement of fishing at a world-class marlin destination (both the all tackle world-record blue and white marlin were taken from Brazil), but we weren't all that tired when we checked in for the evening.

Where it all happens

Off Canavieiras, it's about a 15-mile run to reach the edge of the Royal Charlotte Bank. Between September and December, some of the world's largest concentrations of blue marlin migrate along this drop. We've heard the stories of the unreal marlin fishing down here — and Bobby and I were about to find just how incredible it can be.

After a quick breakfast and a 10-minute van ride to the boat, we boarded the Coyote III. The lines were quickly stowed and we idled away from the dock, en route to the pass. It was 5:00 a.m., and the morning sun was shining brightly.
(Credit that to Brazil being so far east, compared with Florida.)

Since there's a very good chance at hooking a blue marlin over 500 pounds here — including one that could push a thousan pounds, we left the "light" tackle home. I brought four Penn International 130 big game reels and matching bent butt Penn rods. Each reel was spooled with 130-pound test Sufix Superior Hi-Vis Yellow line. I also brought along a 70- and 30-International, and a few Penn 20-pound class spinning outfits, for smaller game.

Our lures were mostly big MoldCrafts, with a couple Ilander lures in the mix. Each were rigged to 500-pound test monofilament leader. We would also catch and keep a small, live skipjack tuna rigged and ready to drop back to any billfish that rises on a teaser. All the fighting belts, harnesses and gloves were ready.
Now, the big question was: How long would it be before the first marlin came calling?

The fastest game in town

Bobby and I were down in the cockpit, ready to do battle with a marlin. Captain Thiago was up on the bridge, looking for baits, birds, rips and, of course, blue marlin. We didn't have to wait long, as a blue marlin raced up behind the blue Ilander Sea Star lure, trailing behind an orange Boone Bird. The marlin crashed the lure, and I transferred the rod into the fighting chair.

The blue marlin took an impressive amount of line off the Penn 130 reel before it settled down. Captain Thiago backed down in pursuit of the fish as I cranked on line. It seemed every time we'd get a comfortable amount of line back on the reel, the fish would make another sizzling run and take it back out. This went on for several minutes. Then the marlin dove deep.

Although pumping a marlin up from the depths is quite a chore, I feel much more confident that the hook will stay in the fish during this stage, because the fish is basically finished with its wild runs and acrobatics — and you've a straight, tight line to it.

Some 15 minutes later, the mates aboard the Coyote III wired my marlin, removed the hook and set it free — and it wasn't even 8:00 a.m. yet!

Bobby Brack was next up to bat, when another marlin ate one of our lures. He took the chair and basically went through the same exciting but demanding battle I did with mine. Soon after, we released his marlin as well.

We had hooked four more blue marlin over the next four hours, but somehow pulled the hooks on them. Just about the time we were trying to figure out why we weren't hooking these fish solidly, another marlin pounced on a bait. Bobby transferred the outfit to the fighting chair, and made this one count. Within 20 minutes, he had another marlin release to his credit.

Blue and white together

A very exciting moment occurred when a blue marlin swam into the bait spread, but didn't eat. I immediately dropped back a live skipjack, tethered to my Penn 70 International stand up outfit. The bait was bridled to a 12/0 Gamakatsu Big Eye Circle Hook, which would prevent gut-hooking the marlin. The blue saw the skipjack and lit up like a Christmas tree.

It made two passes at the fish and then ate it in one gulp. I continued to freespool line, to make sure the marlin consumed the bait, and then simply advanced the drag lever to "strike" to plant the circle hook. The big blue took off on a long, wild run, leaping madly the entire way. What a spectacular show!

Just about the time Captain Thiago was set to give chase, a white marlin appeared under the port teaser. Bobby dropped back a bait and hooked the fish. With my marlin running one way, and Bobby's white marlin heading in another direction, Captain Thiago made the decision to catch and release Bobby's fish first.

I just watched as my line kept leaving the reel, well down into the 80-pound Sufix Performance Braid I had spooled onto the reel, before adding a 20-yard top shot of 80-pound test monofilament. Suddenly, my fish quit running.

Bobby got his white marlin to the boat pretty quickly, and it was released.

Captain Thiago then backed down after my blue marlin. I kept reeling as we closed the gap, but the fish wasn't doing anything. When we finally got on top of it, it was deep — and not moving.

(Apparently, the fish must have had a heart attack during its initial run, and died.)

The next 90-minutes were spent pumping the dead weight up from the deep. The fish finally came alongside the boat, completely lifeless. It was a shame, as the circle hook was perfectly lodged in the corner of its jaw. Artmarina Brazil encourages all marlin to be released alive, and frowns upon boating them, which is a good thing. However, in this situation we had no choice.

Captain Thiago ordered the fish to be boated; He would give it to the village, where it would provide food. This marlin, incidentally, was 500 pounds, and was the largest of our trip.

Bobby and I pulled the hooks on a few more blues before calling it a day. Day one was incredible and clearly world-class in terms of blue marlin fishing. We released three blue marlin, boated one blue that had died, and turned free a white marlin. We had over ten blue marlin in our baits that day!

Big game fish bowl

Days Two and Three were just as hot, as we raised unbelievable numbers of blue marlin, in between releasing a sailfish and another white marlin, and running away from a school of 25- to 40-pound class dolphin that had to be at least 200 or so members strong!

Our final tally was an impressive nine blue marlin, two white marlin, one sailfish, several big dolphin, and a few small yellowfin tuna. We saw over 30 blue marlin, and even a huge whale and her calf frolicking at the surface, showing no fear whatsoever of our boat. We just stopped the boat some 100 feet from them, and watched in amazement for about 15 minutes.


Artmarina Brazil
1001 Brickell Bay Drive
Suite 1812
Miami, FL 33131
(305) 373-1995 voice
(305)373-5747 fax

TAM Airlines

If anyone wants to catch blue marlin — big ones, and a whole lot of them — Brazil is about as good as it gets anywhere. And if you want a shot at a grander, they're here, too!

Fortunately, Artmarina Brazil has made it easy for big game anglers to fish here. They have the boats, knowledgeable captains and crews, quality tackle and very nice lodging facilities.

One may raise an eyebrow over the required seat time on a plane to reach Brazil. But when you can raise blue marlin here like you can dolphin on a good day off South Florida — and have a legitimate shot at a 500-plus pound fish — you'd be crazy not to move this destination to the top of your "must fish" list.

Visit "George Poveromo's World of Saltwater Fishing" to learn more about the show and watch video clips. His show airs January through March, each Sunday at 7:30 a.m. on ESPN2. For more on George Poveromo, visit his Web site.