Sixteen-year-old, Birmingham, Alabama angler, Colby Blackwell set the kayak fishing world on its ear last year when he released a Pacific blue marlin estimated to weigh 250 pounds.
No doubt the catch was great, but young people taking risks for fun has some people concerned. To clear the air, Blackwell sets the record straight on the fish and the fight.
Who is Colby Blackwell?
Colby Blackwell spends most of his time going to high school and playing basketball. At 10 years old, Blackwell caught a cobia in his Hobie Tandem Mirage Outfitter. Since then, he’s been on a tear catching bigger fish in wilder locations. His accomplishments include sailfish, tarpon, roosterfish and yellowfin tuna.
Blackwell admits he’s drawn to the extreme thrills of kayak fishing then adds, “I have to be a problem solver.” The young angler’s problem-solving skills have gained the attention of the Internet, encouraging Blackwell to push the boundaries. Still, he insists he’s not in it for records, “I just love to fish purely for the fun.”
What is a Pacific blue marlin?
Pacific blue marlin swim the temperate seas from Hawaii to Australia to Central and South America. An average catch is upwards of 300 pounds with the World Record besting 1,376 pounds. Females can be four-times larger than males and the fish can live to be 30 years old.
Unlike most fish, blue marlin can warm their blood to hunt at extreme depths of 1,000 feet. Blackwell was impressed, “Blue marlin are beautiful, powerful, majestic, radiating a blue aura and are huge,” he laughs.
Where was he fishing?
Even though blue marlin are usually solitary predators with a range covering half the world, a series of buoys called fish aggregating devices (FAD) anchored 75 to 100 miles off Costa Rica hold large numbers of blue marlin. Slow trolling live tuna around the buoys, anglers can score dozens of blue marlin in a day.
The location allowed Blackwell his best shot at catching a blue marlin in the kayak. The team fished out of Fishhook Marina in Golfito, Costa Rica aboard the local charter boat Thumper with long-time guides Jesse Males and Micah Baly from 506 Outdoors and Backwater Fly Fishing.
When did he catch?
Summer is prime season for blue marlin on the Costa Rican FADs. Cody Blackwell and his family left Alabama for Golfito on July 22. Landing first in Panama, the team took a twin-engine plane to the small town of David. An hour-and-a-half taxi ride carried them to the Costa Rica border where they went through customs and hopped another taxi to ride 45 minutes to Golf ito.
The next day, the crew loaded kayaks and gear on the 61-foot Thumper and pushed off at 8 p.m. for the 18-hour run to the first FAD. The next morning Blackwell stepped out on the deck surrounded by hundreds of miles of ocean. “It doesn’t get better than that,” he exclaims.
Why does this young angler target the world’s largest species?
For an angler pushing the limits, targeting the world’s largest species would be a logical progression. However, when the angler is a teenager, some people might question the logic. “Safety was a priority,” Blackwell insists. Starting with the most experienced guides and crew, the team went over every detail of the operation. Guides Males and Baley accompanied Blackwell in a tandem kayak. “They were with me the whole time,” he says.
How did Blackwell catch this massive blue marlin?
After launching the kayaks, Blackwell pedaled around the FAD pulling a live bonita. An hour passed before Blackwell says, “All around chaos came upon us.” A blue marlin took the bait and exploded into a series of jumps and leaps. “With every jump my heart skipped a beat.” Then the fish took the fight deep. “My rod was bent double.” For the next two hours, Blackwell and the marlin went back and forth.
Blackwell remembers seeing the fish up close. “It looked like a scene from a movie.” The whole team freaked out when the 10-foot-long fish charged the support kayak. “Luckily Micah popped it on the head with the camera housing and it swam down,” Blackwell says. On the next pass, Blackwell grabbed the marlin’s bill. “We all screamed,” he recalls. Blackwell cut the line and revived the huge blue, gold and silver fish before releasing it. “Watching it swim away was bittersweet, so much effort and it was over too soon.”
This marlin met his match | Featured photo: Colby Blackwell