Creature Feature: Striped Marlin

striped marlinStriped marlin range statewide off California, but are most common south of Point Conception. They may be found throughout the warm, tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. Striped marlin usually appear off the California coast in July, and remain through October.

Distinguishing Characteristics

  • Dark blue above, silver below
  • 15 to 25 light blue bars or vertical rows of spots on sides
  • Body elongate and scaled
  • Upper jaw extended, forming a rounded spear
  • Dorsal fin height equal to or greater than body depth
  • Pelvic fins present
  • Two keels on root of tail

Life History & Other Notes
Striped marlin mostly feed on fishes, with squid, crabs, and shrimp making up a smaller portion of their diet.

This fish uses its spear as both a defensive weapon and an aid in capturing food. The striped marlin sometimes stuns its prey by slashing sideways with its spear rather than impaling the prey. Wooden boats have been rammed by billfish such as the striped marlin.

Off California, marlin are reserved as a sport-only fish (no commercial fishery exists). Most striped marlin are taken by trolling artificial lures in areas this fish is known to inhabit. Marlin swimming along the surface will strike at a lure trolled past the fish. Live bait also works well, but requires more effort since the fish must usually be spotted visually first in order to present the bait. Strikes generally result from properly presented live bait.

Striped Marlin Quick Facts:

Scientific Name: Tetrapturus audax

Other Common Names: striper, Pacific marlin

Range & Habitat: Statewide, but usually south of Point Conception

Length & Weight: To 13+ ft. and 350 lb.

Diet & Suggested Bait/Lures: Feeds on fishes, squid, crabs, and shrimp. Try trolling an artificial lure or use live bait.

Excerpt from the California Finfish and Shellfish Identification Book.

Single copies of the book are available to California residents free of charge by emailing a request to