In 12 years of vacationing in Mazatlan, Mexico, Brainerd Mayor James E. Wallin had tried deep sea fishing just once.
This year he decided to give it another try.
Now Wallin said he will book a charter boat on his next vacation, and no wonder why.
On Feb. 22 Wallin was fishing with two other Brainerd residents, Joe and Dana Hegarty, on a boat from Bill Heimpel's Star Fleet about 25 miles off the coast of Mazatlan. For the first couple hours the trio caught nothing. They were the only boat out that windy morning, Wallin said.
At 9:34 a.m., Wallin got a strike. The line screamed from his big saltwater reel. When half the spool was gone, Wallin shouted at the captain that he was losing the battle. The captain put the boat in reverse, but the fish kept heading the other way. Soon an estimated 700-800 yards of line was out and the spool was almost spent.
"I couldn't pull it in," Wallin said of the monster fish. "It would've run all the line out if the captain hadn't reversed the engine. I was going to tighten the drag, but the first mate shouted, 'No, no, line break, line break!' "
The captain kept the boat in reverse as Wallin slowly gained line on the fish. It never came near the surface. Nobody knew what he had hooked.
An hour and 45 minutes later, Wallin and the crew got its first glimpse -- a huge marlin! Wallin had never hooked a marlin before. His biggest fish to that point was a 78-pound blue shark he caught on his first saltwater fishing trip three years ago.
It now was 11:30 a.m. Wallin got the fish near the boat and the first mate said, "Need bigger gaff!" He reached into a storage bin and brought forth a hefty pole with a big hook. When he gaffed the fish it took three people to haul it on board. It was a striped marlin.
"The captain said, 'Never so big fish in my boat,' " Wallin said.
Back at the docks, the marlin tipped the scales at 215 pounds -- the second largest striped marlin in the 50-year history of Bill Heimpel's fleet. The biggest weighed 220 pounds.
"He said a big striped marlin these days is 140 to 160 pounds, so this one was huge," Wallin said.
According the International Game Fish Association, the official keeper of fish records, the biggest striped marlin caught by an angler weighed 494 pounds. It was caught off New Zealand in 1986. The IGFA also has line-class records for fish caught on specific pound-test lines. Amazingly, an angler once landed a 218 pound striped marlin on 4-pound test line.
Wallin donated his marlin to a local orphanage, bringing home only a few photos and a great story.
"I was just happy to get a nice fish," he said.
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