On Saturday, September 24, 2011, Richard Biehl (in the sweat-soaked orange shirt) hooked what's being considered by locals as the largest blue marlin ever landed in Mexico's Cabo San Lucas, while chartering aboard the "Go Deep". Thirty hours later, after a marathon 27-½ hour battle on 60-pound-test line, the fish was in the marina and attempts to weigh the behemoth began. But the 176-inch (137 inches not counting the tail and bill, with a girth of 75 inches) had to be given an estimated weight of 1,213 pounds after it was found to be too lengthy for the scale. While the fish spurred both curiosity and commemoration amongst locals after news of the catch circulated, it also gave Biehl's wife quite a scare. Because the group was out of communication for so long, she was mere minutes away from filing a missing person report with the local Mexican government before finding out her husband wasn't truly missing, but fighting the fish of a lifetime. However, the anglers and crew did begin running out of food and water. Here's the story of this amazing battle, and the catch it yielded.
Biehl decided to begin the trip a day earlier than scheduled, since the weather forecast was calling for thunderstorms in the later part of his trip. Scheduling allowed the captain, Lois Abaroa, to move their three consecutive days of fishing forward. Biehl had originally booked his trip on another boat with captain Manual Gastelum. His boat was out of commission, so he was serving as first mate on the 31-foot Black Fin named “Go Deep” the group ended up taking, captained by Lois Abaroa. The switch caused some confusion later on when reports of the catch began coming in. When Abaroa heard his clients wanted to try for marlin, he headed straight out–30 miles off shore–while the other charter boats veered north and south out of the harbor for tuna, stripers and Dorado. Biehl and his friend, Tom Miller, figured they would save those for the two other days of their trip. Once off plane, Gastelum set a rod up in the right outrigger, while Biehl rigged the left one.
At 8:20 a.m. the rod off the right outrigger went off, and with Gastelum hollering “Get in the chair!” Biehl settled in and strapped the rod onto his harness. As the fish ripped line, Biehl set the hook with a steady pull of the rod. The fish continued to strip line from the reel for 2-1/2 hours, until they got their first glimpse of it when it jumped about 450 feet behind the boat. From this distance, they estimated the marlin to be about 600 to 700 pounds. They caught up to the fish at one point, but it ran yet again and it wouldn’t be seen again for five hours.
Here you see Richard sweating profusely, several hours after hooking up with the monstrous marlin. At that point there was no food or bottled water left on board, and the crew was rationing out what little water could be siphoned from a cooler with slowly melting ice. And, unbeknownst to them, the Go Deep had been out of cell phone range for quite some time. This caused everyone’s phones to continuously roam for signals, draining the batteries dry. In desperation, the captain was able to reach his brother on the “Go Deeper” through the static of his boat’s radio. The other boat arrived at about nine p.m., and their first mate jumped aboard with a gallon of water and a small coffee cake. At about the same time the marlin jumped again, and the fish’s estimated weight rose to 800-pounds.
Just before dark the fish jumped a final time–closer to the boat–and Captain Abaroa started yelling, “Grander! Grander!” indicating they now realized this fish was over 1,000 pounds. “Gastelum then told me ‘Some of the best anglers in the world would give anything to be in your shoes right now,'” says Biehl. By now Biehl was badly dehydrated and sunburned. His lips and hands were blistered after wearing out one pair of gloves and changing into another. “I was spent. At about nine p.m., Tom tried reeling it in for a while, but the reel was not a level wind and the angler has to move the line back and forth over the spool with their thumb. It was too awkward for him.” Exhausted after nearly 13 hours of fighting the fish, Biehl handed the rod over to the first mate of the other boat at 9:40. He held tight all night, until 5:30 a.m. when Biehl took over again.
When fighting such a huge fish, it’s not just the angler who can make the wrong move and lose it, but the crew as well. The boat was shifted in and out of gear while running the entire 27.5 hours by Abaroa and Gastelum. Overall, the fish took the “Go Deep” on a 47-mile journey during the chase.
Meanwhile, Biehl and Miller’s wives, seen here two days after the ordeal, were trying to figure out what to do as the charter was at least 12 hours overdue. Finding help wasn’t easy. The staff of the resort they were staying at would not look into the matter since the charter was not booked through them. Just before going to Mexican authorities, they were talked out of filing a missing person report by one of the resort’s employees who was going off duty and was willing to help. Together they went down to the marina and after 2-1/2 hours there–which included perusing Biehl’s Facebook account and finding out they were on a different boat than the wives thought–they figured out their husbands hadn’t returned because they were fighting a big fish. “It had better be a record fish,” Biehl’s wife said out loud. “Oh, the heck they put us through…”
Photo courtesy of Chris Vincent At 9 a.m. on the 25th, with the fish finally near the boat and worried the 60-pound-test monofilament was weak and would soon snap, Gastelum rigged another rod with four treble hooks and a heavy sinker. He tossed the arrangement overboard and hooked the marlin just an inch from its mouth. Now, as a team, two would lift the rods in unison with the captain grabbing the line, preventing more from going out. The fish was too big to use a club, so it had to be gaffed instead. At 12:10 p.m., the huge fish was secured to the boat with three gaffs tied to one rope. The battle was finally over. The longest fight aboard the “Go Deep” before this 27.5 hour ordeal was 7 hours.
The boat rocked fiercely as they secured the fish to it. “This was the first real look I got at it. It was amazing,” says Biehl, “I can’t explain just how hard fighting this fish was.”
The blue marlin was so long the crew couldn’t get the whole thing in the boat. They motored back to port with 1/3 of the fish’s body out the back door.
The marlin mowed this number-5 Zuker Guacamaya (orange, green and yellow) lure held here by Captain Abaroa, which was tied to a 30-foot leader of 300 pound-test monofilament.
Here is Captain Abaroa holding the Shimano 50 filled with 60-pound-test monofilament, coupled to a 6-1/2 foot custom-built Melton International with roller guides.
In this photo you see the “Go Deep” backing into the dock, being careful not to mangle the marlin’s tail before it was taken out and weighed.
With the boat in the slip, it took several men to pull the fish onto the dock.
The mammoth marlin was gaffed again for leverage so eight men could get a good enough hold to pull the fish onto the dock.
With the ordeal now complete, Biehl and Miller finish with a high-five.
By now, the word has spread and a crowd gathers for the weigh-in.
Here you see the big blue rigged with a heavy rope, being pulled to the scale.
In this photo the marlins tail’s been rigged with a rope, which is hooked to the scale and is being lifted. But the work’s not done yet.
Because the fish was so long its bill was touching the ground, rendering a true reading from the scale ineffective. The rope between the scale’s lower pulley and clasp was removed, which allowed the fish’s bill to just come up off the pavement. But after this, the scale could not be zeroed in. Phone calls were made to several organizations throughout Mexico and the U.S. with the measurement for correct calculations of the marlin’s weight.
Photo courtesy of Richard Biehl This photo was snapped soon after it was realized this was the largest blue marlin ever landed off these shores.
Photo courtesy of Richard Biehl Biehl was grateful to land the fish, to say the least. “Because of its massive weight, even something as simple as the fish dying during the fight, and it would have sunk to the bottom and we would never have been able to reel it in on such light line,” he says. Although Biehl is an advocate of catch and release, this fish was cut up and shared by the locals of Cabo, San Lucas. He was told later by residents as they saw him around town during the rest of his trip how grateful they were. A replica of this Cabo record marlin is being made by Global Fish Mounts out of Pompano, Florida. The largest marlin reproduction made just so happens to be the exact same size as Biehl’s fish.