BLUEFIN BY HARPOON: It’s a Maine thing

by Captain Corky Decker

There are only two places in the world where this fishery even exists, and only a handful of fishermen alive are really professionals. There is only one place I know of where they have legendry harpooners; a small East coast harbor that has been the home for generations of the best harpooners in the world, Perkins Cove in Ogunquit Maine.

Back in the 1950’s Carl McIntyre moved from Small Point to Ogunquit Maine. Carl was a lobsterman, and in the summers Carl and his boy, Sonny, chased bluefin. The McIntyre’s brought with them the ‘Down East’ trade of harpooning bluefin. In the first years they brought in so many tuna that they put this small harbor on the map. Back then the fish were not worth much, sometimes sold in Boston as cat food. It wasn’t even in the same universe compared to the value of a fish today. Not many people harpooned bluefin back then because there wasn’t much money in it. It was a passion, and it was fun, a lot of fun! Some of my earliest memories of the late 60’s were standing with my dad, ankle deep in slime and blood watching the fish being offloaded.

One at a time they were stacked up on the dock. In Sonny’s generation there were the Cardios, Brazier’s, Perkins, Forbes, and Weiners. Down East, long time fishing families had sons now taking notice of this new fishery. By the early 1960’s all the lobster boats had pulpits, some of the boats even had masts, and others had some kind of steering rigged on the roof. Ogunquit was put on the map as hundreds of fish were delivered over the old bait dock. In the 1970’s when I was old enough to get involved, the ‘Cove Guy’s’ were known as the best. The Cove boats would be wherever the fish were the thickest, down in Cape Cod off the beaches of Barnstable, or up state Maine with the old guys from South Point. The fishery was in a new age, the fish were now worth something, and becoming more valuable every summer. We caught fish all summer long, living like nomads, traveling up and down the coast living on small lobster hulls rigged up for harpoon season. When I moved to Alaska in the early 80’s, I left this fishery behind, keeping an eye on the boats and names though word of mouth from some of the Mainers who also fished in the Bering Sea.

While researching my book ‘A Hard Way to Get An Easy Living’, I started really paying attention to what was going on in the fishery again. 2011 was a wicked year, the now third generation Wieners, Forbes McIntyre sons were having an incredible summer racking up huge sales to Japan. There were a few new names from my Cove years (30 years ago), but the fact still remained the best harpooners in the world still called Perkins Cove home. Like all 50-year old fishermen, we will have a mid life crises of some sort. Mine just happened to be buying a harpoon boat and going back home to go fishing. In 2012 the Harbor Master Fred Mayo, a childhood friend secured me a transit mooring in the Cove. I bought an old Holland 32 stick boat from one of the legendary families of the Ogunquit clans, Matt Forbes old boat the Kathryn Giles. It was like a time warp, I was back in Maine, 30 years later, and it felt like I never left!

The success of any seasonal fishery is determined by many conditions and is a race against the clock. ‘Harpoon time’ has a whole bunch of factors that need to fall in line to have ‘bloody decks’. This fishery more so than any other is dependent on the weather, sea condition, and water temperatures. All three have to be right in order to have a successful fishery, this was true in 1975, and even more so today. The New England harpoon bluefin fishery of today is a whole lot different than it was during my youth. Everything from spotter planes, electric harpoons, to 25 foot long stands and towers to 30-knot boats. There are a lot of boats chasing these valuable fish, and the fish are chased from the moment the fishery opens June 1st. Some days you might have 30 or more harpoon boats in a five-mile area. The one thing that has not changed between now and the 1950’s is the bluefin. The blue fin tuna is a magical fish, growing larger than any other tuna in the world. The fish migrate into New England and Canadian waters to get fat, putting on hundreds of pounds each summer eating a rich diet of herring and mackerel. When the fish arrive in the cold New England waters in late spring every year, the warmest water is on the surface. The fish will swim in that warmer water band, leaving a plowing wake that harpooners dream of. This is what makes this fishery so unique. Bluefin seem to only run the surface in the waters of New England and Sicily in the Mediterranean, being the only other place where there is a bluefin harpoon fishery.

There is nothing like the shear excitement of seeing a large “bunch” running and there are so many deep fish behind the ones up plowing on the surface that you can’t get close enough. You throw your arms off at those fish, just out of reach of that single swimming along with white water rolling off its back. These are the most exciting, heart pounding moments for anyone that has witnessed it. There is no doubt that harpooning tuna is fun. Throwing a harpoon is one of the most primitive methods ever dreamed up by man. It is the equivalent to big game hunting on the water.

The big difference between the “days of old” and now is the value of the tuna. Many restrictions and size limits have come about due to the pressure on the fishery. Technology has also evolved, like the electric harpoon, which shocks the fish to kill it quick before the flesh gets ”burnt” from a fight. I miss the days when “flag ends” were being towed by stuck fish. But now the fish are boated, bled and iced within minutes, yielding the most prized sashimi in the world..

2012 was a huge bummer year for the East Coast harpooners, and so far 2013 (article written August 13, 2013) has been even worse. The weather has been terrible this summer allowing the fish to blow right by to Nova Scotia again. I couldn’t survive another bad year without getting a divorce (wow things do change). I made the right call and sold the boat and sat this season out. But the Cove guys are still on the water like they have been for three generations. They are still the best in the world at what just a few select people even know much about, what it takes to be a harpooner….

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The Bisbee Black & Blue excitement!

Note: There is a minimum weight for a fish to qualify and the event statistics show that around 96% of billfish caught during the tournament are released.

Sign up for the 2014 event at

MARLIN: One hook or two? (Magazine Content)


I was in Paris in 2007 visiting an Exhibition of Artifacts recovered from Alexandria at the mouth of the Nile river in Egypt. What caught my eye and took my breath away was a small collection of fish hooks. There was one in particular that was absolutely amazing. It was the exact replica of the hook I was using for Giant Blue Marlin in Madeira. The most astonishing thing was this one was 3,000 years old. It was the exact shape of an OWNER - JOBU. It was about 10/0 - 11/0 in size and would have been used for catfish. The Egyptians had a thriving trade with Rome for salted and dried fish. The first time I saw the present day hook was in Madeira and I said out loud to whoever was with me, This is the finest hook I have ever seen. It completely changed my idea of lure fishing.


The softest part of a marlin’s mouth is the upper jaw. So if you are looking for the most effective way to hook a marlin with a lure then why not aim for the upper jaw.If the bite is good then the hook will find the roof of the mouth. It is relatively soft and easy to penetrate. If the fish takes the lure in “Doggie Bone” fashion then the cheek and side area are also soft and easy to get a hook into. In contrast, the lower jaw is solid bone so why even bother aiming for it. The lure itself then becomes critical in performing this task.


Most good lures from the Pacific are keel weighted. In particular those made in Hawaii or copies from them. They will not spin or roll over on you. This is the most important issue in the single hook rig. The lure MUST remain upright at all times. I have had a lot of very experienced fishermen and good friends tell me it does not matter how the hook is hanging because the fish is going to roll it over on the strike anyway. RUBBISH. All the fish I have caught on this rig have the hook in the upper jaw - somewhere. The hookup rate is phenomenal. Even on the big lures I am only using a single 10/0. This size of hook will also lock onto the bill if the fish are just picking at it or a ‘tentative bite’ as Bark Garnsey calls it. Most times it will not come off.


As for lures that do not have a flat angle face it is not possible to use this rig without modifying the lure head. The lure with a round symmetrical head and cup face is a very effective lure. They are called Tear Drops or Chuggers. Also the Wide Range made by mold craft has a round shape and 90` face. This results in the hook wanting to hang down. Not a good idea. I spoke to Frank Johnson Jnr at MOLDCRAFT about this and he showed me in the factory that this would be difficult to achieve with the way his moulds were set up. David Horne at BIG T was right on track. He had no trouble keel weighting any lure I wanted. They work superbly. I saw a lure in Miami in 2007 made by Ronnie Schatman that he called the ‘Giant Tear Drop’. It has a cup face and a great head shape. I believe it was the first of this kind. I had good success with Chuggers (same head shape) in the Pacific but wanted to use the single hook and weight the lure so it would not roll over. Ron was a little apprehensive about doing this. However I went ahead and put three 6” leads in the belly and rigged it up. The thing was awesome in any sea conditions. The hookups were almost 100%. And only big fish.

Hot Breakfast Group

A very high hook up ratio. So far for me always better than 70%. The first year was 100%. I thought I had discovered the Holy Grail. Very little problem with garbage or weed. Madeira quite often has oceanic garbage of unknown origin and can be a real nuisance. The upright hook rides or bounces over most of this. The single hook is easy to extract from the fish if the effort is made to carry this out. Most of all, because of the shape of the JOBU and the small barb it can be taken out easily by hand. I use a hook extractor most of the time. They work effectively and should be used. Survival of the fish is greatly enhanced with the single hook so as to avoid trapping the jaws in the double hook tangle. Less danger for the crew in trying to de-hook . i.e. one hook for the fish and one for the mate. One word of advice. High carbon steel hooks should not be used without cathodic protection. There is a product on the market called RUSTOP that does the trick. Use it all the time. It is made specifically for steel hooks not stainless.

by Capt. Peter Bristow

May / June Editorial (Magazine Content)

Little by little our magazine makes a difference

If you had of told me in 2007 when I founded Marlin World that within seven years (my lucky number by the way!) that not only would it be one of the most popular online digital magazines for the big game fishing industry internationally, but that it would also be printed and distributed free of charge in the area of what many consider to be the ‘mecca’ of big game fishing worldwide, I certainly would not have believed you!

But here we are now with what is considered to be the first printed edition of a regular bi-monthly glossy magazine for the Baja California Sur region of Mexico. I have spent a lot of time in ‘Los Cabos’ over the past six months as I visit from my base in Europe establishing the presence of the magazine, and I can honestly say that I have been overwhelmed by the generosity and welcoming nature of local businesses and residents. As you may know we have chosen this area to launch the first of what I hope will be many ‘local editions’ because of the huge number of visiting anglers that come
here every year from all parts of the world. I can’t think of a better way to distribute our magazine than by giving a free copy to these big game enthusiasts as they enjoy their fishing vacation! Our digital version which is also free will continue as always and will not only have the regular international articles but also the advertisers from each big game fishing region (internationally) where we start to establish closer ties. As I cannot be in Mexico all the time I have chosen Seth Romans and Synergy Mexico to be our public relations representatives. I also have a very valued assistant in the Los Cabos area of Mexico. Contact Lourdes Maria (see photo) on +52(1) 624 1579441 if you would like to be part of our great new printed edition as an advertiser or perhaps even as a sponsor of the Bisbee Tournaments.

Paul Watson

Bisbee’s Marlin World Magazine

May / June issue is on it's way to the printers

Last night we finished producing both the printed and digital version of the next issue of Bisbee’s Marlin World Magazine (May/June 2014).

The printed version is for the Baja California Sur region of Mexico and the digital version is for international distribution. Here is a copy of the cover so look out for it in your email boxes (May 1st) or on the streets of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (around May 12th).

For those of you who don't know ...

My name is Paul Watson and in 2007 I founded a digital magazine called Marlin World. So called because the idea was to include articles about what was going on in the world of the ‘marlin’. This meant that we could include articles about all sorts of big game fishing without straying too far from the subject matter of the publication title. What started as a smallish bi-monthly digital title has now grown into an international digital edition with over 30,000 subscribers and soon the first of what we hope will be many, local printed editions. our first area chosen was Baja California Sur, Mexico - or to be more specific concentrating on the Los Cabos region which of course not only is considered to be the ‘mecca’ of big game fishing, but is also home to the very famous BISBEE’S BLACK & BLUE tournament, the richest fishing event on the planet earth!

2015 Calendar Photoshoot

Five months of planning prepared myself and my assistant Lourdes Maria well for the past three days spent shooting the models for the Bisbee’s Marlin World Magazine 2015 Calendar.

The calendar will go on sale from June 2014 onwards but don’t worry, you don’t need to wait until January 2015 to hang your wall calendar up! There will be a calendar page with all the girls together covering July through to December 2014. That means you’ll get a year and a half for the price of one calendar! All twelve of the models were excellent to work with and we got some fine shots. The choosing of the photos, design and layout of the calendar and the printing which will be during May this year are all to come, but what the heck, it’s quite enjoyable work!


Miami Boat Show

Yesterday I managed to organise with printers in Florida to print a special edition of the January / February issue of Bisbee’s Marlin World Magazine.

Visit our booth during the 2014 Miami Boat Show in February and we will give you your FREE copy with our compliments.

You can find us as you make your way towards the BIG GAME ROOM, in fact you won’t be able to miss us as you have to walk through our stand area!

Old Site Hacked

Well it appears that hackers have decided to hack my entire old website so I have taken the monumental decision to redesign everything from scratch and to start again. Thanks whoever you are, scum of the earth. In the meantime I hope our friendlier visitors enjoy the new blog style format.

Who am I?

PAUL D. WATSON: I have been a freelance photographer since 1994 having left the investment banking world to seek a change of lifestyle. My work is varied but mostly encompasses my two most favourite subjects - women and fishing! In my portrait work with women I seek to expose their soul, character, energy and attractiveness by keeping the photographs simply lit often with just one light source. I am a publisher and have completed projects which included tourist magazines, calendars, websites, the pioneering of digital page flip magazines and a big game fishing magazine which is now one of the most popular publications for the genre worldwide. Much of my time each year is spent in Mexico amongst the big game fishing crowd in the Los Cabos region of Baja California Sur. On the way there from my base on Madeira Island, Portugal, I hang out in Fort Lauderdale, Florida - yet another wonderful place to be and where I can rest before making yet two more flights to get to CABO SAN LUCAS.

The magazine is now the official publication of the 'RICHEST FISHING EVENT ON THE PLANET EARTH', the Bisbee's Black & Blue Marlin Jackpot Tournament.

So international travel, Latin America, big money game fishing tournaments and women, hence the name of this blog site ....... 'Living the Life'!