Fact Check

Black Marlin Sinks Fishing Boat

Rumor: Photographs show a fishing boat capsized by a black marlin.

Published Jan 31, 2013

Claim:   Photographs show a fishing boat capsized by a black marlin.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, January 2013]

Story and pictures of a Black Marlin allegedly sinking the fishing boat. Is it real or is it photo shopped?

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge


Origins:   Black marlin have a reputation in sport fishing circles as being among the most difficult fish to catch, because they are both very large (weighing up to 2,000 pounds) and very fast (reaching speeds of up to 80 MPH). In January 2013, a series of

photographs were posted to the Facebook page of Marlin magazine (under the title "Marlin Wins!") which purportedly demonstrated just how difficult pulling in a black marlin can be, supposedly showing a charter sport-fishing boat that sank off the coast of Panama after a passenger hooked a huge marlin that ended up capsizing the boat.

Although the photographs are genuine, according to an entry posted to the Hull Truth Boating and Fishing Forum by someone representing himself as an agent of the boat's manufacturer, the photographs don't depict what many viewers have interpreted them to show, chiefly that a gigantic marlin caught on a fishing line was so large and strong that it managed to pull the boat onto its side and sink it. According to that poster, the marlin's role in the incident was indirect, and the boat's sinking was a freak accident caused by sea conditions — while the captain was "backing down" on the fish (i.e., putting the boat in reverse to help reel in line), a large wave came over the stern and knocked him off-balance, causing him to inadvertently knock the throttle into full reverse and thereby swamp the boat:

I wanted to assist in clearing up the mystery of the Black Marlin and the 37 Strike.

As you have read there are many posts and sites that contain justified and unjustified statements. Please know that this is one of those freak accidents and accidents happen anywhere at any time. We are thankful that there were fellow fisherman there and no one was hurt.

However, as the boat's manufacturer I feel compelled to address some posts. As some think, the marlin did not take down the boat. The transom is 3 feet high from the waterline with a 13 ft. beam, and a stepped hull does not play into what happened. The engine room was not filled with water, considering [that] the engines were still running. There was not a cracked exhaust or loose hose, [and] the boat is equipped with bilge pumps, alarms and a lower helm station. This boat has been chartering in these same waters and conditions for over two years and has backed down on hundreds of marlin without issue or concern.

Direct from Panama I was told that the sea conditions were not as calm as they seem to be in the pictures, and the captain was an experienced captain. The seas were full of big swells and large waves. A large wave came over the transom, and with the anglers all being in the starboard corner, the boat leaned and the captain in the tower lost his footing. While the boat was still in reverse, another wave came over the transom. At this time the captain slipped and [was] believed to still have his hand on the throttle, putting the boat in full reverse [and] burying the transom into the next waves and swells. You can see how this might happen; as you know, when fighting a fish the captain is facing aft with his hand on the throttles and when slipped the last thing your hand is holding onto is the throttle controls.

As mentioned this is freak accident where no one is to blame (not even the marlin). Guys, be careful out there; anything can happen. Good fishing!

Last updated:   31 August 2015

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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