Charlotte Smith booked her very first fishing trip on a whim, only three hours in advance, and wound up fighting a 915-pound Pacific blue marlin for 2 ½ hours. By 11 p.m. Smith and her crew landed the largest marlin caught in the area in the last four years. Here are the details behind this incredible story.
When Captain Preston spotted the marlin from the tower, he could tell by the distance between its fins that it was going to be big. Charlotte strapped into the fighting chair to battle her first fish.
According to Captain Preston, it was a while before the marlin even knew it was hooked. Things went slowly and they idled the boat with it for 10-15 minutes (not a very exciting beginning.) Without warning, however, the marlin took off on a run for 400-500 yards. The fight was on. Smith fought the giant Pacific blue marlin for 2 ½ hours, until it made a final dive for 300 yards straight down and died. Captain Preston said that in general it’s hard to prepare new anglers for such a difficult fight.
Smith, however, is a long-distance runner and she’s used to relying on her strength and endurance. How does running a half-marathon stack up to fighting a 915-pound marlin? “This was harder,” she said.
Captain Preston has been fishing the waters surrounding Maui for 17 years. Before this trip, his biggest catch list included one marlin of 782 lbs, and one of 539 lbs. This monster blows the other two out of the water. During the fight, Captain Preston guessed that the fish weighed about 1,000 pounds. He wasn’t letting this one get away.
Once the marlin died, Captain Preston jumped in the chair. The tackle wasn’t able to stop the fish from sinking, so he was forced to hand-line it in. Madan said, “It looked like he was using every muscle in his body.” It took three of them, Madan, Pfeifle and Preston, to carefully move the rod to the gunnel. Preston held his breath, hoping that they wouldn’t snap the line as they went. “I’ve been waiting a long time to catch one like this,” he said.
From there the crew began the arduous process of pulling the dead marlin in by hand. The next four hours were beyond tedious as they had to continually turn the boat into the current to keep the line from going out, and then let the current push them back. As the boat moved backwards, Madan, Pfeifle and Preston would take turns doing the “Portuguese Pull,” pulling the line out of the water by hand, while cranking furiously on the reel.
“At times my arms were like jelly,” Madan said. “But I thought, ‘If [the captains] are doing all that, I can do this.'” Madan was really impressed with captains Pfeifle and Preston as night fell and they continued hauling in the line. “I don’t even think they could see,” Madan said, “But they knew what they had to do.”
The trip dragged on hours later than expected, but despite the crew’s exhaustion, everyone on the ship had a big stake in the catch that kept them going. “Giving up on it never crossed my mind,” Captain Preston said, “I felt obligated to catch it.” Even Smith, after her rough crash course in deep-sea angling, wasn’t ready to go home early. “I could tell how important it was to everyone,” she said.
By then, a full moon had risen. Captain Preston remembered the relief he felt as the marlin surfaced: “The fish came up and floated in the moonlight, and I just thought, ‘God damn, we’re going to get this one,'” he said, “It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling.”
“This is something I never would have thought of doing. But when my boyfriend suggested the trip, I think I was more excited than he was,” Smith said.
Check out photos of marlin world records here.

The very first fish Charlotte Smith ever caught was a 915-pound blue marlin. Read the story about how Smith and her crew managed to land this monster billfish.