Not many sports fishermen can claim membership in the ‘100 Blue Marlin Club’. But, sports fisherman, Mike McCarthy, who fishes aboard Harry Sargeant's 65-foot American, Black Gold, can! McCarthy, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida, released his 100th blue marlin on August 8, 2011. Interestingly, the Virgin Islands’ North Drop is also where McCarthy released his first blue back in 1980 aboard the Sly Fox with Capt. Arty Trager at the helm.
“I was working as a mate at the time and we were out fun fishing,” says McCarthy, about his first catch. “I still have that first blue marlin. It’s mounted over my couch.”
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, McCarthy grew stringing worms on a pole to catch catfish in the state’s fresh-water lakes. However, his angling opportunities markedly increased in 1967 when his parents moved the family to Hillsboro Inlet, Florida.
“My dad took me out drift fishing when I was about 8 years old aboard the Mandra,” he says. “I remember catching my first yellow tail snapper. That’s when I fell in love with fishing. After that, I saved my allowance and went out drift fishing as often as I could.”
Interestingly, he started billfishing aboard the same boat as a mate on night and weekend trips during his high school years.
“I caught a sailfish on the kite we flew while drifting along in 1976,” he tells.
McCarthy continued to mate, but on private charter boats, while he attended Broward Community College and Florida Atlantic University. The first owner he worked for based his boat out of Lighthouse Point and from here they fished many of the Bahamas Billfish Championship (BBC) tournaments. In 1987, McCarthy was mating on the 60-foot Hatteras, Enjoy, with fellow mate and now Black Gold captain, Keith Bokenhagen, when they won the BBC. McCarthy also took his owner’s boat north in the summer to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and fished out of Brigantine Inlet for yellowfin tuna and white marlin. Another owner he worked for enjoyed fishing off Atlantic City or Montauk, New York, for big eye tuna in the summer.
When his daughter was born in 1989, he quit fishing professionally and joined the staff of the national Office Depot chain where today he is the Senior Merchandise Planner.
“I was 30 at the time and faced a decision: either stay in the fishing business or get a job that offered better benefits and hours for me and my family,” says McCarthy.
His trading an indoor for outdoor office didn’t mean by any stretch of the imagination that McCarthy quit fishing. His father-in-law owned a 28-foot Mako and the two would often go out on weekends for dolphin, wahoo, sailfish and kingfish.
Then, in 1996, McCarthy met Harry Sargeant through Capt. Keith and started observing for Black Gold in Florida sailfish tournaments. He soon crossed over to angler and started heading south to St. Thomas each summer with the Black Gold team to fish for blue marlin.
“I am lucky enough to have the honor of fishing with one of the nicest gentlemen in the world,” McCarthy says. “Harry Sargeant has been taking me with him and team Black Gold since 1997. I have learned a lot from Sarge, he is a tough competitor and never quits on a fish.”
The year 1997 also marks when McCarthy experienced his best fish story to date and his proudest fishing moment – and he wasn’t the one fishing!
“We were on my father-in-law’s boat. He was captaining and I was mating in the Ladies Fish Off tournament off Lighthouse Point, Florida,” McCarthy tells. “That’s when my daughter, Jessica, who was 7-years-old at the time, caught a 14-pound kingfish and set an IGFA Pee Wee record. The record did not stand long but what a moment.”
McCarthy became a grandfather for the first time in October and can’t wait to take his new granddaughter fishing.
Tournament fishing is something McCarthy really enjoys.
In fact, his best day number-wise was catching three blue marlin in the 2006 USVI Open/Atlantic Blue Marlin or ‘Boy Scout’ Tournament and ultimately finishing as the Third Top Angler.
Since then, he’s won this year’s July Open Billfish Tournament and the 2007 BVI Billfish Tournament as part of the Black Gold team.
“Black Gold no longer fishes sailfish tournaments so the regular tournaments have been narrowed to the Cap Cana Shootout, July Open, and the Boy Scout,” says McCarthy. “The Boy Scout is by far my favorite. How can you beat fishing against the top captains, crews and anglers in the world? The Boy Scout is very prestigious. I look forward to the Black Gold in the winner’s circle one day soon with Harry Sargeant as the top angler.”
Blue Marlin are McCarthy’s favorite fish to catch.
“They are just magnificent powerful fish,” he says. “Blue Marlin have a mean streak in them and once you battle them to the boat they look right at you and try to figure out how to get you back for inconveniencing their day, many try to jump in the boat or through it.”
It depends on how big the fish is, but he usually likes to fish for blue marlin with 60-pound test. “You can put a little more drag on the fish with this,” he says. “Many times with 50-pound you end up feeding the sharks if a nice fish goes down and the idea is to release the fish healthy not shark food.”
Pitch-baiting is McCarthy’s preferred fishing method.
“What an adrenalin rush to tease a fish to the boat and feed him with just enough touch so the fish does not feel you, some of the prettiest bites you will ever see. Awesome!,” he says.
McCarthy also prefers circle hooks.
“Circle hooks have taken some getting used to but the fish has a better chance of surviving by our using them,” he says. “I love the conservation efforts; a fish is too valuable to catch only once.”
Over the years McCarthy has fished from New York to Florida, the Bahamas, Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands. In the future, he says, “I have Australia for Black Marlin still on my Bucket List.”