Man against marlin

| April 01, 2006

Darwin Thompson, with a deckhand, holds a striped marlin he caught off the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.

There are fish. And then there are fish.

Oregon owner-operator Darwin Thompson loves to go out into deep blue water and try to land the biggest fish he can find – marlin, one of the world’s greatest sports fish. And this guy is from a town called Troutdale.

“Marlin are the biggest thrill you could want,” says Thompson. “It’s another world out there.”

Thompson, 48, a 31-year driving veteran who started a trucking career right out of high school, is leased to United Road Service and hauls cars with a Pete 379, mostly on the West Coast, calling Portland, Ore., Los Angeles and Las Vegas regular stops for his rolling parking lot.

Thompson started driving for his father’s trucking company as a way to pay for a college education, hauling rocks and driving dump trucks. He kept the college idea in mind, left the business for a while but came back, at one point spending five years driving team with his father. He’s never left the industry. His wife Pam also grew up with a trucking father.

The outdoors were a part of Thompson’s childhood. He was raised in the Bay area of California, and his family went hunting in Colorado.

But now Thompson sticks to fishing.

“I used to hunt, but I gave it up,” he says. “I had too many bad experiences. Hunters walking by you and not even seeing you or being aware you were right there. Hunters looking at you through the scopes of their rifles. Stuff like that. Marlins are safer.”

Eight years ago, Thompson quit hunting and went looking for the sun. “I’m time-share broke, as they say,” he says of his attempt to find his vacation place, one he could visit when he wasn’t on the road. But he and Pam did find what they were looking for in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, on the tip of the Baja peninsula, the finger of land that extends south of the border below California. One visit, with some blue-water fishing thrown in to help him completely unwind, “and I was hooked,” Thompson says. “I knew what I wanted to do. I started blue-water fishing and that was it.”

Actually it was tuna and a television show that led Thompson to the bigger fish. “I like the sun and so does Pam, and we both like to fish. We’d go out looking for tuna and mahi mahi, smaller game fish like that. There were times we’d head out and catch a tuna and 20 minutes after we hauled one aboard we’d be eating it sushi-style on the back of the boat.”

Marlins go for the same bait, so it wasn’t long before Thompson found the thrill of having a giant swordfish at the end of his line. He had been eager to go after them after seeing film of a catch. “We were getting ready to head down there once, and Pam came in and said ‘Sit down,’ and I thought ‘Uh oh.’ She turned on this show, and there was a guy with a 1,100-pound blue marlin and he’d caught it from the same boat we were going to charter. I had to do that.”

Marlins grow to be huge fish, easily tipping the scales at more than 1,000 pounds.

Thompson’s biggest marlin to date is 250 pounds, but he’s sure the “big one” isn’t far away. Every time he goes out, he learns more about the techniques of marlin fishing. To date his biggest thrill searching for marlin was a single day on the water in which he hauled in an incredible seven of them.

“The first one hit my bait before I’d finished my morning coffee,” Thompson says. “We were heading out to sea and the famous rock arch was still right there we were so close inshore. It made the reel scream and it burned my fingers. I thought the rig was going to melt.”

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