|| |—| || |A 500-pound marlin launches into the cockpit while Bob Schultz (left) ducks for cover. Video stills: Allison Schultz| This past July the 18-year-old was fishing with his father, Bob, at Tropic Star Lodge in Panama. The two had been to the lodge before and had always experienced great fishing. So it was no surprise when two black marlin came up into the spread and hit the port and starboard lines.
“We were using circle hooks so we purposely pulled one free on the smaller fish, and Stephen took the chair with the other,” said Bob Schultz. The captain estimated the fish at 500 pounds.
Stephen fought the marlin for about 20 minutes. “The fish never really took off or went deep,” said Bob. Then the marlin began an impressive aerial display just 30 feet off the stern. The cockpit crew oohed and aahed, as if watching a fireworks show, but the mood changed in an instant when the fish charged the boat. This was no bluff. The marlin was tailwalking toward the stern at a breakneck pace.
“This huge fish was charging right at us,” said Bob. “I thought, ‘I’m back here. My son’s back here. This is not a good thing.'” The fish crashed down on the transom, stopping short of full entry to the cockpit, but it still wreaked havoc. Stephen was knocked off the chair by, most likely, the marlin’s pectoral fin. (The bill missed his chest by a matter of inches.) Quick-thinking mates manhandled the marlin back into the water while Bob took care of his son. “At first I didn’t even know if he was alive,” said Bob. Fortunately, he was. Stephen suffered four broken bones in his face and lacerations in his throat caused by the blunt impact.
He was rushed to shore where a helicopter was waiting to ferry him to the hospital. Once back in the States, the two became instant celebrities due to a home video that captured the entire event. (To see the clip, visit www.saltwatersportsman.com/marlinvideo.) National news programs picked up the footage and led their broadcasts with it. “The real reason I spread the word was to let people know that things like this can happen when fishing for big game. If you’re injured seriously there is no help out there,” said Bob. He’s right.
Stephen was very lucky. A number of experienced mates and anglers have died after getting speared by jumping marlin. There are risks, for sure, and that’s part of the reason we enjoy the thrill of big game. As for the Schultzes, they’re already planning their return trip to Panama.