A Passion for Swordfishing

Swordfishing is a unique adventure. It combines the thrill of fishing with the excitement of a spearfishing expedition. And, for those who love to go bonefishing, the excitement of fishing with a sword becomes part of the allure.

If you’re new to swordfishing, you might wonder why this is such a popular sport. Swordfishing is a great way to relax, have some fun, and not spend a lot of money on a hobby. The sport has a long history, and a lot of history up to the modern day, with people trying to catch as many swordfish as they can, all over the world.

Swordfishing is a great activity for families. It is fun and can provide great memories for everyone. It is also something that a hunter can learn to do. It is something that you can do for yourself, as well as your family.

Swordfish and swordfish have become a passion of mine over the past 5 years. What started 14 years ago as a dream to catch a dream fish has grown into a lifelong obsession with all things swordfish! When I’m not busy preparing for (or recovering from) a 48-hour trip around New England with swordfish during our short six-month season, I read and research to try to learn more about this large pelagic predator at the top of the food chain. There are many articles on the physiology, location and behavior of swordfish, but this article is about my personal journey and passion. Where and when did it all start? I have vague memories from the 1960s of monster swordfish hanging on the scales at Chatham and Falmouth docks during my childhood vacations in Cape Cod. I remember seeing a huge fish cut up at the Fanuil Hall fish market in the 70s. I had heard stories of swordfish swimming on the surface beyond the Vineyard, and I dreamed of seeing them myself one day. Then there was a long hiatus, when the swordfish was threatened with extinction, I became a parent, and 20 years passed between the two. The next step will take place in August 2004. I was an inexperienced fisherman in Northeast Canyon. I knew how to fish for tuna and had minimal experience with marlin, but I had never seen a swordfish, nor did I believe they existed in the Northeast. I had heard stories about the docks and seen strange pictures, but I had no idea where they lived or how to catch them. Earlier this summer I saw one swimming on the surface at sunrise, but with my limited knowledge and experience, I mistakenly declared it to be a sleeping blue marlin. It took me 10 years to see the error of my ways! It’s a quiet, sweltering August evening on the 100-mile bend east of Veatch Canyon, in a place I’ll know as well as my neighborhood avenue in 15 years. My Carolina Classic boat could take me up to 100 fathoms and was a great boat for trolling, but it was terrible for drifting at night because of the deep V-shaped bottom. The ride was so uncomfortable that sleep was no more than a nap in the cockpit for me. I was alone on the deck at 2am with 3 of the 4 baits randomly floating looking for tuna. The first 3-foot swordfish caught by the author in 2015. word-image-5784 The clicker worked – finally a bite! Looking back, 16 years and hundreds of trips later, I realize I did everything wrong that night. The balloon, which was attached to the line like a float, came loose from the boat and instead of calling my crew for help, I was trying to get out of a bad situation. I saw a flash of silver on the surface in front of the boat, then suddenly the line went straight down at high speed. Still alone, not wanting to wake the sleeping crew, I grabbed the fish and held it, probably with exaggerated resistance and extra pressure from my hand, and began to lift it, assuming it was a tuna. Finally, I saw a tall, luminous figure, lit by a hydro-light, rushing in one direction and out the other. What was that? I had no idea what I was dealing with. After three or four climbs and turns, this long form understood the essence. Marlin. No, it’s… It’s a BLACK FISH! SHUT UP! TAKE THE GAFFER, TAKE THE GAFFER! I yelled. While the crew stumbled around on the deck, I tried to grab the fish by the muscle and pull the hook out. He wasn’t there. The worst part of this story is that my team didn’t believe me and thought I was fighting a blue shark, but I knew what I saw. Back in 2014. I’ve made over 100 trips to the canyon and in those 10 years, I’ve probably caught about 20 swordfish at night. Most were small specimens of 50 pounds, several inches above the legal length of 47 inches. At the time, I was collecting data showing that the best nighttime saber-rattling occurred late in the season, in August or September. With a newer, more seaworthy boat, I also quickly realized that swordfishing in October could be lightless. In those 10 years, I remember a couple of nights with three swordfish and one night in October 2012 when we caught six swordfish, most of which were under the 47-inch limit. On this trip, a 150-pound fish ate a piece of bait in the headlights of a rod with a 40-pound leader and gave the angler a two-hour battle of the ages before we managed to hook it. In 2012, we had an epic October night in Hydrographis Canyon. This 125 pound sword was one of six we caught that night. word-image-5785 It was clear that the swordfish were coming back to New England, and a reasonable effort at night might give us a good chance to catch them. 2014 was a year where things changed, both for the team and for me. Dr. John Pilcher, a good friend who recently sold his own boat, was (and still is) obsessed with fish and, like me, had a passion for night fishing for swordfish. John has chartered from Miami several times in recent years and is gradually mastering the complex technical dance of daytime swordfishing. I had the right boat rigging, he had the experience and the reel, and after many conversations over the winter, we decided to see what was at the bottom of the northeast canyons at 1500 feet. I doubted I could fish at that depth, but why not try? Searching the canyon in the middle of the day was always slow, and it seemed like an interesting way to spend a few hours. If not, I could have taken an afternoon nap on the air-conditioned boat. The 5th. June 2014, we were fishing Atlantis Canyon in 70 degree blue water and had a tuna in the box at 10 o’clock, so we trolled to a likely spot, stopped the boat and I passed the controls to John. Five minutes later, he announced that we were going for a bite to eat. I didn’t see it and didn’t really believe it, but it persisted on my next trip on the 28th. Until June. It was the same workout as last time. We had a good tuna catch in the morning, so we went back to deep water. John set up the reel and bait and we went down while he taught the whole team how to make a successful deep cast. Again, five minutes later, he announced that he was biting. Others also saw the rod tip move, so John put the reel on and we hooked. (I often thank myself that that first real hook stayed strong.) The big reel was soon past 1500 feet, and 10 minutes later we had a load on the leader, and there, 50 feet below us, was a bright blue-silver fish. Swordfish! Again, with no experience, luck was on our side that day. We were not prepared and the fish was on the wrong side of the boat, but it went in without a problem. A few minutes later, the gaff was removed and a 100-pound swordfish appeared on the shore, purple and brown in the bright sunlight, lit up in a way I could only imagine until that moment. I’m definitely hooked! This summer was the year of the Fish Valley yellowfin tuna and the discovery of the Ocean Observatory buoys. We tried deep sea diving on several other trips, but tuna and marlin fishing was out of the league and took over this summer. First legal swordfish caught by the author in 2007. It wasn’t much, but it was very welcome. word-image-5786 June 2015 couldn’t come soon enough. Together we decided to dedicate six hours of deep diving to each trip and really focus on learning the technique and finding swords in the vast structure of the northeast canyons. My travel planning now consisted of hours of studying bathymetric charts, watching currents, and reading scientific articles about swordfish behavior. I wasn’t just hooked, I was hooked, just like everyone else on the team. We started with a few trips to the broken heart where we had a bite but didn’t hook; or we hooked but the fish came out at 1000 feet; or we hooked and brought the fish to 200 feet and then the hook came out. I have a spot marked on my GPS as Toad Ridge where we once caught three big fish in June. One was broken off and from the other two the hooks were removed. We could call it Heartbreak Ridge, though we have learned from our mistakes on every trip. Were we alone at first, now a group of four or five boats worked together, each of us casting three fish out of four, each of us learning from our mistakes. As the season progressed, our skills improved. On a trip with the Howd boys when their boat Tokatomist broke down due to engine problems, we were in dying 4-5 foot seas and Steve Howd was on a roll. It was a straight up and down movement, and we were still learning, so we didn’t yet understand the power and fluidity of the great sword. We took the weight off at 100 feet and Steve went ahead and brought it down to 50 feet. From a distance of 40 feet, we could see the shape and size. The fish capsized, the boat slid six feet into the sea, and disappeared. No luck, but a valuable lesson about vertical fishing on a short line was learned! At the end of the 2015 season, we saw the first real migration. We still lost three of the four fish due to various problems and mistakes, but we had our moments. We learned the 300-meter sword jump and saw the incredible combination of agility and strength with which a sword of a few hundred pounds can hit the side of a boat and break our hearts. We learned that the super soft tissues of the swordfish’s mouth and face play a role in landing the hook. We have seen that swordfish are at the top of the list and that they can actually attack a boat. We set up to drift off the ledge and cast the first bait. He wasn’t even on the floor before we got busy! The sword bounced off the bottom like a rocket, and in a few minutes, with ferocious half-jumps, thumped 300 feet above the surface. When it happened, we probably had 200 feet of bellies in the air. He approached the boat before we were ready, and a fight ensued for the last 200 yards. After several missed opportunities, we finally hit an 80-inch fish that probably weighed about 250 pounds with a dart and two gaffs. It was 9:30 in the morning and our journey had begun. I went back to the ledge and set up a second drift. As an experiment, one of the crew members lowered a 16-inch troll bait for Spanish mackerel, which he turned into a sword bait. It reached the bottom and stayed there for about a minute, then the rod bent in half and the line began to come loose. We’ve seen big fish running amok at 1,500 feet. Unfortunately it broke quickly and we found the bait cut and torn. Swordfish often repeatedly hit the bait with their beak before eating it. That’s why many captains prefer heavy Panama striped lures when diving deep for swordfish during the day. word-image-5787 By 10 we were back on the ledge for another drift, this time with a shorter, more compact mahi belly bait. He hit the bottom, and nothing. The drift was perfect as we slid to the southeast of the coast. Still nothing. An angler worked the bait up and down the canyon wall as we drifted deeper at 2,000 feet. Nothing yet. As the bottom continued to sink, we let go of more than half a mile of line and began to bring the boat back to 100 feet each time, letting it float for a minute or two after each short return. Then, 400 feet down, at a depth of 2,200 feet, we were crushed again. The rod bent and the line began to pull against 24 pounds of resistance. Once again we encountered a fish that came from the depths. This fish jumped nearly 600 feet from the boat before sinking to the bottom. We worked hard against a clearly large swordfish that did what it wanted. It sank to the bottom and stayed there for about an hour before resurfacing. This time the jumps were at 100 meters and he stayed close to the surface. After the chaos at the end of the game with the previous fish, we decided to treat this fish a little differently. We pretended it was a blue marlin and used both boat and leader when we removed the load and the fish was 75 feet from the boat. When you try something new, sometimes you become a hero and sometimes a zero. We were all heroes that day! The lead came off nicely when I pushed the boat to put pressure on the hook after removing it. Liderman kept constant tension, kept his head up, and the fish swam with the boat. Within a minute of removing the line, the fish was sitting on the side of the boat in 20 feet of deep water, with the movement of the boat and the constant leading of the line predicting the fish. One harpoon strike, two, one blunder, two, and surprise surprise, our first monster swordfish appeared on the side of the boat. I don’t have a tuna trap on my boat, so that day I realized I needed a pulley. After some effort, we found an 89-inch, XL-sized swordfish that weighed over 300 pounds trying to kill us on the deck. An angry swordfish with a three-foot mouth makes the Mako look like a life-size golden retriever. Since that day it has been 5 years and over 60 trips into the swordfish habitat. We had several hundred sure bites of swordfish during the day and night, and many swordfish in the boat. It’s my passion. I’m preparing the boat and gear for a dozen winter trips, spending the weeks from June to November looking for nice weather and blue water. Almost all attention and energy is devoted to getting the boat and crew in such a condition that they can successfully swordfish. The catch, if it happens, is the icing on the cake. Planning, follow-up, strategy and teamwork keep me on my toes, even in the dead of winter.Swordfishing is the art of fishing with a long sword, a pole, and a pole or spear gun. Strongly opposed by the majority of anglers, it is a wonderful form of fishing where you can get up close and personal with your catch, and there is a lot of excitement and adrenaline involved. The technique also requires skill and patience to master.. Read more about how to cook swordfish and let us know what you think.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best bait for swordfish?

During the summer months, it’s no secret that we sport our hottest gear and go out into the wilderness. But when it comes to the fishing, you want to make sure that you’re setting yourself up for success. Bait is a critical part of any fishing trip and can make or break your fishing experience. Every summer during the swordfish season, hordes of fishermen head out to seas around the U.S. and find themselves stumbling upon the most beautiful fish you can imagine. The swordfish is one of only two fish that average more than 100 pounds, making it one of the few fish that can make you feel like a little kid again when you catch the first one. With easy-to-find boats and tackle, and plenty of swordfish to fill your freezer, it is no wonder the swordfish is one of the most popular fish to catch.

How do you fish for swordfish?

I remember when I first started swordfishing, I wondered how you fish for a fish that is so much bigger than you. When I finally did catch one, I was shocked that they are so strong! This takes massive amounts of strength and stamina. Swordfish can reach sizes of over 4 feet and can weigh over 100 pounds! That’s more than a grown man! Swordfish are so named because of a distinctive flesh-tearing barb on the lower jaw that is found only on female swordfish. As such, the fish is well known for being an aggressive predator on smaller fish in its area. However, that doesn’t mean swordfishing is just for men. True, many of the swordfish caught around the world are caught by men, but the majority of the world’s swordfish are caught by women.

How do you bait swordfish?

When swordfish are in their prime, they prefer to stay close to the surface where they can catch small fish, squid and other creatures. They have an acute sense of smell and can detect the presence of prey up to 50 feet below the surface. They are also known to “leap” out of the water, which is why it is extremely difficult to catch them. Many fishermen are attempting to make the leap into a new sport called Swordfishing… With swordfish, you should use a bait that’s going to tempt them in the first place, of course. There’s a lot of different baits you can use to try, so we’re going to cover them all in this quick article.

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