Tips on Catching South Florida Swordfish
Visualize this, we leave the dock about 2 hours before dark and run due south from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami. We then head out with the aid of satellite navigation and radar into the Gulf Stream and to depths over 1000 feet of water. We then set lines and drift our way back home. We fish live bait, squid with light sticks (as seen in the perfect storm), really whatever it takes to get them going. When the reel goes off, there is nothing more exciting than being out on the ocean at night battling it out with such a powerful yet delicious fish.
There has been quite a bit written about sword fishing lately and for good reason, North Atlantic swordfish populations, which had been severely depleted by the 1990s as a result of over fishing, have staged a stunning recovery, as reported by the international regulatory group (ICCAT) charged with overseeing their protection. Sport fishermen from South Florida are now able to catch this mighty adversary, if properly prepared.
On the dock preparation is very important to a successful trip and outfitting the proper equipment from the proper bait, to the fighting harness and attitude of the crew is essential for a safe and successful Swordfish trip.
Larger boats are preferable, as you will be fishing at night about 10 miles off the coast, with the weather and rough seas always being a concern. Creature comforts such wet bars, and DVD entertainment centers are always wonderful as is air conditioning systems that are for comfort. However on my many trips aboard my vessel a cool breeze and a bottle of Pepsi were a welcomed addition.
Rods and Reels must be sufficient to do battle with fish averaging between 80 and 400 lbs, and perhaps even larger. Anglers must be strapped into harnesses to avoid being pulled overboard by these mighty fish. All Rods and reels must be checked for any potential problems before leaving the dock.
With our gear checked we can now leave the dock, but we are not on our way to the fishing grounds just yet, you will still need a supply of live bait. Catching live bait can be fun yet difficult. Stopping by the sea buoys or shallow reefs to catch a small fish known as blue runners can make the difference between a successful trip and just a waste of a lot of fuel. I have turned back more than a few times due to lack of live bait. Keep them lively. Many people Claim that rigged dead squid are just as good, but I know what has worked consistently for me and like to dance with the girl that brought me!
We can now head to the fishing grounds. With the help of sophisticated navigational systems and radar, including GPS and depth finders, we can now head south towards Miami and the sword fishing grounds. Once offshore of Miami Beach we head into the Gulf Stream and about 1400 feet of water, where we make final preparations and begin fishing while slowly drifting north, back towards Ft. Lauderdale, under a moonlit night sky. Listen closely to the radio as you might pick up some useful information such as the depth that the fish are being caught in.
A Sea anchor maybe deployed to slow the drift and rods are readied to begin fishing. Four rods are readied with special rigs that include a cylume stick (glow stick, as seen in Movie perfect storm). A live bait is carefully rigged on a circle hook designed to catch on the edge of the swordfish’s bony jaw. The Cylume stick attracts small baitfish, which in turn attract the swords. Each rod is now carefully lowered to designated depth, usually at100, 200, 300 and 400 feet. A balloon with a glow stick is then tied to the line and let drift away from the boat at different intervals to avoid tangles.
The wait begins as we begin drifting slowly through the night listening to the sounds of the ocean. Friends engaging in lively talk, eating junk food that would bring down the wrath of our cardiologist and watching creatures swim in and out of the lights of the boat. The occasional sound of a passing whale ensures that all is well in the universe, at least for tonight.
Listening for the tell tale sounds of line running off the reel with a fish on. Suddenly the reel begins to scream, and the angler prepares to do battle. The designated angler is strapped into a harness to prevent him or her from being pulled overboard while others clear the way. The angler sets the hook and the battle begins, it may take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to bring in the beast of the deep.
As the angler fights the fish by raising and lowering his rod while reeling in an effort to gain line back on the reel, the others on board yell encouragement to him. All eyes are peeled to the water waiting for a first glimpse of the fish. Despite a valiant battle the great fish is now tiring and nearing the boat, the battle is about to end. As the tired fish nears the boat, someone with a flying gaff, which is a long pole with a hook attached to rope, is readied to pull the fish alongside. After being gaffed the fish is then brought into the boat or if too large tied alongside. At this point the weary angler can finally relax and take a good look at his efforts. It is extremely important to only harvest fish that are of sufficient size to ensure that this fishery continues to thrive. We usually will keep one fish of over 125 lbs or larger every few trips and release all others. After all there is quite a lot of meat for all on a fish this size or larger for all to enjoy.
Finally with the fish secured, a very happy crew prepares for the ride back to the dock. The ride home is very peaceful. All aboard are very silent, reflecting on the events of the evening. The lights of the coast are getting brighter as we near shore. All the preparation that went into making this trip successful seems very worth it now. For those who do not have access to a boat worthy of such a trip, the local guides are now offering swordfish trips on a regular basis and can be found anywhere from the phone book to the internet. If you are an angler and an adventurer, this is one fishing trip that can’t be beat.