From Zero To Hero
This is my favorite time of year to swordfish here in Islamorada. Swordfishing isn’t for everyone, but if you’re the type of person who likes to role the dice and go all in, it might be right up your alley. You have to ask yourself if you’re willing to stare at a rod tip the entire day, waiting for a strike. What keeps it interesting for me is one drop you might hook a 40 pounder, and the very next drop you could hook a 400 pounder! You just never know!
Back in October, we had good swordfish action on 5 of 6 trips. Of course the one slow day I had was with a group from Miami who do a lot of fishing themselves. The day before that trip we caught 3 fish and lost one near the boat. It’s funny to me how some people are just snake bit when it comes to certain fish. The next day though, I was determined to get even with the fish after the embarrassment they put me through.
On this trip, I had Tim and his wife Nancy out celebrating Tim’s 60th Birthday. First drop of the day we tagged and released a 45’’ swordfish. Next drift we tagged and released a 46’’ fish. I was happy, but I knew they wanted one to eat. Third drop we missed a cheap bite. Fourth drop did the trick and we put a 75 pounder in the boat. We were 3 for 4 on swords and it was just after lunch time!
We ran back south and sent down another bait. We were probably only fishing two minutes and the rod loaded up. It wasn’t the usual bounce at the rod tip. The fish just ate the bait and was on. We were using a Shimano Beastmaster 9000 with 65 lb braid. The fish pulled down deep and then started heading offshore.
After we hit the 90 minute mark I realized this fish was the real deal. It was no little one. The moves the fish made were steady, the fish never panicked. Tim worked the reel and all of us kept our fingers crossed.
Just before the two hour mark, we got the wind on leader and the fish broke the surface. She was big. Real big. We got within 50’ of her but then she went back down 1000’ and just stayed there. It was a standstill and we couldn’t budge her. We increased the drag and slowly started gaining. Another hour passed. We added more drag.
At 3 hours into the battle we had the fish 100’ away again, but not for long. She went back down to 800’ with ease. It was a tug of war. We gained when we could. Tim was extremely patient and never left the rod.
The fish finally started to come back near the surface 4 hours into the fight. Charlie loaded the harpoon, but the fish didn’t come close enough. We could see her swimming down deep, but she was still in control. She went back down again to 600’.
Finally, 45 minutes later, we got the windon leader again. We added more drag and were at a total fighting time of 4 hours and 45 minutes at this point. You start wondering if all the tackle will hold up. And you know the hook is wearing a bigger hole. This time the fish swam within 20’ of the boat and Charlie threw the harpoon. He hit the fish, but she still didn’t give up.
The sun was nearing the horizon, but I felt good we had a little “insurance” in her. We had the harpoon rigged with 60’ of cord and then attached to another rod and reel. The fish made another run, pulling 50 lbs of drag at this point, and went back down to 500’.
After a little while we finally stopped her. Tim worked one rod and we all took turns cranking on the harpoon rod. We gained slowly and steadily.
Finally, at 5 hours and 30 minutes, we laid the gaffs into the big sword. We pulled her in the boat as the sun set and headed for Bud n’ Mary’s Marina. She wound up weighing in at 462 lbs! It was the second biggest one I’ve ever been a part of catching.
Swordfishing is a team sport and you never know what day will be yours. I’m sure Tim will remember this birthday for a long time!
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