The Bossman’s Broadbill
My morning routine is simple. Wake at 5am, grind the coffee and prepare for lift off. Sometimes this simple life in paradise isn’t that simple as was the case revealed early on February 26th 2014. My smartphone had gathered a few late night texts and quietly held them until morning. One of the reports came from Captain Roger Corliss out of Cudjoe Key and included a picture of the largest swordfish of the year draped over the stern of a 36’ Yellowfin. The tail stretched past the outboards. The lighting confirmed a late in the day swordfish success story for Captain Roger aka “The Bossman”. Nothing like a massive swordfish report to fire off your day. Here’s how it happened.
When you’re asked to go swordfishing you go, simple as that. That is how this trip began for Captain Roger Corliss. Normally, Roger would be at the helm of his SeaHunter for swordfishing but this request included a passenger seat on a 36’ Yellowfin center console captained by neighbor and friend, Captain Dale Emerick along with his fishing partner and spouse Suzie. The weather was good and the run was an easy two hours away. They left the dock at 8am andstarted their first drift at roughly 10am. Hard deep edges on and past the break known as the “Wall” are rich with swordfish and tend to concentrate the broadbills along the underwater game trail. A “hallway” for the large billfish of sorts. Perfect conditions prevailed, 10-12 knots of northeast wind coupled with a 1 1/2 knot eastbound current which would allow a drift parallel to the drop off. After four drifts and no swordfish it was time to make a move to a different area. Time was running out.
In 1700 feet of water at around 2pm, the last drift and bait of the day was tossed out of the Yellowfin and sent down to look for a hungry swordfish. The afternoon’s opposing winds had dropped off and in response, the current now pushed at a solid 2 knots to the east. Weights had been switched from a concrete breakaway type to a solidly attached “Stick” lead weight. For four hours the crew had worked the drifts, re-baited, redeployed and had run out of subjects for conversation. Then, fifteen minutes into the last drift of the day, a subtle relaxing of the weight on the rod tip broke the silence and boredom. Captain Roger reacted by cranking the reel until the bend in the rod returned only to relax again. As he continued to gather line, the crew knew that a swordfish had found the bait and he was in fact hooked up. The battle began.
The swordfish quickly rose to 400 feet of water from 1700 feet once it had felt the pressure from the rod and realized something wasn’t right with dinner. A quick ascent of this nature would usually cause huge expansion of internal gases within most fish but not with the broadbills. They are naturally built with the mechanism to purge quickly. This fish was coming up HOT and was going to launch. Not sure of the size, Roger continued to gather line while he still could. Then suddenly, the massive swordfish came straight out of the water into plain view followed by an atomic crash only to return down to 500 feet with haste. Captain Roger looked over to a stunned Captain Dale and asked “Are your navigation lights working?” He knew the battle was going to last into the darkness.
A landing of any fish by way of touching the leader is considered a success according to conventional sportfishing standards. If you touch the leader you win. This was not the case when fighting this 400 lb. plus stubborn and raging swordfish. By the conventional standard Roger, Dale and Suzie landed this swordfish seven times. That’s how many times the wind on leader entered onto the reel spool. Hours of grueling effort is what is required to fight a BEAST of the deep like the one that had eaten the bait. There comes a time when everyone grinds out enough emotion to agree on the “Stop ‘em or Pop ‘em” routine. This crew was no different. It was time to put a fork in this one. Time to crank down the drag.
Increasing the reel drag at the end of a long battle with a broadbill is a sensitive subject. Too much can be catastrophic and cause the long battle to end badly. Their soft mouth will throw hooks or worse, a sudden surge may cause a break off. With this swordfish, they made the right choice. A harpoon and a heavy duty gaff were employed to subdue the large squid eating machine. After the all clear was called, they attempted to pull the 400 pound plus swordy through the small transom door of the Yellowfin to no avail. This fish was too broad. The crew improvised by adding a few tail wraps tied off to the spring cleats and center console supports just enough to lift the massive tail for the ride home in the dark. Within cell phone range calls were made for help in offloading the monster on the Cudjoe dock. A celebration of muscle was in order.
This particular swordfish measured out to be a whopping 11ft. long with a 60 inch girth mathematically figured to be 450 lbs. proving to be the largest ever for the crew. Captain Roger Corliss, Captain Dale Emerick and Suzie Emerick also grew in village popularity by sharing the prized swordfish steaks with many including the crew at FishMonster Magazine. Hats off to the Bossman and his largest swordfish ever!
South Atlantic Swordfish Regulations
Whole fish: 47” lower Jaw to tail fork or 29” carcass Length
HMS Permit required in all federal waters. All HMS species (except blackfin tuna) require an HMS Angling Category permit from NOAA Fisheries. Permits available by calling 888-872-8862 or visiting www.nmfspermits.com.
For complete HMS regulations, contact the NOAA Fisheries HMS Management Division at 301-713-2347 or visit the website at www.nmfs.noaa.gov/sfa/hms/.
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