Here’s a fascinating fish story that’s clearly a case of don’t try this at your home port, but appreciate the skill involved.
Three anglers went about 18 miles offshore out of Pompano Beach, Fla., last week in a 19-foot skiff and came back with a 300-pound swordfish.
Daytime swordfishing, where anglers drop a bait to the bottom in 1,500-2,000 feet of water, is big in South Florida with recreational and commercial anglers.
Capt. Stan Hunt offers swordfish charters, as well as nearshore trips for sailfish, tuna, wahoo, kingfish and dolphin, on his 52-foot sportfisherman Rebound out of Hillsboro Inlet Marina.
With calm seas and no charter, Hunt and his mate Tom Bardes decided to try to catch a daytime swordfish in Hunt’s 19-foot Carolina Skiff, a boat that Hunt typically uses to fish for snook at night in the Intracoastal Waterway. At the last minute they were joined by Ryan Goldman, who works on charter and private boats.
They left Hillsboro Inlet at 5:30 a.m. and ran southeast for about 90 minutes in the 70-horsepower outboard-powered skiff, until they were 17-18 miles offshore and in the midst of the daytime swordfish fleet.
“We knew it was going to be nice,” Hunt said. “There was like a 2-, 3-foot rolling swell. It was beautiful out there.”
The trio made several drops to the bottom in 1,550-1,800 feet using dolphin bellies, snakeheads, squid and ribbonfish for bait. A swordfish whacked the bait on the second drop, but didn’t come back.
After two more drops, Bardes predicted that they’d get a bite at 2 p.m. At 1:45, the swordfish ate a large bonito strip in 1,750 feet.
Hunt and a friend had outfitted his boat for swordfishing by building a rod-holder with extra-strong support into the hatch in the boat’s seat. Goldman fought the fish on an LP electric reel spooled with 80-pound Diamond Braid line.
After the swordfish took off with the bait, it swam almost straight up to the boat. Goldman had the reel going as fast as it could and Hunt had the boat going backwards to keep tension on the line.
In less than 10 minutes, Goldman had about half of the leader on the reel and Hunt was able to remove the 10-pound lead weight from it and get a good look at the fish.
“We knew he was over 200,” Hunt said. “At that point he went down about 1,500 feet and started fighting like no other. It was intense.
“He had us doing 360s around him, following him, trying to get on him. He had us going inshore and offshore. He never jumped. He was a nasty fish.”
After about an hour, Goldman had the fish within 10 feet of the boat and about eight feet down. Bardes harpooned the fish, then the men had to figure out how to get the swordfish, which was bashing the boat with its bill, in the boat without tipping over.
“He was pretty hefty,” Hunt said. “With us three standing on the side of the boat and pulling him over, the rails were touching the water.”
Commercial swordfisherman Matt Gill came over to photograph the catch, then Hunt, Bardes and Goldman, who were then off Fort Lauderdale, made a few more drops, with no bites, before heading home with the fish, which Hunt cut up and gave to a number of his friends.
Fishing on other boats, Hunt had caught a 578-pound swordfish on rod and reel and a 483-pounder on an electric reel, but this fish was every bit as memorable.
“For us guys who have caught hundreds and hundreds of swordfish in bigger boats, it’s fun to catch a 50-pounder [in a boat that size],” said Hunt, who had previously caught swordfish from a small center console that he owned. “That was actually the first fish on that little boat and on my new sword rod.”
Asked if he ever felt that he and Bardes and Goldman were in danger during the trip, Hunt said, “Not one bit. Being in that boat especially, that thing is unsinkable.
“It was flat calm seas and we’re all very experienced. Being in danger never crossed my mind, until that bill was whacking the side of the boat.”