Traditionally, swordfish are caught at night when they move from near the ocean floor to the surface to feed. But during the last decade or so, a niche group of fanatical anglers discovered that with the right gear and finely tuned techniques, swordfish can be targeted in broad daylight. If you’re ready to try this popular sport, here are some great daytime swordfishing tips, rigs and techniques!
Broadbill swordfish ( xiphias gladius) can be caught during the daytime all year long throughout their expansive range which encompasses the entire Gulf Stream from the Mid-Atlantic to hot-spots off Southern Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. There are some seasonal variations regarding fish numbers and size with the largest fish generally being caught in the fall and winter.
While every angler has his own preferences and variations, there is generally only one type of swordfish rig that is typically used—the deep drop rig. This rig is designed to get a bait down to the bottom of the ocean and keep it there while slowly trolling as efficiently as possible. This is crucial for daytime swordfishing, as you’ll want to target waters that are 2,000 feet deep or more!
The deep-drop swordfishing technique is performed by trolling over significant bottom structures like pinnacles and seamounts located in deep sea canyons throughout the Gulf Stream. High-quality boat electronics are essential and constant communication between captain and angler is required to keep the bait in the strike zone while trolling.
Typically, a trolling pass for swordfish lasts anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. Before the troll begins, the boat must be positioned far down current from the target structure to give the angler plenty of time to get the bait deep enough. Once in position, the captain moves the boat into the current at a speed of 1.5 to 1.8 knots.
With the boat moving, the angler starts the fishing process by dropping the baited rig straight down into the water using the controls on the electric reel to manage speed. After all 150 feet of the monofilament leader is out, the lead stick weight is clipped on and the drop is continued.
When letting out the first 500 feet of braided line, the angler pauses for a few seconds every 100 feet to let any slack in the line work itself out. During this time, the captain regulates boat speed to maintain a vertical line angle into the water.
After 500 feet of line has gone out, the bait is allowed to freefall to the bottom. As soon as the angler feels the weight hit the bottom, it is reeled into the "strike zone"—anywhere from 40 to 100 feet off the bottom.
Throughout the trolling pass, the captain and angler are communicating constantly, making adjustments in boat speed and weight depth to keep the bait in the strike zone. The captain calls out structures that are coming up so the angler can reel in or let line out accordingly. Then the swordfishing strategy becomes a game of waiting and watching, staying tuned into the rod tip for signs of a strike.
During the troll, the rod tip flexes up and down with the rhythm of the boat. With experience and practice, the swordfish angler learns how to "sync up" with the rod movement in order to detect the faintest sign of a bite. Many times, a strike will come as a series of quick taps. Other times it will be an obvious slam. Swordfish are notorious for chasing a bait and hitting it several times before committing, but there are a few actions an angler can take to entice a solid bite.
When a fish strikes, one option is to let the weight free-fall to the bottom. Ideally, this action triggers the swordfish to chase the bait. Once the bait hits the bottom, the angler reels the line back into the strike zone depth—40 to 100 feet—at which point the hook should be set.
With the fish hooked, the fighting duties are delegated to the electronic reel. The best reels have an auto mode that maintains perfect tension on the line, letting the fish pull drag when needed.
After all the braided line has been regained and the monofilament leader is at the reel tip, the weight is unclipped from the line to finish reeling in. As soon as the swordfish is at the surface, a crew member thrusts a harpoon into the fish and a gaff is used to heave it onto the deck.
Part of the allure of daytime swordfishing is that you never know what's on the other end of your line. It could be a small broadbill, which is still worth celebrating, or it could be a 500-pounder. Either way, as soon as that fish hits the deck and photos are taken, it gets iced down to be enjoyed back on shore as the freshest swordfish steaks imaginable.
Be warned that daytime swordfishing is highly addictive. It gets under your skin. You'll want to be out in the Gulf Stream every spare second you have.
And when you do go out, you need to plan on staying out all day. Show up ready to handle a wide range of temperature fluctuations and sun conditions. Start with a moisture wicking and sun protective base layer like the Huk Kryptek Icon Long Sleeve. Then, add a mid-weight layer such as the Huk Fleece 1/4 Zip to stay warm on deck.
For the long, early morning runs to get off shore, the Huk Next Level All Weather Jacket will make the ride exponentially more enjoyable.
Daytime swordfishing isn't for everyone. But if you like to approach your fishing more like a chess match than a game of roulette, the strategies and techniques used to catch daytime swordfish will keep your mind sharp and take your angling skills to a new level. Get out there, and fish happy!
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