As a mechanic for Suncoast Marine, I was working on a boat at Shelter Island recently when the guy on the boat next to me and I struck up a conversation, and soon enough, he asked me if I wanted to go sword fishing with him the following day. Sure I would, I said. All I was told was to meet at the slip at 3:00 a.m. and that we would be back around 6:00 p.m., the earliest I had to wake up for a fishing trip in a long time. It felt weird heading out with only two rods and reels. It was a swordfish-or-bust kind of trip.
We got to the zone and scanned the waters for hours until we found what we were looking for.
Rigging up both baits, we got set on our first drift around 6 a.m. Then it was the waiting game. Each drift was an hour long and let’s be honest here, sword fishing is pretty boring. A fishery very few know about, with very little success coming to those except for those very few. Most of the day was spent sharing fish stories. We reeled in our first baits and had a squid cut in half – we called it a “maybe” bite. We then tried one more drift and, no luck.
We moved on to a different zone and hours later found some signs of life. We set up on drift number three just after 11. We had set up two rods and reels rigged for deep-drop duty. Down went the heavy weight and once we had it down to the distance we wanted, we attached buoys to our lines. These buoys act as swordfish bite indicators. For the most part, the buoys will be halfway submerged by the weights holding them down. If a swordfish has eaten our bait, the buoy would float even higher with little to no resistance. It would look like the buoy is clearly and fully on top of the water.
With that in mind, we set up drift number four. Minutes after everything was set and the buoys are deployed, I jokingly said to Marshall, “I hope I see a slack buoy soon.” Just seconds later I see the buoy closest to us is fully on top of the water and I yelled out, “ Hey Marshall, I think we have a bite!” He looks and says, “Oh I wish, but that buoy looks normal to me.” I was a little confused at the moment but he’s done this before, so I thought he was right. Seconds later, he saw the buoy completely slack and on top of the water and he yelled, “I was looking at the wrong buoy, that’s a swordfish! WE ARE ON! START REELING!”
Marshall begins to reel in the other rod as I start to reel in the one that’s on the sword. Keep in mind, we are fishing conventional reels, not electric. I knew going into this fight that I needed to stay calm. I didn’t believe I had a swordfish on until we got the weight in. Fifteen minutes later, we got the weight in and off our line. That’s when I first felt the fish and knew for sure I was indeed hooked on a sword. This is when it got real, a fish I have dreamed about for most of my life was now on the end of my line!
Minutes later the fish was at the surface, and it jumped out of the water, lit up with electric purple colors. That’s when I knew this was a big one. However, I stayed calmed and kept reeling. The boat is in gear and drag is maxed out, fingers trying to hold the spool down and this fish peels out line like it’s nothing. Thirty-plus pounds of drag is nothing to this fish. The raw power of these fish is no joke! They are by far the strongest, meanest, hardest-fighting beasts in our fishery by a longshot. The fish fought so hard it would end up towing the boat around.
Fifty minutes later, countless maneuvers with the boat and blistered up hands, butf I have the fish within gaffing distance. Marshall sticks a gaff in its head and I stick the rod in a holder with it still in gear. I then grab a second gaff and stick it in the head as well to be sure. “Stay calm, it’s not over,” is what I told myself. I’m now holding both gaffs as Marshall gets a tail rope on. The fish suddenly comes back to life, swinging its bill violently in every direction, tail splashing and throwing water every which way. Holding onto the fish as hard as I can, I heard Marshall scream, “We can celebrate now!”
The tail rope is on and my dream fish is immediately a reality. I yelled at the top of my lungs and couldn’t believe we just actually did it!
We continued to fish the rest of the day in hopes of another fish but had no luck. Finally, we called it and got back to the slip, cleaned the boat and the fish, and we were done around 7:30.
The funniest part is that I actually had a date with a girl at 7, but I clearly ended up being late. I didn’t expect on this day to catch a swordfish but let’s be honest here, I’ll choose fishing over a girl any day!
That said, catching a 234-pound swordfish was more than a good enough excuse for being late to my date!
This was certainly a fishing trip I’ll never forget!