Bill and Debbie Lussier booked a swordfish trip with Islamorada fishing captain Nick Stanczyk a few months ago but had to postpone it because the wind was blowing too hard that day.
They rescheduled it for March 31, and it turned out to be one for the books.
Bill Lussier ended up reeling in a 757.8-pound swordfish, which broke the previous Florida record set in May 7, 1978. That’s when Stephen Stanford reeled in a 612-pound broadbill off Key Largo, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The world record is a 1,182-pound swordfish caught May 7, 1953, in Iquique, Chile, according to the International Game Fish Association.
Lussier, from Cape Coral, Florida, fought the fish for eight hours. The mammoth fish dragged Stanczyk’s boat, the Broad Minded, 20 miles.
Stanczyk, 34, and his family are known as daytime sword-fishing pioneers in the Keys and have mastered the art of hooking the deepwater fish, which had previously been targeted mostly at night.
But, while he’s boated — and tagged and released — many big fish over the years, he was floored when Lussier reeled the fish close enough to the boat to get a good look at just how large this one was.
“This was the fattest swordfish I had ever seen. I caught one the year before that tipped the scales right at 600 pounds,” Stanczyk wrote in am April 7 Facebook post. “But, this one was a lot thicker through the tail. I knew it was a lot bigger.”
Stanczyk, who’s based at Bud ‘N’ Mary’s, an Islamorada marina owned by his father, dropped the line 1,500 feet, attached to a buoy at the surface. This was 8:10 a.m. Not even 10 minutes into his normal speech to his clients on what to do when the rod bends, the fish hit.
“I didn’t say anything for a few seconds because I wanted to make sure I wasn’t seeing things,” he said. Instead of bobbing up and down, as it normally would when a fish is hooked, the buoy was lying on its side. “Once I was certain, I told everyone we had a bite. There was no rod bent, no line screaming off the reel. Just a buoy that looked a little different than it should.”
Bill Lussier took the rod, and Stanczyk’s mate, Konnor Ross, reeled in the rest of the rods to clear the way for the long fight ahead.
“Every morning I left my house to go fishing saying, ‘today could be the day.’ Today was the day,” Stanczyk wrote. “None of us were giving up!”
After finally gaffing the fish around 4:20 p.m., Stanczyk knew it was the biggest one he’s boated. But it wasn’t until the party returned to Bud ‘N’ Mary’s and pulled the fish onto the scale that he realized it was a record breaker.
“When we hoisted her up, the digital scale read 757.8 pounds! It was the one we were after,” he said.
A fish that size can, and did, feed a lot of people. Stanczyk cut it up into large steaks at the marina and gave the Lussiers a big cooler-full for them and their family and friends. Stanczyk gave a lot of the meat to his family and friends as well, but he also made a nice meal for his wife and baby daughter.
“It was the best fish I’ve ever eaten,” he said. “I don’t know if it was the boost of mercury, the sweet taste of victory, or what, but it was good. Damn good.”