In the Gulf Stream, catching swordfish in the daytime is a fishery that has taken off in recent years.
Due to the expensive cost of specialized gear or potential shear boredom while waiting all day for one potential bite, it’s not a fishery for everyone. But the result can be special for those who get it down with a hectic hour or longer fight with monster swords.
“It really started in 2003 out of Islamorada,” said angler Kyle Shea, who fishes out of Boca Raton. “Captains like Nick Stanczyk spent countless trips prospecting and perfecting the technique. From 2004 on it’s been spreading like wildfire.”
Shea has been fishing for daytime swords for about seven years. It’s an extremely specialized style of fishing, requiring 12 pounds of lead fishing to depths of 1,700 feet in 4-knot currents. Shea uses electric reels with 65-pound braid and squid as bait, one of the staples of swordfish diet.
“This time of the year there is a big migration of fish,” Shea explained. “There’s also a big migration of squid. They come here to breed, and there’s a lot of food for them.”
On a trip last week, Shea found himself hooked up to a monster sword. It rose from the depths to the surface once it felt the pull of the line, something common for the big fish to do.
“Big fish want to swim up to the surface. Usually you’re just retrieving line until they get near the top. Ideally you can get the lead off, which is 150 feet above the leader. They then shoot back down and that’s when the fight really begins.”
For this monster, the fight turned when it dove back down to the depths below. Three-hundred feet would be gained, and then 300 feet would be lost. After about an hour, it was close to the boat with a harpoon in her side. Near the end of the hectic fight a tail rope was secured and the fish was finally landed.
“It was probably 340 to 360 pounds,” Shea said. “The Lighthouse scale was broken.”
But for this swordfish, it wasn’t the size that was special. It was what Shea saw when he cut it open to start getting the meat. It wasn’t the normal color of a swordfish; it was orange, something rare for the species.
“We call it a pumpkin,” Shea said. “It happens when they’re gorging themselves on ruby red shrimp and their meat ends up turning that color. It makes it more oily, and in turn the meat is sweeter. It’s almost like getting a very high end steak that melts in your mouth.”
When video of Shea’s catch hit social media, friends and family started lining up at his door. He figures there was about 280 pounds of meat to go around, and even friends who have been in the fishing business say it was special.
“I had commercial fishermen telling me they had never seen that color before,” Shea said. “I had a lot of people coming over to get some, and they all told me how great it was. It was only the second I’ve caught in my career and the first that color, so it was pretty amazing.”