Man vs. Swordfish

A full moon, 10-foot seas, and hundreds of pounds of strength and attitude on the line. What could be better?

Swordfish
Swordfish, like this one with the author, are fierce predators and great game fish. They’re also quite tasty.Courtesy of Patrick Sciacca

The midnight sky featured a bright-as-the-sun full moon, which spread its soft white light across the swell-topped sea. Our 50-foot-plus vessel bobbed in the eight- to ten-footers as three big squid baits set deep awaited the legendary big-eyed, broadbill swordfish.

Within an hour of dropping our baits, one of the 80-pound-class rod’s necks started to crane, a telltale sign that the targeted quarry was inhaling our little circle-hook-equipped cephalopod. A few turns of the 70-pound-class reel’s handle from the rod holder ensured that we were indeed hooked up to a substantial swordfish.

I set myself into a stand-up bucket harness and picked up the rod, latching the harness’ support clips into the sides of the reel. I was now attached to this unseen foe, and for the first time felt his formidable strength. Line started leaving the reel with reckless abandon. Even with the drag set at nearly 30 pounds, I was powerless to stop this animal. He just ran. And ran. And, well, ran.

It seemed a matter of mere seconds before this beast streaked down into the sea’s darkest depths, nearly spooling my reel of its line. It was a make or break moment. Our crew got aggressive and attempted to gain back line with a combination of even more drag and some fast boat handling. The odds were against us, but we went for it. For a nanosecond (maybe less), we thought we had this fish on the run. He thought better of it and made another spectacular Usain Bolt-like sprint and broke off. Our fish, which resembled one of those written about by Zane Grey and Ernest Hemingway, was gone.

The lying to each other about the swordfish’s potential size started almost immediately. “Five-hundred, at least,” said one crewmember. “Maybe six,” said another. It was moot. Our swordfish was swimming freely in the ocean with a squid-filled belly.

But all was not lost. Within an hour we got our conciliation prize, a stout 160-pound swordfish. This one put up a great fight too. And although it was considerably smaller than our furious foe from earlier in the evening, this swordfish had all of the hallmark strength and attitude that makes me want to chase them.

That big one is still out there, and I’m still looking.