Word got out quick, as it often does in the digital age: a small group of Florida anglers catching swordfish during the day.
If you read the reports during the summer of ‘07, you may have noticed a few missing details. Like how exactly do you present a bait over a thousand feet beneath the surface—in a 4-knot current, at that? How do you keep that rig from spinning into a fatal tangle? How do you sense a bite?
How do you winch 300 pounds of angry fish into cold storage?
We decided to find out the real story.
Two fishermen currently enjoying high degrees of daylight success are Capt. Bob Taute and mate Mike Rodamer of the Cutting Edge in Marathon. Taute and Rodamer (also a licensed captain) fully understand what it takes to land a sword in the daytime. They’ve fished together almost 30 years. When I received an invitation to join them on their 72-foot Rybovich, I was out the door without shoes. These guys have a bank full of catches, but until recently most were made in the dark.
“There was talk the only way to catch them was to do it at night when the fish were closer to the surface feeding,” said Taute, smiling. “That’s not true any longer.”
Taute and Rodamer have taken swords to 400 pounds in the daytime and have had larger ones on, plus multiple hookups on most trips. Here is what I observed as a guest aboard the Cutting Edge.
The tackle they prefer is the Penn International 80 SWT with approximately 300 yards of 80-pound-test monofilament and a top shot of 1,500 yards of 150-pound-test Power Pro in high-vis yellow. Bimini twists are tied in the 80-pound mono backing and in the Power Pro to form double lines for a cat’s paw connection, which is finished with tight wraps of rigging floss. The cat’s paw is formed by passing the spool of Power Pro through its Bimini twisted loop. It’s a cool trick.
The reel is attached to a bent-butt roller guide rod rated for 80-pound-class line.
The top shot of braid allows an angler to pack on an additional several hundred yards of line, as it has the diameter of much lighter monofilament. This helps in several ways: First, that extra line is handy because productive depths for daytime swording are usually much deeper than at night. Lacking stretch, the braid also allows an angler to feel the bite better.
Taute prefers to fish at or near the bottom when day swording. He says that many times when they are cleaning a fish, they inspect the stomach contents and find all types of deepwater bottom dwellers in the stomach. Eels and deepwater hake, as well as squid, have all been pulled from swords at the fillet table. Taute
and Rodamer believe that swordfish in the Straits of Florida are predominantly bottom feeders and only rise toward the surface at night. They prefer to stay at or near the bottom using their large eyes and sweeping their bills back and forth while they forage. Taute says that many times their bills are chipped, apparently from contact with structure while feeding.
Taute prefers to use only one rod per drift for several very good reasons. When there are multiple lines, he explained, there are usually multiple tangles which lead to multiple cutoffs. “That Power Pro under a load can easily cut anything it comes in contact with,” he said. He also prefers to have the angler fight these fish from the chair where the fish is easily controlled, instead of standup style or leaving the rod in the gunnel. These are extremely powerful fi
Another good reason for the single line is the extreme depths to which baits are sent. Even if there were a hookup on one rod, Taute reasons, it still means there are several minutes of another line down there that could result in a tangle.
The fish we landed the day I rode on Cutting Edge solidified Taute’s explanations. His daughter Jenny learned first hand what sort of fight a swordfish was capable of, and if we’d had a few lines in I feel sure they would have been tangled once her fish started its antics some 150 stories below. Taute also told me that when his angler is in the chair, it makes it easier to see what is going on as he uses the boat to help the angler retrieve line by backing down and also helps the hookup by gunning it forward on the strike while the mate or the angler reels like mad.
The bait that the crew prefers is a large rigged squid attached to an 18/0 circle hook. This circle hook really helps when they catch a sword that is not of legal length, as invariably they are hooked in the corner of the mouth and can be easily returned unharmed. The hook also keeps the fish from being gut-hooked. Taute says circles should be used at every opportunity, as the swordfish’s ability to survive after a release largely hinges on not having a hook lodged in the throat, or trailing a long leader.