The sword is diving like an anvil falling off a skyscraper. Oh no, this is not happening again! I’m leaning hard into the fish. The strain starts to show. I feel every stroke of his tail and downward dash in my back, shoulders, and legs. We’re dancing, and he’s leading. I’m cranking down, reeling, then pumping up and applying as much pressure as I can. I’m gaining an inch of line back at a time, only to have the sword take out another three inches whenever the mood hits him. I can feel his tail pulsating. He’s smart, but he’s also burning up energy. I maintain steady pressure and wait with uncharacteristic patience for the will of the fish to break. I will get my first South Florida swordfish.
This crew has been up almost 18 hours as we spent the early morning and daylight hours catching pilchards and then set off for the solid winter sailfish fishery that happens in this part of the country. This trip is part of a 20-hour, dual-species charter Canyon Runner offers here. (Individual day and night trips are also available.) And I can say with certainty that after catching sails (and some mahi-mahi) in the morning and afternoon, then dashing out at dusk for the swords in the Stream, this long day trip is worth it. The top-notch crew has found the fish all day, and now they have me in a real pitched battle. For big-game anglers, it doesn’t get much better.
The strain of the harness encourages me to move towards the gunwale. I resist. He’s getting tired, but now so am I. “Just a little further,” DeCabia encourages, harpoon at the ready and eyes wide. This mate isn’t tired, nor is Nighan, who mans the helm and looks down at the cockpit intently.
He’s coming up. It’s happening. This fish is done. I know it. My 20-plus years of chasing pelagics are telling me it’s almost over. The line is angling out. Just a few more cranks, and he’s in range. “C’mon,” I say to myself, leaning hard into the fish, but mindful to stay cool. The sweat is permeating my shirt so much, steam rises through it. The sword jumps next to the boat, and I move towards him and make up line. DeCabia sees a shot and takes it. He sends the dart home with deadly accuracy. I step back. Nighan is leaping down from the bridge, helping to secure the fish. My first South Florida sword battle is over.
But I have nothing but respect for this manhandling brute of a fish. I’ve caught big blue marlin, giant bluefin tuna, massive Pacific sailfish, and the like, and swordfish are just as challenging, if not more so. This sword came in at a bit under 200 pounds. The one we lost? He could’ve been in the 500-pound range. Heck, if he’d stayed on, I might still be on the rod.
So, if you’ve been doing your push ups and want to spend some time in the South Florida sun, with the chance of catching the fish of a lifetime within sight of land, try giving this crew a call. They will find the fish. The rest is up to you.
Canyon Runner’s winter rates run $1,295 to $2,000, depending on the type and length of charter.
This article originally appeared in the October 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.