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Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)
- Size 50 to 200lbs
- Food Value Good
- Game Qualities Excellent
- Habitats Offshore
The blazing fast, flat-billed Swordfish are considered by many anglers to be the ultimate big game challenge. They are vicious fighters with a weapon to match and be wary of, as their frantic head shakes and attempts at impaling don't stop until the very last second.
The Swordfish is an often overlooked billfish, being relatively hard to find during standard charter trips and caught mostly commercially by longline or harpoon at great offshore distances and depths. However, the species offers a true test of angling prowess, as landing one on hook and line requires excellent bait presentation, great technique and strength and a fair share of luck.
An interesting fact about Swordfish is that they have specially evolved tissue masses connected to their eye muscles that provide heat retention and insulation of the eyes and brain. This improves their already sharp vision and allows venturing to greater depths and geographical latitudes. Due to this, Swordfish can commonly be found in almost subpolar waters and in depths of around 1800ft, and, extremely, up to 9500ft.
The largest caught Swordfish came in at a whopping 14.9ft and 1430lbs, but catches average mostly between 4 and 6ft and about 100lbs. The largest fish can be found in the Pacific, followed by western Atlantic catches and Mediterranean fish as the smallest. Most Swordfish over 200lbs will be females.
When & Where
Swordfish can be found throughout the the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. They move in an extended latitudinal range of 60°N to 45°S due to their ability to preserve brain heat, which makes them able to withstand a wider range of temperatures.
As most highly migratory species though, they move to warmer waters during winter to spawn. Reproduction, thus, happens year-round in equatorial waters and seasonally during spring and summer in cooler tropical and subtropical seas.
Team effort gets the job done. Caught by Blackwater Charters out of Islamorada, FL
How to catch
Swordfish are tricky to catch. In productive grounds they can often be seen at the surface during the day, but might not want to take any bait if they're not feeding at the time. They generally eat more after dark, with night fishing being more difficult, especially with fish as dangerous as this one. The alternative is drifting bait as far down as 2000ft for the large depth-dwelling individuals.
Bait should be natural and can be small like mullet, herring or squid or larger like Bonito, Little Tunny, Cero or Spanish Mackerel. Concrete sinkers up to 10lbs serve to drop the bait as far down as needed. Various squid and fish imitations can be used too, with specialized swordfishing lures being equipped with glowing lights. Deep jigging is known to be successful.
Some anglers spearfish for surface-swimming Swordfish, but there have been reports of gruesome outcomes, as wounded Swordfish are erratic and irritated. They are also known to make fierceful dives towards the bottom, at times penetrating the sandy ocean floor up to their eyes.
In addition to having a sharp, flat, bill that can easily dispose of your line or cause harm, Swordfish also pull extremely hard and fast, perform aerial leaps trying to shake the hook off and - have a notoriously soft mouth that can easily tear. This is why a heavy and braided line at least a mile long, a fighting chair, an experienced guide to handle the fish once reeled in and a lot of luck are prerequisites for Swordfishing.
Good to eat?
The meat is delicious and as firm as steak, so can be prepared in many different ways. However, high levels of mercury have been reported in specimens.
- Season - always open;
- Size limit (minimum) - Florida, South Carolina - 47'' LJFL; Louisiana - 29'' CL; other states have no size regulations;
- Bag limit - Florida - 1 per harvester per day (not to exceed a maximum of 4 per not for-hire vessel or 15 per for-hire vessel per day); South Carolina - 1 per harvester per day (not to exceed a maximum of 4 per vessel per day); Louisiana - up to 5 per vessel per trip; California - 2; other states have no bag regulations;
- Season - always open;
- Western Australia, New South Wales and Victoria - up to 1 fish, no size limits;
- Queensland, South Australia - no regulations;
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