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October 01, 2013

South Florida Swordfishing Techniques

Specialized tactics for an incredible fishery off Florida’s glamour coast

How does your daytime swordfishing differ from your nighttime trips? 

Panos: The daytime fishing is completely different. You basically drop a single bait to the bottom in 1,600 to 1,800 feet of water and reel it off the bottom 50 to 100 feet. The daytime fishery has been better in the past couple of years.

What’s your basic rig for daytime fishing?

Panos: For daytime fishing, I prefer to use a Dolphin 80VSW electric/manual combo reel. The Dolphin reel has a handle that works both in low and high gear. If you do get a bite, you can manually fight the fish with the handle. On the other hand, the reel also has an electric motor, so if you need to check the bait or relocate, you can use the electric portion of the reel to bring up your rig.  

The reel is loaded with 80-pound braid. That is attached to a 150-foot wind-on leader of 300-pound test. At the end of the wind-on, we crimp on a ball bearing swivel. Then, we crimp on our bait that’s on a 5-foot section of 300-pound test and attached to a 10/0 or 11/0 hook.  

At the top of the wind-on is a floss loop, which is securely tied to the mono section to ensure it does not slide. I attach a 10- to 12-pound lead weight with a snap onto the floss loop. The lead is tied to 5 feet of 60-pound-test monofilament.  

On the wind-on, about 15 to 25 feet from the bait, I use two flashing strobes. These are passed through the line and secured in place with rubber bands. When you do get a fish close to the boat, these lights will slide through the line, allowing you to bring the fish right up to the swivel section. The rubber bands are used to keep the lights from sliding as you drop your bait. I prefer two strobes: one white and the second blue, or white followed by a green color.

What are you looking for on the depth finder when finding an area to fish? 

Panos: In Miami, we fish a drop-off between 1,200 and 1,600 feet of water. This area has a ridge with lots of ups and downs on the bottom that in turn create upwellings and usually hold bait. Bait is usually squid, deep-water sardines and sometimes tinker mackerel. Inshore of the ridge is usually pretty flat bottom and offshore of the ridge it drops off to 2,000 feet.

The key is to keep your bait near the bottom but avoid snagging the bottom. We usually fish offshore of the ridge in areas with less ups and downs on the bottom, but with areas that do have large humps and depressions. You seem to catch more fish in the front and just behind most of the holes or mounds. You need to watch your depth recorder and adjust your bait up and down keeping close to the bottom but avoid snagging the bottom.

What are the top swordfish baits?  

Panos: During the day, we use baits that are fairly durable and can withstand a sword’s brutal attack. We often used bonito strips rigged Panama-style with a large skirt over them. We also use dolphin strips, bonito bellies, dolphin bellies, split-tail mullet, or dead squid stitched well to the hook.

What’s the average size swordfish caught off South Florida? 

Panos: My biggest fish to date is 610 pounds. That was caught during the day. At night, the biggest fish was around 460 pounds. Average size swordfish during the day is 100 to 300 pounds, and average at night is 50 to 200 pounds.

What is your favorite color of swordfish light?

Panos: Although the color of the Lindgren Pitman swordfish lights that we use are really not a factor, I favor blue, green or purple, as well as a tri-color light (blue/green/white) and a two-color light (blue/green).