Dropping into the Deep
In 18 trips during 2011, Booby Trap caught 86 swords and 20 blues, whites and sails. But in 2012, putting marlin on the side burner (except for our quest in July, which made the feat all the more impressive), day-dropping for swords has been the name of Holden’s game during just about each of his 15 trips.
The results? One hundred and seventy-two swordfish, most of which were released and many of which would have eclipsed the current Texas state record of 341 pounds.
During one particular trip, Booby Trap caught and released 21 swords in 24 hours. Another trip netted 21 swords in 31 hours. Still another produced 12 swords, 10 of which were estimated at between 200 to 450 pounds. He’s also lost some monsters, including a fish he figured at well over 1,000 pounds, which fought for 23 hours before getting off.
No question, Holden has single-handedly put this fishery on the map and pushed existing day-drop techniques — born first in Venezuela, then in Florida — to new heights, even establishing the Texas Swordfish Seminar that is proving to be very popular.
As with the marlins’ reactions to the quickly changing Loop Current, Holden has figured out how the swords react to and move in current at depth. He also has mastered the use of his Furuno NavNet 3-D electronic displays when analyzing the currents around swordfish structure.
One more thing: His team has become adept at producing daytime doubles when conditions are right. “We caught 12 double-headers on daytime swords this year,” Holden says.
Sure enough, one of those doubles occurred during our adventure this past July. As soon as the Super Slam was accomplished with our swordfish release, the boys dropped down again — but this time using their dual-rod technique.
In no time flat, two swordfish were hooked, brought to the boat and released. Just like that.
It was the icing on the cake of a day I won’t soon forget — and a fishery that’s impossible to forget.
Overnighting Is a Huge Commitment
If you’re planning to overnight in the Hilltops off Texas, or anywhere for that matter, you’ve got to prepare for the worst.
It starts with watching the weather like a hawk.
“Back in the ’80s, it was a haul to make the trip to the 100-fathom curve, and there was major risk,” says Holden. “There is still risk in every trip with the weather, but with today’s forecasting and the new, faster boats, you have a better estimate of what you’re up against.”
Even during our trip in July, which occurred in weather about as good as you could hope for, we still saw plenty of thunderstorms and rapidly changing conditions at times.
As such, it’s crucial to have weather-forecasting services aboard your boat. Also, before you leave the dock, make absolutely certain your boat is operating in tip-top shape, and double-check that you have visual distress signals, life jackets, sound-producing devices, fire extinguishers and personal locator beacons.
Fuel burn is also crucially important on long-range trips, and an operator must intimately understand his vessel’s range and capabilities.
Then there’s the fish — if you get into them like we did, you’d better be prepared. We brought 65 bags of ice. And, of course, you’ll need plenty of food and drink for three days.
“You can never be overprepared,” says Holden.