On August 23, 2023, a young Florida angler with an adventurous spirit and a fondness for catching big fish on the smallest of vessels has achieved a personal milestone off the Gulf coast: he caught, fought, and boated a 100-pound swordfish from a personal watercraft.
Emmanuel Williams, 23, of Miami, drove 14 hours to Venice, Louisiana, to get on the water at sun-up on August 20. He then motored 20 miles to open water and another 20 to the fishing grounds on his 12-foot Sea-Doo FishPro Trophy, a craft built for fishing. He was on a quest to make good on a plan he had announced four years earlier: to be the first person to catch a sword from a PWC.
A Swordfishing Group Effort
Williams was accompanied by his friend Capt. Sebastian Noel on the trip. In Venice, they connected with Capt. Blake Rigby, who provided the local know-how and accompanied Williams and Noel from his boat. Tyler Fischer was the fourth member of the party, shooting content as the adventure unfolded.
“Capt. Blake got us rigged up, and Sebastian hopped on the ‘ski with me,” he recalled. “We sent our bait down to about 1,400 feet of water.” They were using a 12/0 J-hook tipped with a squid, 60-pound braid with a 150-foot, 250-pound leader, a Shimano Talica 50 and a Check’n Bottom custom rod. The wait began, and the anglers’ patience was tested.
“I was pretty anxious and really wanted to get this fish,” Williams said. “After a couple hours of waiting morale got a little low, but we ground it out, and then we got that bite and cranked down on that fish. I was super excited to be locked in battle with this fish.”
The lead came to the rod and was removed. “Now we were directly connected with that fish. I told Sebastian, get ready with that gaff, this is our time, this is our moment. We saw that white glow of the fish coming up. I’m screaming at Sebastian, ‘Stick him, stick him, stick him!’ I couldn’t fathom that fish getting away.”
The Swordfish End Game
It did not get away. “Sebastian put the first gaff in him. I followed up with the second gaff, and then the fish realized what was happening and went absolutely ballistic — thrashing its bill, swinging its tail non-stop, and literally pulling the Sea-Doo in circles.
“And then that was it,” he said. “We definitely rejoiced. We were all very happy. As far as I know this was the first swordfish ever landed on a PWC, and it was documented.” They transferred the fish to Rigby’s cooler and began the long run back to their houseboat in Venice. The sea was flat while they fished, but by 10 a.m., “it was rolling 3 to fives the whole way,” he said. “But it wasn’t a bad ride home, knowing we completed the mission.” They cleaned and filleted the fish.
Williams is a content creator who works with Sea-Doo, Salt Life, and XTRATUF, and his YouTube channel is not to be missed. Fishing from a PWC is a personal choice that feels closer to the sea and the fish, he said.
The Allure of PWC Fishing
“I could definitely get a boat if I wanted to,” he said. “The first time I ever fished offshore was on a PWC. I just fell in love with the process and the challenge. It’s another kind of connection with the water, and it’s more intimate. There’s definitely more of a challenge to it. Just the weather — PWCs can handle super rough weather, but it’s a lot when you’re mixing weather with fishing.
“Space is a thing — you can’t bring a whole arsenal of rods. But in other ways, you kind of have an advantage, because if I happen to see, say, a school of tuna, I can roll up on them more quietly than a boat could.”
Twenty-three is young to have achieved a major goal, but Williams has further aspirations, all from the seat of the Sea-Doo.
“I have a lot of big plans when it comes to fishing,” he said. “I just want to travel and catch unique fish. I definitely want to do big tuna, both yellowfin and bluefin, and black and blue marlin. Those are the next fish I’m going after.”
You can see Williams’ catch the first-ever swordfish on a personal watercraft in this video on iBelongOutdoors.