Targeting Swordfish with Capt. Jimbo Thomas

You can target swordfish in Southeast Florida in the daytime or nighttime, both are very productive. I do more daytime swordfishing because I think the fish are larger and the bite more consistent, but a lot of guys do very well fishing at night.

In my area, we target the fish in 1,800 to 2,000 feet of water, with the fish feeding down close to the bottom in the daytime and up near the surface at night. Some of the guys who fish swordfish on a regular basis like to position their drifts so that their baits go over the humps, atolls and rises in the bottom.

Because we’re fishing in such deep water and positioning the baits just off the bottom I like to use electric reels, but for night fishing a good conventional 50 or 80 pound reel that holds at least 700 yards of line is fine. We use 100 or 130 pound braided line on the electric reel, and splice in 100 feet of 300 pound monofilament for leader, so we essentially have a wind-on leader. On the end of the wind-on leader we’ll put a snap swivel. We’ll attach that to a short piece of 300 pound monofilament leader, so we can change out baits quickly and reel the fish right up to the boat without having to handline them.

Even though it’s daytime, there’s no light 2,000 feet down, so we add two lights to the rig, one at the snap swivel that we snap our leader on with, and another about 20 feet up the line. We use snap swivels on them so that we can snap them off the leader as they come up to the surface to make it easier to fight and land a fish. 

For baits, I like bonito or dolphin strips, but have also caught fish on ladyfish, bluefish, even mackerel. Split the bait and rig it with a10/0 to 12/0 “J” style hook. I use 16- to 18-pounds of weight and don’t use a breakaway lead, instead attaching it to the leader with a long-line snap so it’s placed at the front of the leader so the weight is roughly 100 feet from the hook. Then when we drop we let the weight fall all the way to the bottom and then reel it up 100 feet, so we know the bait is near the bottom but not touching bottom or anything that could snag it and cause us to lose the entire rig.

Once you hit bottom, you just drift along watching the depth machine and watch the tip of the rod. Also watch for rises in the bottom that might catch your rig and cause you to lose the entire rig. When you see a rise, be sure to reel your baits up to compensate for the decrease in depth.

When fishing at night we drift the same depths but the fish have come to the surface to feed so we stagger the baits at 50, 150 and 300 feet deep. Use the same lights and leader system, but for baits rigged squid or live blue runners, goggle-eyes or tinker mackerel see to work best.

The average fish we catch during the daytime is around 140 pounds, with fish to 400 pounds or more common. The fishing is good year-round, with the best action in the summer simply because you get a lot of calm days where you can get out and drift.


Captain Tips