Swordfish, also known as Broadbill in some countries, are large, highly migratory, predatory fish characterized by a long, flat bill. They are a popular sport fish in the billfish category, though elusive.
Swordfish are recognized by their elongated, round-bodied, and lose all teeth and scales by adulthood. Though they are deep sea denizens naturally, they can at times be found fairly close to shore. Swordfish are big fish that can reach a maximum size of up 14 ft and 1,400 pounds.
The International Game Fish Association’s all-tackle angling record for a swordfish was a 1,182 lb specimen taken off Chile in 1953. When planning your next Swordfish fishing trip visit our fishing charter directory, Swordfish fishing guide or Swordfish fishing charter page to link up with the right professional fishing charter to give you that memorable experience you have been dreaming about.
Swordfish Fishing Locations
Swordfish are pelagic fish—living within the water column rather than on the bottom or in coastal areas. They are typically found at depths of between 180 meters and 580 meters and are found worldwide in temperate and tropical waters. Pacific Ocean Swordfish are larger than their Atlantic counterpart, and females are generally larger than males.
They are believed to prefer waters where the surface temperature is above 58°F, although they can tolerate temperatures as low as 50°F. There seems to be some correlation between larger size and the ability to tolerate colder temperatures. Few of these fish under 200 pounds are found in waters less than 64°F.
Swordfish are summer and fall visitors to New England waters, entering the warming Atlantic coastal waters from far offshore in the Gulf Stream around June and departing in late October.
Evidence suggests that such onshore-offshore seasonal migrations are more prevalent than are migrations between the northern feeding areas off Cape Hatteras and the southern spawning grounds off Florida and the Caribbean.
Swordfish Fishing Techniques
Today, some swordfish are caught as they traditionally were using harpoons, but most are caught on long-lines consisting of the main line, up to 40 miles long, which is supported in the water column by floats and from which baited hooks are suspended. In addition, swordfish are often an incidental catch in the tuna fishery.
Big game anglers normally fish for swordfish by trolling and drift-fishing, using rod-and-reel gear. The catch rate has increased considerably since fishermen began in the mid-1970s to fish for swordfish at night using drifting baited lines.
Swordfish are caught mostly at night, in the deeper areas of offshore canyons. On overnight trips, anglers typically set one or more lines at various depths.
Nighttime swordfish rigs usually consist of a large circle or Southern tuna hook on a cable leader. Swordfish baits include whole squid, mackerel or other small fish. A glow stick is added to the leader a few feet above the bait.
Inline weights may also be added on the line to control the depth of the bait. A deep sea fishing guide or deep sea fishing charter can be a great way to get on this fish.
Swordfish Cooking and Eating – Caution
Unfortunately for the species, Swordfish is among the most delicious in the world. The meat is tender, white and has a distinctive flavor, similar to Wahoo. Swordfish is often served grilled or broiled. Once almost unsalable, swordfish meat gained in popularity during World War II and continued through the early 1970s.
In 1971, the U.S. and Canadian swordfish fishery was essentially terminated following U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) restrictions imposed on the sale of swordfish found to have levels of mercury in the flesh higher than 0.5 parts per million.
But gradually, the U.S. fishery began to rebound. In 1979, the FDA raised the acceptable mercury level to 1.0 ppm, based, in part, on a National Marine Fisheries Service study, showing that a 1.0 ppm action level would adequately protect consumers.
Finally, in 1984, the FDA switched from enforcing the mercury action level based on total mercury concentration to methylmercury concentration. This change occurred for two reasons: (1) It was determined that methylmercury was the toxic component of the total mercury concentration, and (2) a test specific for methylmercury became available.
Since then, both catch and fishing effort have been exceedingly high in the Atlantic Ocean, with swordfish meat commanding top prices in the marketplace.
Fishing for Swordfish Sustainably
When swordfish are boated, the decision to kill or release a legal sized fish is usually a matter of personal preference. The American swordfish fishery is one of the few fishery management success stories, with a recent comeback of the fish after their stocks plummeted due to overfishing.
Hopefully, future harvests will remain within reason and anglers will enjoy good fishing for swordfish.
Fishing for Swordfish can be a true joy for the angler looking for a fight with a big fish. Fishing for this prized species in beautiful blue offshore waters provides an amazing backdrop for deep sea fishing trips.