For years, swordfishing off North Carolina’s coast meant spending the night offshore, fishing multiple live and dead baits at staggered depths from an illuminated boat. It could be productive, but the trip itself was an ordeal. But local anglers have recently found out that South Florida-style daylight fishing works just as well, if not better — if catches over the past week are any indication.
Jacky DuFour, a charter captain and commercial fisherman out of Marshallberg has spearheaded the effort to develop a daytime fishery off Cape Lookout this summer, dedicating seven days to targeting swords during daylight hours, and he’s already put five fish in the boat, the last and biggest being a 311-pound monster caught July 22, proof that the fishery is healthy and productive enough to produce adult swords.
Not wanting to miss out on the action, boats from Brunswick County have gotten in on the fun. Barrett and Brant McMullan went offshore out of Ocean Isle on July 18, fishing in the vicinity of the Beaufort Valley, about 90 mies from Shallotte Inlet. They got a radio report that another boat had hooked and landed a sword before they even set out their baits, but they hooked and landed a 245-pound fish. Not having a harpoon on board, they borrowed one from a nearby boat and put their sword on the deck.
Four days later, a quartet of Ocean Isle fishermen — Daniel Simmons, Ronald Staley, Chris Crowley and Chris Eckert, headed back out and caught a 409-pound fish after a six-hour battle.
DuFour said he’s targeting swordfish in depths ranging from 1350 to 1850 feet, looking for some kind of variation in the bottom structure. He feels like swords have always been there, but there hasn’t been a directed effort to target them until recently.
DuFour fishes a single bait at a time, just off the bottom, with a 10-pound sash weight about 100 feet in front of a large J-hook. Braid is used exclusively as the main line because it gets the bait down quicker than monofilament; mono is only used on as a leader.
DuFour said the type of bait doesn’t matter; it just has to be tough enough to withstand the rigors of being dropped all the way to the bottom and mouthed a few times by a curious swordfish. He has had success with dolphin bellies, amberjack, bonita bellies and even cut barracuda. All of the swordfish he has cleaned have had their stomachs full of squid, however, squid is not tough enough to stand up to the rigors of swordfishing. He has a problem with rigged squid being attacked by other squid, so the tougher bait gets the nod.