Daytime Swordfish Tactics

Learn Day Dropping Techniques

By Capt. Gus Cane

The spotlight—and sunlight—is on. Daytime deep-dropping for swordfish, first developed in the Florida Keys, has exploded in popularity the last few years. In addition to South Florida, enterprising anglers are consistently scoring broadbills all across the Gulf of Mexico and up the Atlantic seaboard into the Carolinas. It is an accessible fishery for larger center consoles, walkarounds, and catamarans with fuel efficient and dependable power like Yamaha’s new 5.4L V8 XTO four-stroke outboards.

Daytime Swordfish Tactics spotlight—and sunlight—is on. Daytime deep-dropping for swordfish, first developed in the Florida Keys
Daytime Swordfish Tactics spotlight—and sunlight—is on. Daytime deep-dropping for swordfish, first developed in the Florida Keys
Photo; Nick Stanczyk


Here’s what you need to know to get in on the fun:

Swordfish frequent deep water drop-offs or ledges that hold bait. Targeted depths typically range from 1,400 to 1,800 feet, which requires reels with high line capacity. Anglers will either need big biceps or access to electrical power to plug in electric-assist reels. Because of the amount of line deployed and distances involved, only one or two rods are usually fished at a time.

Outfits are rigged with whole squid or belly strip baits with skirts. Depending on the depth, lead or metal weights from six to 12 pounds are added to long leaders with release set-ups, so the weights disconnect upon contact with the bottom. Lights are added for illumination. The bait is presented by drifting (common in the Gulf) or power idling in position and allowing the Gulf Stream current to “troll” by (Florida). In either case, a swordfish strike is very subtle.

“There is a lot of line out with very long leaders, so seeing the actual bite and reacting to it is very important,” says Capt. Nick Stanczyk of Islamorada, Florida. Stanczyk learned the techniques from his father, Richard, one of the daytime drop pioneers. He is now a Yamaha Pro Team member and well-respected expert in the daytime fishery. “Most of the time, when a swordfish strikes the bait, the rod tip may only bounce an inch. When that happens, we take the bait away to make the fish more aggressive or drop back to feed it.”

Daytime swordfish vary in size from 50 to 500 pounds, and fights can last from 15 minutes to several hours. The fish often swim to the surface after hook-up, and once they see sunlight, the real battle begins. With thick, powerful tails and a thrashing bill, swordfish are a worthy adversary. A Highly Migratory Species permit is required for swordfish in federal waters, which must be at least 47 inches long from the lower jaw to the fork of the tail to harvest. Releasing smaller fish will help ensure healthy populations for the future.

Daytime Swordfish Tactics spotlight—and sunlight—is on. Daytime deep-dropping for swordfish, first developed in the Florida Keys

Boats rigged with Yamaha’s XTO V8 outboards have the ability to quickly reach the swordfish grounds 25-plus miles offshore without burning much fuel. On the spot, smooth digital throttle and shift functions allow precise maneuvers to keep the baits in the strike zone or react quickly when the fish changes directions during protracted fights.

Visit YamahaOutboards.com to learn more.

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