The fiercest ocean predators many experienced anglers target are the swordfish because they offer a meaty taste and a brutish demeanor. Deep dropping for swordfish should be on your bucket list of the top lifetime feats out on the waters. You must know how to accurately read electronic charts, employ the right daytime swordfish catching tactics, and be determined and patient enough to land this behemoth. Some anglers confess to having spent a long night pulling lines in bone-chilling winter to catch this monster in the deep waters.
What Is Deep Dropping For Swordfish?
Modern swordfishing is typically a nighttime activity. It uses baits placed in the water column to lure the fish. The fishing gear for deep dropping for swordfish is designed to be placed at various depths to get the best opportunity to catch a few swordfish while they are still young. Researchers and seasoned anglers have better understood how swordfish work in the last few decades. This has allowed fishermen to target and routinely catch the swordfish in the daytime. Like any other predator in the oceans, swordfish are looking for food.
This predator will be eating a lot of cephalopods, as evidenced by the various stomach contents of swordfish worldwide. There are many fish species of cephalopods, such as squid, that the swordfish prefers most. In lesser amounts, other fish like sardines, tuna, and other mackerel are also adored by swordfish. If swordfish are pursuing squid, it makes sense that they will be where the squid is in the water column, and that is where you should also be.
Movements of Swordfish
Swordfish are a rare species that can cross extreme thermal barriers daily, hunting for food both at the surface and at great depths during the day. This unique feeding opportunity allows swordfish to feed during the day and at night on a variety of delicious and nutritious fish. Swordfish often move from deep water to near the surface to find food. They regularly migrate, navigating the ocean floor more than twice daily to catch food.
Sometimes the predators can spend a whole day feeding on the bottom of the oceans and at night climb up through the water column to feed on squid and other animals that are eating plankton. That means swordfish migrate in two ways: one during the day and another during the night. Therefore, you need to learn more about swordfish’s movement patterns when searching for food, squid, and other cephalopods.
Cephalopods, in particular, eat zooplankton, the foundation of the food chain that makes up the ocean. Zooplankton usually moves to deep water in the morning and stay there until the sun sets. This process is referred to as diel vertical migration and is carried out by both freshwater and marine plankton.
There are several reasons why fish have been able to migrate so far underwater: obtaining tasty food in shallow water is not as important as not becoming a tasty meal for predators. This rich layer of zooplankton is sometimes referred to as the Deep Scattering Layer or DS Layer.
Squid and baitfish, which feed on plankton, also migrate with the zooplankton. Fish are known to be very well-adapted to this food source, and it is easy to see why larger and larger predators would be interested in devouring this food. As zooplankton migrates deeper into the ocean during the night to feed and move further down into the water column during the day to find safe places to stay, it is natural that a large number of bait fish will follow. This is the process that determines the depth to which swordfish feed.
Structure and Bait
Find the swordfish by locating the bait and working it in the water column. It may seem simple, but it isn’t. Fish are attracted to large structures that provide shade, like cliffs, ledges, or rock piles. They will stay put and guard the structures for a while. When the Gulf Stream moves very quickly, it will move at about 3.5 knots per hour.
You can find structures that hold fish in place by adjusting your electronics. This means that whatever fish are suspended in the water either move with the current or fight to stay on the structure. Bait is being swept down the river, creating a conveyor belt of food for swordfish that stay close to structures during the day.
If you have ever watched a trout swim through a stream, you will see that they slip and slide in and out of the current to grab a bite of food. When you look at the bottoms where swordfish have been caught in the past, you will notice that they all have similar characteristics.
Because of the structure that swordfish prefer, they will hold tight to things like seamounts and ledges and are not afraid of being ambushed. This holds true in any fishing area. Fish can locate areas that have an excellent structure to hide in. Fish species, especially billfish, will always want to catch some food but will also seek areas with a lot of slack water or some other structure that will allow them to hide from the current. Hence, when you find a structure that is easily accessible to the fish, it is easy to pick up bait that will help you catch more fish.
If you can find food transported by the current to, or over, the structure, that is even better. And if you could enjoy some burgers, nachos, or a good beverage while you sat and watched a sporting event, you probably wouldn’t move much for a while. This is precisely how predator fish such as the swordfish will typically behave. In other words, swordfishing is about finding a productive area supporting a good structure. This is made more accessible because today’s electronics allow you to quickly look for structures below the water level to find fish.
You can do this very quickly, even in the deepest part of the sea. You can also see vast pools of bait around these structures. These irregular contours of a deep bottom allow the swordfish to get at the bait. Currents that sweep across good seafloors create eddies and crosscurrents that trap bait fish. Therefore, if you identify the key points that provide opportunities for swordfishing, you will consistently catch plenty of fish.
How Do You Drop A Swordfish Rig?
Every fisherman has their own fishing variations and preferences, and only one rig is usually used to catch swordfish. It’s called a deep-drop rig. This rig is specifically designed to drag a bait down to the bottom of the ocean to bait the swordfish and keep it there for as long as possible, all while slowly trolling efficiently! This is critical for catching daytime swordfish, as you’ll want to target the water 2,000 feet or deeper!
While every angler has their own preferences and variations, there is generally only one type of swordfish rig that is typically used—the deep drop rig. This rig is specially designed to get bait down to the floor of the ocean and keep it there while gently trolling efficiently. This is critical for daytime swordfishing by targeting waters 2,000 feet deep or even more!
You will need to do the following to catch this predator:
- Line: The best swordfish rig for catching a swordfish is a solid core braided line that weighs 65 to 80 pounds.
- Rods: The standard rod for catching swordfish should weigh 80 to 100-pound. Established fishing rod manufacturers cater to day-timing fishing adventures and have thus started making special rods for catching this predator during the day as a sport. They are very soft to detect subtle bites and feature two sealed guides at the tip. These rods are very soft, allowing them to sense when something is biting, and have ring guides that help to put the line where it needs to be.
- Reels: Since targeting swordfish requires fishing at extreme depths and using heavy weights, beefy reels designed with extra-large spools are most popular among seasoned anglers. Purchase a rod with easy-to-use controls and powerful motors that allow you to quickly and easily extract 12 pounds of lead from the water.
- Weight: Attach to the head of the mono leader at the point where the braid aligns with the mono leader, and a lead stick weighing from 7 to 12 pounds on a 30-foot dropper is placed. The lead stick is secured to the leader with a long-liner clip.
- Bait for swordfish: Sewn strip baits of blue runners, Mahi, or small tuna species such as bonito are perfect swordfish baits. They are much more sustainable and can withstand repeated hits from other species. Strip baits are rigged with two inline J hooks that fit into any available hook size. Sometimes an octopus skirt is added to the bait to provide some additional action and to help keep the bait straight.
How Deep Should Swordfish Be?
You can catch swordfish at about 1400-1600 feet. The northern Gulf of Mexico’s incredible fisheries is one of the best places for catching swordfish. Anglers can find anything from a few small fish in the backwaters of quiet tidal creeks to giant bluefin tuna in deep waters off the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. The broadbill swordfish isn’t new to anglers in the Gulf. However, it’s become the main target of what’s debatably the hottest bite in big game fishing in this area.
In the past, fishing for swordfish was considered just another thing to do when there was nothing else to do. It was seen as an additional activity that was a bonus to a fishing trip. Some boats would send out bait or two to catch some fish at night, which a watchman would need to tend to while the crew slept.
During the late 90s and early 2000s, more and more anglers started embracing the idea of catching these amazing predators as a daytime fishing activity. Fishing for swordfish at night is no longer a unique opportunity; it’s a thoroughly planned effort. In addition, during the last few years, anglers have been able to perfect their daytime fishing techniques on the northern Gulf Coast.
What Is The Best Bait For Swordfish?
The last thing that should be between you and a swordfish that is more than 1,000 feet or more away is a lousy rigged bait. Baits that are rigged properly attract more fish than those that are not appropriately rigged. Swordfish have incredible eyesight and can see extremely well, even in the darkest of the seabed. Because of their unique abilities, swordfish can detect any bait hidden deep in the water using bioluminescence. Some of the baits you should try out include:
- Dead Squid: If you cut into the belly of any swordfish, its stomach will be packed to the brim with squid. Dead squid is an excellent bait to use to catch nighttime swordfish. Although there are some good places to find squid in Florida and most Gulf Coast states, it is better to buy squid at a local bait and tackle store.
- Bullet Bonita: This is perfect for nighttime swordfishing escapades. You can catch the bullet Bonita by trolling small lures on your way out to your favorite locations for catching swordfish. It might be hard to keep the Bonita alive in a well because they naturally love swimming constantly.
- Tinker Mackerel: This bait is swordfish candy and can easily be found on the swordfish grounds.
- Live Blue Runner: These baits are very effective for nighttime swordfishing, as they are easy to catch near the docks. Fishing with live bait to hook up with nighttime swordfish may cause you to foul hook them (but it will be totally rewarding).
- Artificial Stuffed Squid: Although most anglers don’t like using artificial baits when targeting swordfish, the artificial stuffed squid can also do the magic.
Fishing deep during the day can provide some of the best fishing in the deep waters. Targeting swordfish year-round offers you a wide range of extensive game variety options in size, reliability, and fighting abilities. Over the past few years, the techniques and tackle for swordfish have immensely changed. You’ll need to do your homework thoroughly and “tune-up” your rigging for the best results. If your first attempts break your heart, head back to the drawing up and reanalyze your tackles meticulously before you head out again.
Raymond Smith is a fishing enthusiast who has been obsessed with fishing and boating since childhood. He used to accompany his father to every weekend fishing escapade along the banks of the Madison River, where they would try to catch as much fish as possible, each time targeting different species to add to their belts. Smith loves angling, travel, and exploration and has amassed more than ten years of experience in trout and steelhead fishing techniques. He shares all his fishing experiences and tips on this website and other online outdoors magazines.