Swords Under a Blue Moon
left Port Everglades at about 4:00 p.m. on the night of the blue moon,
the second full moon in November 2001.
Blue moons have always conjured up images of mysterious
happenings for me and by the break of dawn the next morning that
impression would only be stronger.
Four of us roared out to the buoy marking the end of the Port
Everglades channel, intent on catching blue runners and whatever else
we could use for broadbill swordfish bait that night.
Our boat, a 25’ Contender named BROAD MINDED, was well
equipped for the task, and the owner/captain, Keith Fleischer, a real
estate broker by vocation and sword fisherman by obsession, was equal
to the challenge of fishing at night for swords.
He and his friend Mike Diaz, mate aboard the Naples-based
Viking 65 VERA D with my old friend Captain Bob Nichols (the reason
Bob and I were invited to go), had caught a number of swords over the
past year, one tipping the scales at over two hundred pounds.
We reached the
buoy at about 5:00 p.m., quickly rigged spinning rods with multi-hook
bait rigs and sonar searched the depths for schools of bait.
We soon hit shoals of blue runners and managed to put over a
dozen in the well, along with a few of other varieties, before the
fading sunlight indicated it was time to run for deep water.
We had about a fifteen-mile slog through 3-5 foot seas before
we could set out our baits with any chance of success.
Keith had deduced that a minimum of 1000 feet of water was
necessary for reliable broadbill action, and he knew right where to
go. With two hundred-and-twenty-five horses pushing us, we made
it to Keith’s “honey hole” after about forty-five minutes of
teeth-jarring wave smashing. The
four of us were soaked but stoked for what was to come.
The multi-hued sunset with the rising copper-colored blue moon
opposite just added to the supercharged atmosphere on board.
Keith and Mike
sewed up four lively baits and set each out with a weight and a
secondary dead bait rig on a tri-swivel junction.
The dead bait rig was used with the idea that a swordfish might
whack the live bait with its bill and come back around to find the
dead bait if the live one was knocked off the hook.
lowered the baits to various depths ranging from about six to sixty
fathoms, using yellow Cyclume sticks at the baits so the fish could
see them in the dark depths. For
each depth, we tied Cyclume sticks of red, blue, green and purple
inside white balloons on the lines as bobbers.
A matching mini stick was attached to the tip of each rod so we
could tell which rod went to which balloon.
All in all, it was the perfect way to fish big fish in the
limited light of a full moon on a cloudy fall night.
By eight o’clock
we had everything set up. Then
the waiting began. We
were hopping and bobbing in the steep 3-5 foot Gulf Stream chop,
drifting rapidly north and trying to stay between the 1000 and
1200-foot lines, occasionally firing up the engine to re-position the
boat, when the green-lit orb disappeared off the starboard side.
balloon’s gone! Jay,
grab the rod with the green light-stick on it and get ready to set the
hook,” Keith directed from his perch in the captain’s chair.
I did as I was told while Bob strapped the butt belt around me.
The line started peeling off the reel and Mike shouted, “Hit
him!” after about three or four nerve-wracking seconds of hearing
the clicker accelerate in free-spool.
I pushed the drag to strike and reared back on the pole as the
line came taught. The drag started to protest in earnest and the line continued
off in steady, rhythmic pulls that broadcast the powerful sweeps of a
“Could be a
shark,” I said as the line pulsed off the reel.
unless it’s a really big shark,” said Mike.
“Only swords pull in such a steady rhythm.”
I kept the tip up
and soon had the fish turned to the boat.
Mike and Keith thought it was just a pup until it came into the
light of the bimini spots after ten more minutes of fight.
“Hey, I think
it’s a keeper!” yelled Mike as we wrestled it aboard.
We measured it and found it was fifty-four inches from lower
jaw to tail fork, easily better than the then new limit of
forty-seven. We high-fived and whooped our glee for a few minutes.
If nothing else happened that night we would still have forty
or fifty pounds of fresh swordfish steaks as pay for the night.
All thoughts of
this being a one fish night disappeared half an hour later with the
Grab the blue rod. This
one’s yours.” Keith, Mike and I jumped to the other rods and furiously
reeled them in while Bob got ready to hit the fish.
He reared back on the forty pounds of strike drag and was
rewarded with a high-pitched scream from the Shimano TLD-2SPEED 50
L.R.S. as the unhappy bait-snatcher ran away.
“Man, this one
sounds like a huge fish!” Mike’s
eyes were wide and bright as he helped Bob into the harness.
The fish had hit the sixty-fathom bait; it already had a nearly
four hundred-foot advantage on Bob.
The line was still pumping off the reel, too, steadily
shrinking the 500-yard spool of 130-lb. Spyderwyre with every pull.
Keith started the engine and eased the boat in the direction of
the fish, helping Bob gain back desperately needed line.
I stood behind Bob and held him against the padded gunwale of
the bow, determined to keep him upright as the boat rocked and rolled
in the Gulf Stream chop.
Bob fought valiantly for well over an hour, gaining and losing
line in a monumental tug-of-war with a fish easily as big as his rangy
six-foot four frame, when suddenly we heard a loud crack and the reel
lunged for the first roller guide on the rod.
“I think the rod
broke!” Bob frantically
held onto the reel, luckily still hooked to the harness by the lugs,
while I peered around his back to inspect the damage.
What I saw about floored me.
didn’t break, the reel did! The
damn thing broke right off its base!
Here, I’ll hold it while you keep cranking.”
I came around and
while we attempted to control chaos, Mike and Keith sprang into
action. Keith grabbed a Penn International TW 80 from the rack,
detached the double bait rig we had reeled in more than an hour ago
and attached a two-pound weight to the line.
He then free-spooled the weight a thousand feet into the inky
depths, making room for the line we hoped to reel onto the
International once the switchover had been made.
found me a pair of canvas and rubber gloves and traded places with me
holding Bob’s reel while I put them on and grabbed the line at the
rod tip. My job was to hold the fish as best I could while Mike and
Keith stripped fifty or sixty feet of line from the crippled Shimano
and out through the guides, cut it and tied a Bimini Twist with it and
the Penn’s remaining line. Bob’s
job was to switch over to the new rod and be ready to resume the fight
when the line went taut again. This
is a very tricky maneuver in the best of conditions; trying to do it
at night in a small sea-tossed center console with a behemoth
swordfish on the end of the line was asking for a miracle.
I strained against the still lunging monster, the line slipped out in
alarming three to five foot spurts, causing me to yell, “Forty feet
Thirty! Come on,
guys! Twenty-five to
go!” and so forth
until, as I watched the last loop on the deck head my way, Mike said,
“All set! Make sure
you’re clear! Here we
I let go with less than ten feet left.
Bob leaned back again in earnest and we all crossed our
fingers, hoping the knot would hold until Bob could get it through the
guides and onto the reel. We
figured we would be home free once the knot was safely buried on the
With a mighty
surge of adrenaline, Bob horsed the fish’s head up and gained a
quick hundred or so feet. We
all relaxed a little as we saw the knot disappear under the newly
After all the
excitement, it was only a matter of another hour of determined
bulldogging before Bob had the fish alongside.
The two of them were fairly equally spent, but it was the fish
that was helped over the side by two gaffs and three very eager pairs
of hands, exclamations of incredulity and primal glory rending the
air. I would not be
surprised if people on shore seventeen miles away heard us.
broadbill had finally yielded after two hours and forty-five minutes
of backbreaking work for Bob and about fifteen minutes of frantic work
by the rest of us. We
estimated the weight at about two hundred and eighty pounds, a large
package of goodwill to be shared by many.
clock showed three when we were finally ready to take her home.
Keith suggested we might want to try for a triple-header, but
quickly let on that he was joking when he saw our definitely
unenthused visages. We
all knew that anything more would be anti-climatic, anyway.
with a three foot sword sticking up from the starboard gunwale and a
three foot sickle tail hanging over the port, as well as a
“little” eighty pounder on ice in the 105 quart cooler, we raced
south and west toward Port Everglades, feeling anything but blue as we
headed into the blue moonset.
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