In a classic tale of everything going perfectly, a lady angler looking for her first ever swordfish was able to complete the feat on her very first try. Heather Leman of Charleston dared to take her 23-foot boat, Miss Behavior, nearly 100 miles offshore for an overnight trip to the Charleston Bump, an offshore formation known for holding good numbers of swordfish. With an inexperienced and seasick crew, Leman managed to hook up with and play a swordfish that weighed nearly 150-pounds, which is large by recreational angler standards.
The week before her Aug. 31 fishing trip, Leman fished with a guide in Rhode Island while targeting yellowfin tuna. “The tuna bite was good, but a funny thing happened when I told the guide that I wanted to pursue a swordfish back home,” said Leman. “He divulged a wealth of swordfishing knowledge that struck me as a lot more simple than I thought it could be.”
Leman took that knowledge and applied it.
“Running far offshore for an overnight trip, I watched the weather forecast like a hawk, and the Labor Day weekend trip had to be moved up to Friday due to oceanic conditions,” said Leman. This decision kept an experienced angler from accompanying two novice anglers and Leman to the fishing grounds. “Leaving that afternoon, we reached the Gulf Stream by nightfall, and a flat calm set in over the ocean.”
Amazingly, the ocean offered long-range visibility that night, being lit up by a large blue moon.
With her two crewmen looking green from their voyage, Leman elected to fish only two lines for swordfish. After only 45 minutes, she got the strike of a lifetime on a bait set 400 feet down, since swordfish like to lurk in deep waters.
“I use a circle hook baited with squid, and the rest of my terminal tackle consists of and 8-foot leader of 150-pound mono, a 20-ounce weight attached by rubberband that is designed to release during any fight, and I employ a blinking LED light attached to my swivel above the leader.”
Even though Leman is an experienced angler, this large swordfish tested her Avet 50 reel, Chaos heavy-action rods and all of her prowess over the duration of the three-hour battle. “The fish nearly spooled me once and it came to the surface and jumped several times,” said Leman. The moonlight aided my ability to see the fish in the water, as did the blinking LED light, so I did have some warning each time the fish surged to the surface to jump.”
Finally, at 2 a.m., the swordfish began to tire and Leman used a pre-measured rope to check that the swordfish was a legal length for harvest. Crewman Glen Collier and his son helped Leman land the fish by using two gaffs. The big swordfish stretched across the entire transom of Leman’s boat and its size rendered the fish box useless. With 500 pounds of ice on board, they used it all to cover the swordfish, and then cranked up to head back to port before the fish spoiled.
Arriving at the Charleston Harbor Marina early on Saturday morning, harbormaster Stan Jones helped the crew weigh the swordfish in at 140.8 pounds. “This was my first ever swordfish, caught during my first swordfishing trip on my new boat, which makes this all very special,” said Leman. “Everything went better than I had ever planned, and this fish fought me hard up until the very end.”
Jeff Dennis is an outdoor writer and photographer who grew up on a creek in Charleston loving the saltwater, and he contributes regularly to All At Sea Southeast. Read his blog at www.LowcountryOutdoors.com