Longtime Islamorada, Florida, captain and friend, Vic Gaspeny has caught nearly 200 swordfish during the day on conventional tackle — no electric reels. Learning the ways of giant downtown Islamorada bonefish was his passion in the 1980’s, but catching swordfish from 1,500 feet below a sportfisher on 80-pound tackle consumes his daily thought patterns and midnight dreams these days.
Vic probably knows more about the science and history of swordfish than many of the biologists that study them, mainly because of his appetite to learn as much as he can about the species. In fact, he has a catch-log scrapbook as detailed as a mafia bookmaker’s ledger.
When Vic called me and asked if I might be able to sacrifice a day of work at short notice for a possible underwater photography swordfish encounter, I couldn’t resist the opportunity. I only had a few hours to prepare my camera equipment, sneak in a couple of hours of sleep and wake up at 5 a.m. to make the drive to Islamorada from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. With no traffic that early, I got to Bud N Mary’s marina at 6:30 a.m. and there was no messing around. By quarter to 7 we were steaming offshore on Capt. Richard Stanczyk’s Catch 22 with his brother Capt. Scott Stanczyk at the helm.
The Stanzycks (Richard, Scott and Richard’s son Nick) are all experienced captains who have refined a deep-dropping technique for swordfish that bares resemblance to the inner workings of a Swiss watch. Trip after trip, they continue to evolve their system and look for ways to to improve their already seemingly fool-proof strategy.
I’m not sure of the total number of swordfish that have been brought aboard the Catch 22 but I did witness Vic Gaspeny catch his 191st, 192nd, and 193rd swordfish, catching three swords out of the five bites that they got in six drops.
On Catch 22, judging when to jump in a with a hooked swordfish is only allowed based on Richard and Scott’s discretion. We had already brought up a fish by 9 a.m. but Scott and Richard felt me jumping in was not safe with such an aggressive fish. An hour later, calmer conditions and a “manageable” fish provided me with the opportunity to jump in with Vic’s 192nd swordfish.
I was mentally blinded by a rush of adrenaline at the time of taking the plunge. The cool Gulf Stream water snapped me back to reality, and there before me was the silvery side, big black eyes and long bill of the swordfish. I quickly moved out of the way, light balanced my camera and captured a few frames. At that moment the swordfish “sensed” me. Its body became rigid and its skin appeared back-lit with fluorescent ultra blues and purples.
Hunter, the mate on board did an excellent job leadering the broadbill away from me but keeping the fish in range to allow for proper focusing and framing of the fish in the camera’s view finder. After I managed to take a few shots, the swordfish was released and another catch stat was placed in Vic’s logbook.
The thrill of swimming beside that swordfish was as exhilerating as an earlier July assignment when I swam beside a hooked black marlin off Zane Grey reef in Panama. That fish too became “electric” underwater, radiating blue and purples that DuPont could never create if they tried.
Adrian also posted a video of the action that you really should check out: www.bdoutdoors.com/video/Daytime-Swordfishing-BudNMarys-Islamorada-Florida.
One of the photos taken during this trip will appear on the cover of the February 2012 issue of Marlin Magazine! It will be the first-ever swordfish cover for the 30-year-old magazine. Make sure to keep an eye out for it.
Swimming With A Swordfish