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Daytime Swordfishing In Southern California

Author: Bullbuster Team

Fishing For Daytime Swordfish In Southern California

Swordfish are one of the hardest fighting fish in the ocean, make for excellent table fair, can be elusive, and have soft mouths.  This makes the swordfish one of the most addictive fish in the ocean to target.  Kiss your gas money goodbye once you have caught the fever. 

Swordfish In Southern California

Swordfish can often be found sunning themselves on the Surface in Southern California waters since water temperatures are colder than many other locations around the world.  This has led to a harpoon fishery here in Southern California.  Swordfish have also been targeted with a drift net fishery that has for the most part been shutdown in favor of more selective gear that does not harvest as much bycatch such as turtles and whales. 

Newer methods of commercial fishing for Swordfish have been introduced into Southern California Waters such as "Deep Set Buoy Gear".  Below is a diagram of what the newer more selective gear looks like for commercial swordfishing. 

First Recreationally Caught Swordfish In Southern California

The first recorded recreationally caught swordfish was caught offshore Southern California by the Avalon Tuna Club using a live barracuda put in front of a swordfish via a kite. Since many anglers in the fishing clubs throughout southern California have caught Swordfish, but most catches have not been an intentional target. 

Swordfish Habitat

Swordfish are pelagic fish in that they are constantly traveling, swordfish tend to follow abundant food. So hanging around underground canyons, mountains, and ledges usually makes sense for them. Unlike many fish Swordfish have been found to do "Diurnal Migrations" or twice a day migrations. This is because during the day, most swordfish head to deeper waters and at night come up to the surface. 

Below is a chart that shows their depths during the day and at night in the Southeast Pacific.  It shows that most Swordfish are above 300 feet during the night and most swordfish are below 1200 feet in depth during the day. Compared to the Atlantic it seems that there are more swordfish on the surface, however this is a very small proportion of the total number of fish.  There is good portion of fish that are mid water during the day, making a deep buoy set or a buoy rod a good option for recreational anglers. 

Depth To Target Southern California Swordfish

ICES Journal of Marine Science, Volume 67, Issue 3, April 2010, Pages 466–474,

Water Temperatures To Target Southern California Swordfish

While you are fishing for swordfish during the day you probably will have a hard time targeting them via water temp because they are so deep, but just to show you how hearty these things are we included daytime temps. 

Daytime Temps For Swordfish : 41- 50 degrees Fahrenheit

Nighttime Temps For Swordfish: 68-75 degrees Fahrenheit 

ICES Journal of Marine Science, Volume 67, Issue 3, April 2010, Pages 466–474,

Swordfish Grounds In Orange County

Below we overlaid marine chart data on depths with Google Earth Satellite photos of Southern California bottom topography to give you the optimal grounds for targeting swordfish in Orange County, California. Orange county seemed to have better topography and habitat than San Diego county which makes sense, since the Balboa Anglers club members in Newport Beach have had significant success in 2019 targeting daytime swordfish. Optimal swordfish grounds and fishable ledge extend from Dana Point up to Newport Beach. With good grounds with an underground water mount between Orange County and Catalina Island. 

Swordfish Grounds In San Diego

Below we overlaid the marine chart and the Google Maps topography of South San Diego County to determine the best swordfish grounds. 

How To Target Daytime Swordfish In Southern California

Swordfish can be found on the surface in Southern California, but as the data shows, these swordfish are few and far between what is actually out there. To target daytime swordfish on the surface, a pitch bait can be used to target them, however most of these fish are finicky.  Trying a kite for them may be effective, like flying a yummy flyer from a kite, and like the the first one that was caught in Catalina. However for the purpose of this article we are going to focus on sending your baits deep to where the majority of the swordfish are during the day.  

Two Rods Max For Daytime Swordfishing In Southern California

Unlike targeting swordfish at night, when swordfishing during the day, you want to fish two rods max.  80 wide size reels are the go to setup for daytime swordfishing. Many anglers choose to fish electric reels however daytime swordfishing can be accomplished with manual reels.   

Buoy Rod

The buoy rod is usually an 80 wide. This is usually spooled with at least 2000 yards of 65Lb -80Lb braid. You want to have a 100 foot wind on of 200-300Lb grander leader, with a 6 foot leader attached to your bait.  The you are going to want to let out 1000 feet of line, and connect a buoy to this line with a wax thread and a long line clip.  For this bait you are going to want to use between 8-10 Lbs of lead and will expect to have your line sit somewhere between 500-1000' of water. 

Bottom Rod

Your bottom rod is usually an 80 wide size reel that is spooled with at least 2500 yds of 65Lb-80Lb braided fishing line.  You want to have a 100 feet wind on of 200-300Lb grander leader with a 6 foot leader attached to your bait.  For this rod you want to have your weight hit the bottom, and then reel it up 100 feet. This rod you will need to continue to monitor as you are fishing over underwater mountains and canyons.  You may need to lift and drop this bait accordingly. The captain should read the depth sounder and give the angler readings periodically to prevent bottom snagging and fishing the bait too high in the water column.

Rigging Baits For Daytime Swordfishing

We put together this article to put all of the best youtube videos on rigging swordfish baits into one place.  If you are getting ready to try any new type of fishing watching videos is a great way to learn. Below you will find videos put together by some of the best swordfishermen in the world. Taking time and being open to new techniques is the only way to become a better fisherman.  We put this article together as part of a series of articles to help you spend more time fishing by bring rigging techniques from around the world into one central place.  We hope you enjoy it!** Scroll Down To Learn How To Make Swordfish Rigs!**

Rigging Swordfish Baits
Scroll Down To Get Started With Rigging Swordfish Bait Rigging Videos

What You Will Need To Make Your Rig: 

1)  Monofilament:  Most people fish with 300-400Lb mono  although we have heard reports of people doing really well using 130Lb fluorocarbon in the Northeast. 

Leader Material

2) Crimps:  You will need 2-3 crimps per rig depending on the rigging style you go with. 

3)  Hooks: Most people use between a 9/0 -12/0 hook J-hook. 

4) Wax Thread:  Use an 80Lb strength waxing thread to secure your bait to your rig.

5) Rigging Needle:  Its good to keep a couple types of rigging needles around depending on what you are working with. 

6) Knife:  A good sharp knife will help you to cut the thread as well as shaped your bait if it needs it. 

May Need:

** In the case of some rigs you may need zip ties. 

** For daytime rigs you may need a plastic trolling skirt. 

What Bait To Use For Swordfishing: 

Swordfish Stomache Contents
Stomach contents of a 450Lb swordfish caught in Ft. Lauderdale.

Swordfish mainly eat squid but they have been known to eat mahi, bottom crustaceans, ribbonfish, small tunas, bonitas, etc.  When night time fishing for swordfish its good to mix it up between live and artificial baits.  When daytime swordfishing dead baits are the way to go because it will be hard to get anything to stay alive when plummeting rapidly to 1500 + feet.  ** Scroll Down If You Want To Get Straight To Rigging **

Check out this article by #BullbusterAmbassador Team Sworda Crazy  on How A Diversified Bait Box Is A Key To Success For Swordfish to read more about picking swordfish baits. 

Best Videos For Rigging Daytime Swordfish Baits: 

This video put together by #BullbusterAmbassador Team Swordacrazy is to get you pumped up before getting started with all of the rigging videos.  ** If you want to get straight to rigging SCROLL DOWN **

How To Rig A Double Hook Dolphin Belly For Swordfishing: 

This video was put together by Full Throttle Media as part of a great series called In The Spread. Its a great step by step video on how to rig a double hook dolphin belly for daytime swordfishing. 

How To Make A Bonita Belly Strip For Swordfish Baits:   

This video put together by LMR tackle shows you how to make a bonita Belly strip. The belly strip can be rigged similarly to the dolphin belly from the video above. 

How To Rig  A Ribbonfish For Daytime Swordfish Baits:

This video put together by SwordPro out of New Zealand shows how to rig a ribbonfish for a daytime swordfish bait.  

Rigging Artificial Lures For Daytime Swordfish Baits: 

This video put together by Hogy is a very interesting concept.  Using an artificial lure for daytime swordfishing can solve the problem of your bait getting whacked off every time you drop and get a hit. This rig is very clean and looks like it is set up to optimize hook sets.  

Check Out The Most Comprehensive Guide To Night Time Swordfishing:

Best Videos For Rigging Baits For Night Time Swordfishing:

Below you will find a number of resources for rigging night time swordfish baits.  If you would like a comprehensive guide to night time swordfishing, check out our article (An In Depth Guide On Night Time Swordfishing)

Nightime Swordfish

This video put together by Judah Clark gives you for setting up for night time swords.  These guys run out there and catch a small sword.  They put together a great video on the whole process from beginning to end.  From leaving the dock to steaking the fish.

Quick & Easy Way To Rig A Swordfish Squid: This video put together by the IGFA features Cpt. Bouncer Smith & Mark Sosin. In the video Cpt. Bouncer shows how to rig a nigh time squid within a few minutes.  Note that Bouncer leaves a tag end on the monofilament which he then sends back up through the mantle of the squid in order to secure the rig. He then takes a small zip tie to secure the tag end and the mantle.

Rigging A Double Hook Squid For Night Time Swordfishing:  

This video is also part of Full Throttle Media's "In The Spread Series". RJ  Boyle talks about his hesitation to use squid as a daytime bait because it can get torn apart more easily than other types of baits.

Rigging A Dead Tinker Mackerel For Night Time Swordfishing :  

 This video uploaded to Youtube by Riccardo Tamburini features Cpt. Bouncer Smith showing us how to rig dead tinker mackerel. This type of rigging can also apply to other small baitfish such as small bonita and blue runners, and goggle eyes. 

Rigging Live Baits For Swordfish:

Good live baits for night time swordfishing include:

  • Goggle Eyes
  • Blue Runners
  • Tinker Mackerel 
  • Small Bonita (If you have a tuna tube)
  • Speedos 

Bridling your night time swordfish baits with a 9/0 size hook can increase your hook up ratio substantially.  Check out the video below on how to bridle a large live bait. The video was put together by the IGFA for marlin fishing in Central America.  The same technique can be used for swordfishing, however we recommend using a 9/0 J-Hook instead of a circle hook when targeting swordfish.

Check out this video (Learn How To Bridle Your Bait & How Bridling Your Bait Can Increase Your Hookup Ratios)

Thank you for reading our article on how to rig swordfish baits. This article was part of our efforts to compile the best rigging videos on the web into one place so that you don't have to go out looking for them.  This is part of our efforts to help you spend more time fishing.  To save time and money when buying your fishing lines buy your fishing line here at directly from our factory.  Tight Lines!

Tackle Required For Swordfishing: 

Reels: 50 to 80Lb class reels.  

Line: We reccommend fishing with 80Lb monofilament and 80Lb braided backing

Wind-On Leader:  A wind-on leader is essential for handing big fish safely when they arrive boat side.  The wind-on leader allows a smaller team to handle bigger fish.  For night time swords check out our all purpose wind-on leaders (we recommend the 300Lb -400Lb class wind-on).  For daytime swordfishing check out our daytime swordfish wind-on leader

Hooks: 9/0-12/0 J-Hooks

Done Rigging Your Swordfish Baits? Get Some More Tips On How To Catch Big Swords:

#BullbusterAmbassador Double Threat Chartersin Coconut Grove, Fl, has really mastered the art and science of daytime swordfishing.  When other boats are getting skunked in Miami these guys are getting doubles and triples.  Learn from the best by reading this article on (Tips For Swordfishing In South Florida) . The article is about South Florida Swordfishing but you can apply these techniques anywhere in the world where there are abundant swordfish stocks.  We have talked to fishermen in the Northeast who are starting to catch swordfish in the Canyons, they had always been there, but no one had tried these techniques.  If you are interested in learning how to Swordfish in the Northeast, get in contact with #BullbusterAmbassador The Tree Guy

Rhode Island Daytime Swordfish

Learn How To Clean & Cook Your Swordfish:

There is no question that Swordfish is one of the best tasting fish on the planet.  Swordfish doesn't taste like "fish" its almost like a really tender steak.  You can start to sense it when you begin to steak a sword.  Your knife slides through the sword like butter.  

Grilled swordfish is probably as good as its guns get.  Make sure you eat as much of your swordfish as you can while it is fresh. We've made the same recipes with fresh vs. frozen swordfish we've caught and the taste difference is night and day. 

How To Grill Swordfish

Check out our article on (Steaking & Cooking Your Swordfish)

If you would like to see other types of rigging videos take a look at our  Tackle & Rigging Series


If you haven't already seen these articles, check out the Bullbuster How To Cook Your Catch Series:

Cook Your Catch

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