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Fish For Swordfish At Night (A Comprehensive Guide)

Author: Bullbuster Team

Best Guide For Night Time Swordfishing

Night time swordfishing is both challenging and rewarding. If you have been swordfishing before you may know that it is a game where you need to put in the time.  There is no substitute for experience, but we hope that this article will help you along your way to catching a lot more swordfish.  

Night Time Swordfish Tips

If you have caught a swordfish before you will know that LB for LB they are one of the strongest fish in the ocean.  On top of that they also have soft lips, so you need to fish your drags correctly otherwise you may end up pulling the hook on your fish. Pulling the hook on a big sword can be devastating especially if you have been fighting the fish for several hours. 

Comprehensive Guide Or How To On Night Time Swordfishing:

In this article we will cover: 

  1. 1) The Gear You Need To Successfully Land A Big Swordfish - In this section we go into the bare minimum of gear you need to get started landing big swordfish, we then go into some gear that you may consider adding to your arsenal if you want to take swordfishing seriously. 
  2. 2) The Tackle You Will Need To Catch Swordfish - In this section we go in depth on the tackle you will need to land a big night time swordfish.  This includes rods and reel, hooks, lines, and terminal tackle for big swords. 
  3. 3) Baits & How To Rig Them - In this section we go in depth on what baits are productive for swordfishing as well as how to rig each bait.  Here we give you a few different options and some of the pros and cons of each option. 
  4. 4) How To Set Up Your Drift - This section covers perhaps one of the most fundamental steps in catching night time swordfish, setting up your drift! We describe this process from the perspective of those fishing a center console boat because we figure that that is the bulk of you.  
  5. 5) How To Know You Are On (Two Styles Of Hits) - This section covers the two ways that swordfish typically hit.  Knowing this before having to experience it in real life can give you a leg up when it actually happens and help you lose less fish in the first 5 minutes of the battle, which believe it or not is probably one of the most decisive parts. 
  6. 6) Tips For Fighting Big Swords - When you are hooked up to a particularly big swordfish, there are a number of things that you can do to drastically improve your chances of landing it, we cover those here. 
  7. 7) Some Newer Techniques That Have Not Become Mainstream Yet But Will Help You Catch More Swords - In this section we cover some fringe techniques that may lead to you catching more swordfish when the bite is slow. 
  8. 8) The Science Of Swordfish - Understanding your target is very important if you would like to become a better fisherman.  This section goes into detail on the swordfish. 
  9. 9) How To Cook Your Swordfish After You Catch It - If you are like many people on the Bullbuster community, your goal is to spend more time fishing.  Sharing your catch in the form of food is a great way to get your non-fishing friends and family involved with your hobby. 

Gear You Will Need To Successfully Land A Big Swordfish  

Gear For Landing Big Night Time Swordfish

Gear List: 

  • 2-3 Gaffs (Required)
  • Gloves (Required)
  • Flying Gaff( Recommended)
  • Harpoon (Recommended)

Big Swordfish Charging The Boat
The picture below captures the scene as a 500 +LB sword charges #BullbusterAmbassador Double Threat Charters as mate Brent Feder stands steady with the harpoon. To put matters in perspective seas were less than 1 foot in this picture.

Big swordfish can come in at the boat hot.  We have seen 500 LB sword come grey hounding directly at the boat. We have also seen a 400Lb sword come up to the boat and shake its sword 4 feet out of the water back and forth.  It is important to be prepared to handle a big fish.  While swordfish that anglers catch average between 80-150Lbs you need to be ready for the big girls.  You need to have 2-3 gaffs on your boat to handle a big fish and subdue it.

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 You need gloves to handle their bills because they are the sharpest of all billfish.  Glove are important especially when handling rat swordfish (small swordfish) because they tend to come up green (full of life and energy) and will swing their bill around. We have a team member that received a serious injury to his finger when handling a 20Lb rat sword.  Wear your gloves!

How Not To Handle A Sword
Always wear gloves when handling even small swords. Bullbuster founder Colby Uva received significant hand injuries from handling this GREEN rat swordfish without gloves.

What Tackle Do You Need When Fishing For Night Time Swordfish 

4-6 Swordfish Buoys or Jugs

Materials Needed To Make A Night Time Swordfish Jug
Use the above materials to make an inexpensive and reusable night time swordfish jug.

The video below posted by "A2Swords" also features a clever design, using swimming noodles to create a great swordfish indicator buoy. You will see a similar buoy in use in the video in the setting up your drift video below.  ** Scroll down to the "Setting Up Your Drift Section To See This Buoy In Action

15-20 light sticks 

4-6 Battery Powered Fishing Lights

4-6 50 -80Lb class reels  

Prepping Nightime Swordfish Rods

Each Reel Should Be Spooled As Follows:

500 + yds of 80Lb Braided Backing

Braid For Swordfishing
(Some anglers prefer using Hollow Core Braid As Backing)

500 + yds of 80Lb Mono Topshot

Monofilament Line For Swordfish

1  -           300-400Lb Wind-On Leader

Bullbuster Wind-On Leader


Swordfish Baits & How To Rig Them

Basic Night Time Swordfish Rig

** You heard it hear first ** If your target isn't that moose sword, try scaling down to 80-130Lb fluorocarbon  you may loose some big fish, but you will definitely get more hits.  Swordfish have amazing eyesight. Some nights this may make the difference between catching a nice sword and getting skunked.

Below is an excerpt from our article on rigging night time swordfish baits.  If you want to know more about rigging night time swordfish baits read our (Rigging Swordfish Baits) article & scroll down, because we have daytime rigs at the top of that article. 

(Find Out The Top 5 Baits For Night Time Swordfish)

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 Live Baits For Swordfish:

Good live baits for night time swordfishing include:

  • Goggle Eyes
  • Blue Runners
  • Tinker Mackerel 
  • Small Bonita
  • 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. In the video he uses a wax thread, but you can also use rigging bands.

How To Set Up Your Drift For Night Time Swordfishing 

Proper Swordfish Spread For Your Boat
This is what your swordfish spread should look line on your center console boat.

Before you get out to the sword grounds, you should have all your rods rigged with buoys on and everything.  Once you get out to the sword grounds and the area you would like to fish. (This is usually in a depth range of between 1100-1800 feet depending on where you are fishing). See our article on (Using Google Maps To Find Good Swordfishing Spots) stop your boat and figure out which way you will be drifting depending on how fast the current is moving and the direction and strength of the wind. Set your first bait on a buoy and drive away from away from the direction that you are going to be drifting.  Drop the second and third buoy out in this manner. You should have about 50 yards between each buoy while you are fishing. The closest buoy should be about 50 yards from your boat.  

How To Set Up Your Swordfish Drift (birds eye view)
Birds eye view of a proper night time swordfish drift from a center console.

Once you have set up this drift you can drop one or two tip rods straight down from the boat.   Its good to alternate your rods in your rod holders so that you have one tip rod, one buoy rod, one tip rod, one buoy rod.  This helps to keep your lines from tangling as well as to give you and understanding of which bait is which.  

The video below posted by "On The Water TV"  gives you a Northeast Canyon perspective to setting up a night time swordfish drift. 

Check out this video posted by Jupiter Sailfish on Night Time Swordfishing off the East Coast of Florida:

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How To Know You Are Hooked Up To A Swordfish  (Two Styles Of Hits)

1) Your Drag Just Goes Off & Won't Stop - This is the most obvious style of hit, and its also the most exciting and easiest to deal with.  At this point if you are fairly new to swordfishing we recommend clearing your lines,  one fish is a lot to handle.  If you are more experienced crew and have a good captain, you may want to leave a few of your buoys out while fighting this fish to see if you are ready to handle the mayhem and adrenaline rush of a double header.  Smaller swords often travel in small groups, while larger swords can be more of loners. 

2) You See Your Swordfish Light At The Surface -  This happens often so be ready for it.  You see one of your swordfish lights close to the surface and moving around.  The is the classic and signature style of many big swords.  Grab the bait and swim around at the surface. At this point it is imperative that you figure out which rod the fish is on because it can cause a big tangle.  Get your crew to reel on all the rods, or the specific rod that has that color light. 

Swordfish Type 2 Bite
Above is a picture of a type 2 swordfish bite, where all you see is the light and the rods have no movement.

Tips For Fighting Big Night Time Swords: 

Fighting 500+Lb Sword
#BullbusterAmbassador Double Threat Charters Cpt. Brent Feder fights a 500LB + Sword
Below is a great video posted by "ReelChixFishing" of a 2.5 hour fight with a swordfish (don't worry its only a 3:22) minute video. This sword comes up pretty tame at the end, which is good for them!

1) Don't tighten your drag to more than 18Lbs of drag PERIOD -  The reason we put this as a number one tip is we know it will get temping. We have lost a  number of big swords because of this and we  don't want that to happen to you.  Get this in your head, drill it in your head, drill it into the head of your crew.  You don't want to pull the hook on a big fish after fighting it for two hours.  Trust us, it will suck!

The reason we say drill it into your head, drill it into the heads of your crew is that you and your crew needs to be mentally prepared for  a big fish.  2-3 hours into a fight will a big fish can make the angler delirious and impatient, you need a crew to back him or her up and say NO MORE THAN 18LBs.  You should probably have this point of drag marked on your reel with red tape, we are serious.  Be patient and fight it out. 

2) If a big fish won't come within 300 feet of the boat turn your lights off - this may seem counter intuitive for your crew, but sometimes the lights of your boat will keep that fish freaked every time  nears. Your eyes will adjust to the dark in a matter of minutes, especially since there are a lot more stars out there then on land near big cities. (The moon will also be on your side for this one)

3) If a big fish won't come up to your boat in the last 300 feet turn your engine off -  Big fish will come by a lot easier when they don't hear the mumbling of the engine.  This combined with the lights can be deadly for the end game on the fish as they may come up and swim right by the boat. 

4) Be Ready To Take A Shot Early In The Game - 

Before your send out any baits make sure you are ready to take the shot on a big fish.  Make sure you have your gaffs and  harpoons ready.  Many times you may hook a big swordfish immediately and have your first shot at it within the first 5 minutes its hooked.  Big fish often start a fight acting like they don't know they are hooked.  If you miss this shot chances are you won't have another for several hours. 

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Some Top Secret Tips For Swordfishing

1)  Make your first bait is a  weightless squid - Take your weightless squid and give it 300 feet of slack before attaching it to your buoy.  This bait will often get hit first because it will sink and often find itself in the thermocline where the fish tend to congregate.

2) Scale down to heavy fluorocarbon - Try fishing 100-130Lb fluorocarbon.  Fishermen in the Northeast United States often catch swordfish as bycatch for tunas at night in the canyons.  This technique can work anywhere.  Just because the local fishermen in your area have never seen it done does not mean it does not work.  It does!  There is no question you will get more hits when using this tip. Use this tip if you are fishing for meat and fun not out looking to break records or win big fish tournaments. 

3) Make a slice in your glow stick - it will leave a trail of light following your bait.  It can also create the appearance of a school of bait in the surrounding area.  Talk about doing some magic tricks and optical illusions out there. 

4) Use and artificial squid and stuff it the calamari  - Get a box of the calamari you would buy for bottom fishing.  Once you have done that stick a piece fo the calamari into the artificial squid, and give the squid one stich with some wax thread to keep the calamari inside of the squid.  This will give you the scent of a squid without it being so fragile and getting messed up with one slash of a swordfish bill.  In the long run it will also save you a lot money on buying squid. A pack of calamari can be $2-3 while a pack of nice swordfish squids can be up to $20.00.   This is a win win strategy for catching more swordfish. 

The Science Of Swordfishing 

 You can learn a lot about any type of fishing by looking into the scientific research about that species.  Swordfish is no exception.  Below we will share some cool links about the behavior and feeding patterns of swordfish.  

Swordfish Research (We apologize ahead of time that they have a picture of a marlin instead of a swordfish) -  This is a NOAA guide to swordfish research.  Reading research by scientists is one way to gain a deeper understanding of swordfish behavior.  Scientists are going to be writing about swordfish form a different perspective.  Reading about a subject you already know soemthing about is a great way for you to increase your knowledge and improve your perpsective about that area. 

Feeding Habits Of Swordfish -   Beware there is a lot of jargon (or technical words specific to scientific talk) in this article.  But to keep it simple, go to the ABSTRACT (Introduction), and then skip to the RESULTS.

Where Swordfish Are Found On The Atlantic & Gulf Coasts Of The United States- Skip ahead and scroll down to the FIGURES on this one to get a better idea of where swordfish are found around the Atlantic Coast Of The United States. 

Swordfish Daily Migrations-  Cool study on how swordfish make daily migrations from the surface to the ocean floor. 

Swordfish Daily Migrations
This is an image from the article above on daily swordfish migrations, its a great read, so go check it out!

One other thing to keep in mind, is that science can also help us protect our fish stocks. Sometimes as fishermen we tend to look at the short term when  we hear about new fishing regulations coming out.  One key thing to take note is that the average size of swordfish being under 140Lbs is not a good thing.  A swordfish isn't able to reproduce until it is 140Lbs.  That means anytime you take a swordfish at the size limit of 47 inches you are killing a fish that has not replaced itself yet.    For keeping our fisheries healthy for our kids, the basic principle is to harvest a fish after it has already replaced itself.  Using this simple logic it will become very hard to overfish a stock.   

How To Cook A Swordfish After You Have Caught It

How To Steak Your Swordfish After You've Caught It

This video was put together by one of the most famous swordfishing boats in the world, the Booby Trap.  In this video they show you how to prep a nice sword to be ready for the dock.    *****Note if your core without a tail is not as long as your states legal size limit, you may want to do this at the dock.  With a big fish like the one they are using, you shouldn't have a problem. 

How To Grill Your Swordfish Steaks: 

If you don't scroll any farther and stick with grilled swordfish thats fine by us.  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. 

A Good Old Grilled Swordfish Recipe (Step By Step)

This video was posted by "Reel Flavor" and boy does it look good.  We like the step by step nature of the video and that it shows you what ingredients you need. 

For more grilled swordfish recipes take a look at our article on how to grill up your swordfish

For More Articles On Swordfish In General Check Out: 

Tips For Swordfishing In South Florida - Swordfish are one of our favorite fish to target because they are not only LB for LB  the strongest billfish, but they are also one of the most challenging fish to catch. A rule of thumb for swordfish is that the battle will be an hour per 100Lbs.  

Nice Daytime Swordfish

How A Diversified Bait Box Is A Key To Success For Swordfishing -  We are all creatures of habit and over the years have formed routines and have certain things we like no matter the situation. While having your "go to" baits are good it is important to experiment and try new things. Having a diversified bait box is especially important while sword fishing.

Amberjack Belly For Daytime Swordfish

Best Videos For Rigging Swordfish Baits - 

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. 

How To Rig For Daytime Swordfish

The Panhandle Swordfish Bite Is On Fire - It has not been in uncommon to get 8-10 bites a day this season. With its ever growing popularity, it's only a matter of time before the giants start getting caught. So far the swords have been averaging around 100lbs with the occasional 2-300 lber. 

Daytime Swordfishing Florida Panhandle

Are These Guys The Billfish Masters Of 2016? - This year has been a great year for Billfish for the dynamic duo of Capt. Nick Gonzalez and Capt. Brent Feder and their crew aboard Double Threat  Fishing Charters.   

Daytime Swordfish Islamorada

If you have want to make a commitment to spending more time fishing become a member of  Save time and money by using Bullbuster Brand Direct Fishing Lines  and spend more time swordfishing. 

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