Essential Swordfish Guide 2020


Swordfish is one of Multifariousness.coma’s bestsellers and for good reason – it’s meaty and delicious, and easy to cook. Our Head of Quality Control, Robert Gregorian, shares more about this fast and fascinating fish.

Swordfish, Morphiagladiolas, also called Billboards in some places, are highly migratory fish, can tolerate a wide range of ocean temperatures, and are found all over the world. They are typically in the 10 ft range, but some specimens have been found over 15 ft and weighing over 1400 lbs. That’s a huge fish, folks. And powerful.

Adult swordfish can swim at 50 mph! Their sword is usually around 1/3 the length of their bodies and swordfish aren’t afraid to use it. They swim into a school of fish and use the sword to slash at their prey, wounding as many as possible before turning back to swallow up as much as they can. Because of their wide range swordfish have a diverse diet, even though adult swordfish have no teeth. They are predominately fish eaters, all kinds of fish with a lot of squid thrown in. Sword stomachs have been found to contain haddock, cod, squid, bluefish, herring, etc. as well as offshore deepwater fish such as viperfish, hatchetfish and lanternfish. These offshore fish are typically found at 150 fathoms (900 feet), but swordfish will go as deep as 2000 ft or more in their search for food.

Like almost all fish, swordfish are cold blooded, with one important improvement. They have something called countercurrent exchangers – specialized blood vessel structures – which allow them to warm their eyes and brains. This is an important advantage when hunting in deep, cold water, allowing them to see more clearly and react faster.

As we said, adult swordfish can grow very large and powerful, and because of their size, speed and power adult fish have few predators. Pods of Killer Whales sometimes target the lone swordfish, and some large, offshore sharks such as the Short fin Mako may pursue them. Sometimes these predators are successful, sometimes not. Dead or dying Orcas and Makos have been found with broken off swords in their heads, revealing the very real danger of desiring swordfish for dinner even for these apex predators. A 1,000 lb fish, with a 4-5 foot sword, swimming at them at 50 mph is the last thing many fish see.

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Swordfishing Swordfish Techniques & Strategies

The deep-drop swordfishing technique is performed by trolling over significant bottom structures like pinnacles and seamounts located in deep sea canyons throughout the Gulf Stream. High-quality boat electronics are essential and constant communication between captain and angler is required to keep the bait in the strike zone while trolling.

With the boat moving, the angler starts the fishing process by dropping the baited rig straight down into the water using the controls on the electric reel to manage speed. After all 150 feet of the monofilament leader is out, the lead stick weight is clipped on and the drop is continued.

When letting out the first 500 feet of braided line, the angler pauses for a few seconds every 100 feet to let any slack in the line work itself out. During this time, the captain regulates boat speed to maintain a vertical line angle into the water.

After 500 feet of line has gone out, the bait is allowed to freefall to the bottom. As soon as the angler feels the weight hit the bottom, it is reeled into the “strike zone”—anywhere from 40 to 100 feet off the bottom.

Adjustment of Swordfish General Commercial Permit Vessel Retention Limits

The 2020 North Atlantic swordfish fishing year, which is managed on a calendar-year basis and divided into two equal semi-annual quotas for the directed fishery, will begin on January 1, 2020. Landings attributable to the Swordfish General Commercial permit count against the applicable semi-annual directed fishery quota. Regional default retention limits for this permit have been established and are automatically effective from January 1 through December 31 each year, unless changed based on the inseason regional retention limit adjustment criteria at § 635.24(b)(4)(iv). The default retention limits established for the Swordfish General Commercial permit are: (1) Northwest Atlantic region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (2) Gulf of Mexico region—three swordfish per vessel per trip; (3) U.S. Caribbean region—two swordfish per vessel per trip; and, (4) Florida Swordfish Start Printed Page 15 Management Area—zero swordfish per vessel per trip. The default retention limits apply to Swordfish General Commercial permitted vessels and to HMS Charter/Headboat permitted vessels with a commercial endorsement when fishing on non-for-hire trips. As a condition of these permits, vessels may not possess, retain, or land any more swordfish than is specified for the region in which the vessel is located.

Under § 635.24(b)(4)(iii), NMFS may increase or decrease the Swordfish General Commercial permit vessel retention limit in any region within a range from zero to a maximum of six swordfish per vessel per trip. Any adjustments to the retention limits must be based upon a consideration of the relevant criteria provided in § 635.24(b)(4)(iv), which include: (A) The usefulness of information obtained from biological sampling and monitoring of the North Atlantic swordfish stock; (B) the estimated ability of vessels participating in the fishery to land the amount of swordfish quota available before the end of the fishing year; (C) the estimated amounts by which quotas for other categories of the fishery might be exceeded; (D) effects of the adjustment on accomplishing the objectives of the fishery management plan and its amendments; (E) variations in seasonal distribution, abundance, or migration patterns of swordfish; (F) effects of catch rates in one region precluding vessels in another region from having a reasonable opportunity to harvest a portion of the overall swordfish quota; and, (G) review of dealer reports, landing trends, and the availability of swordfish on the fishing grounds.

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