Captain’s Blog – November 22, 2009 – Marathon Florida Keys – Larry Blessinger is no stranger to big game sport fishing. He has fished the world over and caught every imaginable pelagic and billfish.
Larry grew sea legs as a lad in his native Long Island NY. He has been the victor in many battles with big eye tuna in the northern Atlantic. He has conquered marlin in Caribbean and Central American waters. And, from his home in the Florida Keys, Larry has caught numerous sailfish and more large dolphin (mahi mahi) than he can count.
But, the mighty swordfish had alluded him. Until last Thursday.
Captain Nick Borraccino and first mate Captain Ty Price have both fished the waters of the Florida Keys for several years, and have multiple successful swordfish trips in their log books. They loaded Larry’s 50′ Hatteras, Lazy Daze, with the custom electric/manual setup, various other rods and reels, gaffs of all sizes and their top-secret bait system.
Upon leaving the dock in Key Colony Beach on a sunny Florida Keys morning, the Captains cautioned Larry that swordfishing is typically an all-day event. They stressed it is not uncommon to wait many hours to get a bite, and that it is even possible to return home having encountered no bite at all.
An experienced angler, Larry was not dissuaded by the Captains’ warnings. And, thus, the group set out for the blue water.
As Captain Borraccino navigated the boat to his favorite swordfishing grounds in 1,600 feet of water off Marathon Florida Keys, Captain Price readied the gear and bait for the first drop.
Except when spawning, female swordfish prefer cool, deep waters near submarine canyons or coral banks. Males prefer to remain in somewhat warmer waters. The electric function of the combination setup is essential to drop the bait quickly to the depths where the large females roam. Usually the bait must be presented carefully and repeatedly before the swordfish will take it. The soft mouth of the swordfish makes hookup uncertain, and the slashing bill can make short work of an angler’s line or leader.
Such was not the case on this excursion.
Within seconds of the bait reaching its destination, there was the tell-tale bend of the rod and strain of the line. Fish on! Switch the set-up to manual mode! The fight lasted much longer than the wait for the bite. It took the combined efforts of Larry’s son, Larry Jr., Pat Gannon and Captain Borraccino to manually reel the fish to the boat an hour and twenty minutes after the first tug on the line.
It was a gorgeous 143-pounder. High fives all around! The group of anglers could well have headed home. But, the day had just begun and their adrenaline was pumping. Why not drop another bait and see what happens?
Wham! A few short seconds later – barely enough time for the crew to catch their breath – the rod was doubled over. Could it be another hefty guy like the one already in the boat? Or, his little brother following behind?
This time, Larry was on the rod. He fought a courageous battle for thirty-five minutes before handing over the rig to fellow angler, Pat Gannon. Pat reeled for fifteen minutes, and Larry Jr. finally pulled the fish to the boat five minutes later – fifty-five minutes and a second swordfish at the boat.
Upon seeing the hulking metallic blue/bronze mass emerge from the water, Larry exclaimed, “Holy Moly,” or something like that.
The swordfish was nothing short of monumental in size. Upon their return to the dock, Larry summoned the crew at Captain Hook’s Marina to bring their state certified, tournament qualified scale. They attached the scale to the boat davit and hoisted the fish. It weighed out at a whopping 504 pounds.
Swordfish have a smooth, very broad, flattened sword (broadbill) that is significantly longer and wider than the bill of any other billfish. Combined with the rigid fins, it is no simple task to maneuver a swordfish of such bulk into the boat. Captain Price piloted the boat as a team effort proved successful in guiding the beast through the fish door of the Hatteras.
Larry credits his crew, Captain Borraccino and Captain Price, with tremendous skill, seamanship and fortitude. Captain Price commented it was the “fish of a lifetime and one to surely keep you coming back for more!”
To land a broadbill is considered by many to be the highest achievement in angling. The world record swordfish was caught by Louis Marron in 1953 off the coast of Chile. That behemoth weighed 1,182 pounds – more than half a ton! Stephen Stanford caught a 612-pounder in Key Largo in 1978.
Larry Blessinger’s swordfish is a record in his world. As he said, “Now I just have to find a 14-foot wall to hang the mount!”