The last stringer of herrings comes flying over the rail, Capt. Chris begins to rev up the Backlash and steadily point her straight south. The guys are getting things ready to settle in for the two and a half hour ride out; destination the middle of no where. With bait rods put up and everything freshly sprayed off and wiped down, I plop down in my bean bag on the back deck and watch the fisherman do what they do. Lures being tied on and laced up with the upmost precision of the perfect knot to insure she won’t be lost. 5 trolling rods (yes, 5!) being placed out ever so carefully. A delicious buffet set up in search of any fast swimmer to come and feast. I day dream about a Wahoo luring in our path and my mouth waters at the thought of the way they taste. As the buildings and condos of Destin are disappearing in the distance, I take a moment and admire the great fisherman and their skills sitting around me. I thank God for each one. With the Backlash set on auto pilot, Chris comes down to do some surgery of his own and sew up a little something special for Mr. Swordfish. The cut, sewn in hook and skirt topper are placed just so, to insure it swims natural. A perfect Swordfish snack to say the least. With a little over an hour left in our ride, we all begin to exchange, what else, fishing stories and relax waiting for Chris to pull back the throttle and signal, it’s time!
No Wahoo nibble, so time to reel the buffet up as we approach our X. The conditions just can’t get any prettier. Light breeze, less then a foot sea and not a cloud in the sky. Truly a day hand painted by the Man. With all the trolling gear hoisted to the rod holders in the bridge, it is time to set up for a Swordfish. The bait is tied on, weights added and the reel is taken out of gear to lower the offering. A little while later and the bait hits the bottom. 1,320ft. With a couple cranks up to lift her out of the mud and the drag checked again, time to wait. As we are waiting a school of chickens came swimming by. Chicken dolphins (Mahi-Mahi) that is. All of them lit up and looking gorgeous in the electric blue water. This will be some entertainment while we wait. With them not being very hungry, we tried everything from cut bait to live cigar minnows. They finally got fired up about a bait rod with 8lb test and an empty jig head tied on. They hung around for what seemed like 2 hours, giving us lots of entertainment while waiting. Chris even shot one with a bow! You just never know what you’re going to find out here.
As the sun started to align with the West and make her way down, we decided to whined up the swordfish rod and try out some deep dropping. Chris rounded up on a little shallower ground, 1,010ft, to see if we could wake up any Tile fish. First drop, two rods slammed at the same time. Whap! Whap! and with a push of a button, fish on! Craziest thing you ever saw. Long way down and long way up. As the reel’s spool filled up with line and the leader was getting closer and closer the anticipation was killer. Like a kid in a candy shop. With about 10 minutes later, sploosh there they were. Two Tile fish straight from the dark abyss. I had never seen a Tile fish right after it had been caught and boy are they pretty. Lit up with silver, yellow and blue details. Seriously, looked like something out of a science book. Very cool. From there we made drop after drop after drop. Ended up with 10 before the bite slowed down and the sun was sinking in the water. It is swordfish time again! The electric, deep drop rods are placed to the side and the big gold reels are pulled out. The guys begin to rig them up while Chris drives to find the dropping zone.
Things to know about Swordfish:
- They are a cross between a shark and a billfish (In my opinion)
- They live in deep, dark water. Anywhere from 1,200 to 5,000ft
- They are electric blue colored with silky skin and big eyes
- Powerful swimmers
- Same appetite as a shark (they like bloody, dead, and stinky)
- Very soft mouths! You can only put about 18 pounds of drag on them to avoid pulling them off and ripping the hook out of their mouths
Chris found an area he likes and decides to set up shop here. I break out the grill and get to making dinner as all the lines are being baited up, tied up and put out. With 4 lines out, it’s time wait and enjoy the sunset. To see the sunset in Destin is beautiful, but to see a sunset out here with nothing but water around you and the taste of salty fresh air, is absolutely breath-taking. Yes, you can take pictures and videos in order show someone what it is like to be offshore in the middle of the Gulf, but showing and witnessing it for yourself are two different ball games. There is truly nothing like it in the World; God’s creation at its absolute finest. Before we know it the orange ball is gone and the stars begin to shine and the sky turns black. Still no swordfish bite. A waiting game only the patient will win.
At about 10:02pm one of the rod tips begins to bounce. A few seconds later, Zzzzzzzzzzz, the line starts to be taken out. Chris free spools it to let him eat the bait and get the hook set deep. He yells waking all the sleepers up FISH ON! We scramble to reel in all the other lines to get them out of the way. The fight is on. Chris on the rod, the fish takes a little, Chris takes a little. This goes back and forth for about 25 minutes and then we can see the glow light coming up through the darkness. This means the leader is close…and so is the fish! We all watch anxious to lay eyes on the sea creature first. There he is, a 6ft…shit eater. Gotcha!! Well even though it was a shark and not a swordfish we didn’t let this ruin our vibes. With cutting the fish loose and regrouping, time to send out another set of lines and try again. As I mentioned above, you are using the same tactics and bait you would when fishing for a shark. So very often you will catch a shark. While the experts say Swordfish and Sharks fight differently, you still can’t take a chance and beat the drag down hard and risk pulling the hook if it does happen to be a big ole swordfish. Soft mouths and a powerful fish set up a long fight sometimes. Patience is a definitely virtue out here. It is always an adrenaline rush to get the first glimpse of whats on the other end of the line when you first get it up to the surface.
With lines reset and highs mellowed out, we begin the waiting game again. Motors are off, the vibration sound of the generator is soothing. The big girl rocks ever so gently side to side. It feels almost as if the Backlash had a brain and a mouth she would say how gorgeous it is out here just drifting freely in the Gulf. Time moves slow out here. There is no cell service, internet connection, or social media, just this incredible creation around you. Not a single stress or worry out here. I often find myself rolling through life, trying to keep up with our busy schedule and getting as much done as I can daily. Chris and I never get to clock out fully and I am ok with that. It isn’t very often that you will find me actually sitting down and sitting still. But like anyone there comes a point where I do crash and land in a seat some where. There is always one place that I can count on to bring me back down to Earth and allows me to realize just how small we truly are in this world. For that I thank God. I thank God for creating the Gulf of Mexico and providing us with a place to play and fish and make a living. I will forever be at his mercy and dedicated to serving him for that. This is my crashing place. Catching fish is a bonus, feeling this free is why I come.
All of us are beginning to run out of redbull wings and we start dropping off into dream world one by one. Around 4:00am Chris and I wake up to Alex calling out. We run down to the deck and sure enough the line is zinging out again. Bite number two! Here we go boys, be a sword! We once again reel up all the other lines and let Chris set the hook. Same as before he lets him eat and then just steady whines on him. Back in forth, up and down with the rod. Gaining line and losing line. The battle ends a shot time later. Chris, once again calls it, shark. As the glow stick appears and the leader rises so does a 7ft hammerhead. Today is his day, the line is cut free and he swims back to the deep. A little disappointed but not defeated, the lines are set up and sent out once again. I head bob in and out of sleep until I see the break of day. Why hello there you gorgeous thing! I can’t hold my eyes open any longer and drift away into dream world. Before I know it I am awoken to the sound of Chris cranking the motors and the sun completely up and shining bright. Time to take this big girl back to her port. As we all wake up and start moving around we decide to deep drop again on the way home. Electric reels are something special. Ended up with close to a limit of Tile fish.
Time to let this big girl fly. Backlash’s next stop will be her slip back in the harbor. On the way home we had a little hitch hiker take a ride with us. A little Barn Swallow decided to take a rest on the ladder. Chris picked him right up without any fuss and he stood in his hand without any fear. I cupped him and brought him in the wheel house with me and he rode the whole way back with us, sleeping almost the whole way. Barn Swallows migrate from Cuba to the states during summer time to breed. We made his journey a little less tiring. Pretty neat to have a little creature trust us so much. He even hung around the dock for an hour before flying off when we got in.
Calm seas, boat vibrations and sun beaming through the wheel house windows cause for an outstanding power nap. Before I knew it I was waking up, the buildings started to re appear again and the Destin shore was getting closer and closer. Back at the dock, one by one we funneled out of the boat and hung up the fish for a picture. A trip I will never forget and a crew that I love very much! Thankful for days like these. The first swordfish trip of 2017 was officially in the books. Now time for the clean up and fish bagging. God is Good y’all!
Thanks for reading,