Early fall is a great time to target swordfish along the Mid-Atlantic coast—the fish are in feeding mode, but the weather is still fairly predictable and overnighters are possible. If you want to take aim at this species, drifting rigged squid at night is usually the most successful way to hit the bulls-eye.
As you plan your trip, remember:
- Rig up with extremely heavy leader. These fish aren’t leader-shy, and their bill can chaff through 100 pound test in a heart-beat—250 or 300 pound test is not out of order.
- Use big circle hooks. We mean really big. A 14/0 to 18/0 hook is appropriate.
- Always use rigging floss to secure the mantle of the squid to the tentacles. Swordfish often slash at the bait, and if it comes in two, there’s a good chance the fish will only find half of it. Naturally, that would be the half that doesn’t have your hook embedded in it.
- Keep a light in the water (green lights like the Hydroglow or Electrolume are by far the best) and watch for squid. When you see them, drop down a squid jig and gather some live baits. Not only will they excite the swordfish, but live squid will drive the tuna crazy, too.
- Although the swords are found in incredibly deep water (usually 1000 to 2000 feet) they still relate to structure. Try your drifts along canyon edges and temperature breaks. When the two meet you’ve found a prime location.
- Stagger your offerings by increments of 100 feet or so. Successful anglers will try a bait at 300 feet, another at 200, one at 100, and one at 40 to 50 feet at the edge of the light-line created by their boat’s light. You can add additional lines into this mix, but it’s tough to get more than four lines set and still run stripper-lines for tuna at the same time (which most anglers certainly will want to do) without creating tangles.