Florida Fishing Report – Daytime swordfishing secrets revealed


 Richard Stanczyk with Vic Gaspeny

A pair of anglers say they’re ready to share their daytime swordfishing secrets.

Story by Susan Cocking from the Miami Herald September 6, 2007. Susan is one of the most prolific South Florida writers devoted to delivering provoking story lines on the outdoor scene.

For the past decade or so, South Florida anglers have enjoyed bountiful nighttime swordfishing from the lower Keys to the Palm Beaches. Daytime swordfish catches, though, have been spotty, and mostly incidental — except for an Islamorada marina owner and some close friends and family.

For the past 4 ½ years, captain Richard Stanczyk — owner of Bud ‘n’ Mary’s Marina — and his longtime friend, light-tackle guide Vic Gaspeny, have quietly developed a consistent, productive daytime swordfishery in the deep offshore waters stretching from Key Largo to Key West.

How consistent? In 49 consecutive outings from Sept. 1, 2006, through today, their small, close-knit crew has caught or released a swordfish on every daytime trip. And in 62 daytime trips since May 2006, they have boated 186 swordfish. Their largest was a 448-pounder caught last March.

Now Stanczyk and Gaspeny have decided to share their knowledge, or at least some of it, with the rest of the fishing community.

”The genie is out of the bottle,” Stanczyk said.  Added Gaspeny: “We’ve cracked the code.”


Daytime swordfishing is not new; IGFA Hall of Famer Ruben Jaen wrote a how-to article several years ago about catching broadbills under the sun off Venezuela. Gaspeny and Stanczyk incorporated some of Jaen’s tips, along with pointers from Charles Dana Gibson’s mid-90s treatise, The Broadbill Swordfishery of the Northwest Atlantic, into their program. Together with Stanczyk’s brother Scott, captain of the charter boat Catch-22; son Nick, captain of the B’n’M; and Catch-22 mate K.J. Zeher, they went through an extensive period of trial and error during which Stanczyk estimates he spent up to a half-million dollars on fuel, bait and tackle.

”We are obsessed,” he said.

They discovered that the key to daytime swordfishing is to treat the broadbill like a bottom fish. According to Gibson’s book, the fish follow the ”deep scattering layer” — a migration of microorganisms that rises to the surface at night and sinks to the bottom by day. Stanczyk believes the larger swords stay at or near the bottom, having evolved a ”genetic intelligence” to avoid miles of commercial longline gear that spider-webbed across the Florida Straits until the waters were closed in 2001.

Stanczyk says his crew fishes the same sea mounts and broken bottom in 1,000 to 2,000 feet of water off the Keys that they once fished at night. The difference is that they now drop baits all the way to the bottom — not easy in four knots of current.

”We still snag the bottom — disaster,” Scott Stanczyk said. “This isn’t for just anybody.”

The crew typically fishes only one rod — a heavy-duty Rick Berry bent-butt model with a Shimano Tiagra 80 reel loaded with more than a mile of 100-pound Power Pro braided line. The fishing line, marked with a felt-tipped pen to show depth increments, is attached to a 400-pound-test wind-on monofilament leader — too long to meet IGFA world-record specifications.

Breakaway sash weights of between 8 and 14 pounds on monofilament line are dropped part-way down by a second rod, then the line cut and the weights attached to the fishing line in a large-scale ”chicken rig” commonly used on party boats. Completing the rig are several multicolored underwater lights spaced along line and leader to two baits — squid or fish plugs sewn with twine onto 9/0 j-hooks.


On Tuesday, the crew of the Catch-22 went one for five on swordfish between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Late that afternoon, mates K.J. Zeher and Jim Coughlin dropped the double-baited chicken rig 1,200 feet deep some 30 miles off the middle Keys as Gaspeny stood by, waiting for a strike. He had to keep a close eye on the rig because a bite by a huge swordfish on the bottom might telegraph as not much more than a tiny, brief bend in the tip.

Shortly before 6 p.m., when nothing had happened for a while, the crew deployed a float ball to bring up the line so they wouldn’t have to exhaust themselves reeling it up.

But when the line had floated up about 500 feet off the bottom, the rod tip bounced once, lightly. Now on full alert, the crew watched as drag slowly creaked off the reel.

”It’s him,” Richard Stanczyk said.

Zeher and Coughlin took the heavy rod out of the gunwales holder as Gaspeny eased into a large fighting chair and strapped himself into a bucket harness. The mates handed him the rod, which he clipped onto the harness and stuck, butt first, into a gimbal on the chair.

To prevent arm fatigue, Gaspeny fought the fish by sliding back and forth across the seat, pushing back with his legs as he raised the rod, and reeling slowly on the downstroke. He appeared sweaty in the 90-plus-degree heat, but not exhausted. Coughlin gave him sips of water.

The fight itself was less than thrilling. No aerobatics or lightning runs — just Gaspeny winding and pumping steadily on the rod.

After about 45 minutes, the fish came into view, and then to boatside. The mates double-gaffed it without incident and brought it on board. It measured 58 ¾ inches, guesstimated at 80 pounds because no scale was available.

”The streak is alive,” Gaspeny said, smiling.


On the two-hour ride back to Bud ‘n’ Mary’s, the crew explained their primary reason for going public: a concern that the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) might award the United States’ unused swordfish quota to developing countries that flout conservation practices.

The crew reasons that if recreational anglers can be encouraged to report their swordfish catches — as required by law — then international and domestic fisheries managers will treat the U.S. fishery as a potent economic force entitled to a fair share of the quota.

Said Scott Stanczyk: “These fish have been here millions of years. We’ve been driving right over them.”