A Guide to Catching Swordfish in Tampa Bay

Catching swordfish in Tampa Bay is definitely not for the faint of heart. Remember, you’re planning to target a magnificent creature that can weigh up to 1,200 pounds and measure 14 feet long. Not to mention, you’ll be fishing in the deep, deep waters of the Gulf Stream.

The United States of Swordfishing: Where, How Around the States - InTheBite

That means you’re in for a fight and a long, arduous one at that. In fact, a 2019 news article reported that a charter boat captain and clients put up an 8-hour-long fight to catch a record-breaking swordfish. How much did it weigh? A whopping 757.8 pounds. 

Now that’s the dream! If this is the goal, then you have a lot of preparation to do. Read on as we share quick tips on catching swordfish in Tampa Bay!


A Guide to Catching Swordfish in Tampa Bay

As many of you probably know, swordfish is one of Florida’s prized trophy fish. Not only are they fun to catch because of their size and the fight they give, but they also offer delicious meat! Besides that, swordfish are also extremely fast swimmers, adding to the challenge of catching one. They can swim up to 60 miles per hour. 

Catching swordfish in Tampa Bay is a treat because Florida itself is known as a Swordfish breeding ground. After all, you can find swordfish all over the world, provided you’re in temperate and tropical areas like Florida.

Swordfish in the Florida Keys | Deep Sea & Offshore Fishing

Swordfish aren’t schooling fish, but you can find them in loose groups. Sometimes, they can bask in the sun at the surface, and other times, you can enjoy their amazing aerial leaps. 

As the name suggests, swordfish have a sword-like bill. However, you’ll be surprised that their “sword” isn’t meant for stabbing prey, but for stunning and striking it. Afterward, swordfish will immobilize their prey with their speed, swallowing small prey whole. 

So, what’s it like catching swordfish in Tampa Bay? Find out here!


Optimum Water Conditions

Swordfish prefer cold waters, staying at extremely deep waters of over 1,500 feet. You can find them in water temperatures ranging from 41-81 degrees F. You’ll find them foraging the bottoms throughout the day, then come night, they’ll begin swimming up to 500 feet (or even less), hunting for prey.

As such, you can find anglers going for longer chartered trips, targeting swordfish at night. If you plan on targeting swordfish during the day, prepare a lot of line and patience!

They are popularly caught in the middle of the Gulf Stream or Straights of Florida between 1,000 to 1,5000 feet deep.

As for where swordfish stay, you’ll want to find a structure where strong currents can upwell bait and prey. Opt for hills and valleys, which you can discover with your bottom finder.


Tackle and Gear to Use

When catching a swordfish, you will need to prepare a big boat with appropriate gear to catch a monster fish. 

We recommend using equipment such as an 80-lb test on trolling reels with heavy trolling rods. Moreover, you’ll want to invest in breakaway weights or downriggers to allow your bait to go further down to swordfish. 

Besides that, prepare large 9/0 J-hooks tied to a 12-foot 300-lb test mono leader, which must be tied to an 80-lb mono line. This can give you more chances of success.

If you plan to fish at night, we recommend attaching a glow stick to your leader so you can attract prey and bait fish. Moreover, make sure you attach safety lines to your fishing rods to prevent swordfish from ripping in from the boat. Remember, swordfish will put up a fight with speed and strength, from powerful dives to high aerial leaps!

Another thing we recommend doing is to set out a chum line, which attracts bait fish. In turn, it will attract swordfish. Try using live and dead baits to attract swordfish, including:


Watch Out When Landing a Swordfish

560-pound swordfish caught by North Carolina father and son: report | Fox  News

Here’s something not many people know, or what some anglers choose to ignore. Yes, we get that landing swordfish is exciting. However, it’s also very dangerous when you are unprepared!

Again, swordfish are extremely powerful fish that have been reported to attach to boats, whales, submersibles, and even people. They are strong enough to even ram a boat or stab you with their sword.

Because of that, you must prepare thick gloves and long gaffs. A flying gaff or harpoon can help land large swordfish safely. For easier retrieval after landing a swordfish, tie the landing gaff or harpoon to a large cleat or poly ball.

Also, you may want to consider joining a fishing charter with a professional captain and crew who are ready with knowledge and equipment to land swordfish. They can assist you as you try to land one, and even teach you the proper techniques to target the species.


Rules and Regulations

Besides learning about catching swordfish in Tampa Bay, you should also be aware of the rules and regulations that come with it. 

You must have a permit to catch a swordfish. If you will be fishing on federal waters about 200 miles out, swordfish are managed by the High Migratory Division of the National Marine Fisheries Service. Because of that, all vessels that will recreationally fish for Atlantic Highly Migratory Species in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico must have an Atlantic Highly Migratory Species permit.


Wrapping It Up

Hopefully, you learned a lot about catching swordfish in Tampa Bay! If you would also like to grab the chance to target and reel in this species, you may want to consider booking a fishing charter.

Fishing charters are excellent services with a professional captain and crew to help you every step of the way. While it isn’t guaranteed that you’ll reel in swordfish, you’re assured a ton of fun and lessons out in the deep blue waters! You might even catch equally great offshore species like Mahi Mahi and more. 

So, don’t wait any longer and contact us now to learn more about our services and to book your chartered trip.

Best Fish to Catch in Tampa Bay
Best Fish to Catch in Tampa Bay


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