Broadbill Fishing is still a growing sport for recreational fishers in NZ.
Broadbill can be targeted by Night time fishing, where you set 1 or 2 baits from 5 to 50m below the surface or by Daytime fishing, where
CAPTAINCOL's SWORD 178.5kg (May 2017)
you set your bait 30 to 70m off the bottom and drift for them during daylight hours. below I will detail both methods. I don't prophesise to know everything, but I do know what works having achieved success with both methods. And I won't spin you any bullshit about how to set your rigs. I can give you all you need to know to give you a fighting chance at hooking and landing a Swordy. The rest will depend on your abilities as an angler and of coarse having a bit of luck in your favour as well.
My personal preference is the daytime sword fishing, It gets very cold at night, and it is very easy to lose your bearings as you can't see land. It is also harder for the skipper to keep an eye on what is happening when its action time. Both day and Night produce results, and local angler Dougal Hamilton has caught several Broadbill while targeting them at night off Gisborne. So Night Fishing can be very productive if you are a night owl.
Since the advent in NZ waters of daytime sword fishing, this method is the more preferred method.
NIGHT TIME BROADBILL FISHING:
Night time fishing on East coast of NZ is most productive from December to late July with the best month being February. And the hottest times to concentrate your night time fishing is the period including 1 hour before dark to 3 hours after dark, Most strikes will happen during these hours, as that is the prominent time when the Broadbill rise to the surface to feed on the squid. It is definitely possible to catch swords during the rest of the night, just less likely.
Best bait to use for night fishing is whole squid stitched onto a single circle hook, or a double hook rig.
When we set our rig, we will use an 8m 400lb trace and a 2m double to the heavy duty swivel. We do not use wind-on leaders, as they can cause more problems that they solve. Unless you are experienced in the use of wind-on leaders and have rods with the correct bigfoot guides, then leave wind-on leaders alone. There is a reason why only a few people use them. Use 4" green light sticks, and break them an hour before you need to use them. This allows them to settle and lose their initial excessive brightness. Fish feed on the edge of light, So if too bright, they will miss your bait altogether. Place the closest light stick at least 5m from the bait. Then you can have another 2 or 3 at another 5m apart, or other battery powered lights if you wish. We set one line at 10m deep using an empty 2 liter milk bottle rubber banded onto the line and set it about 20m from the boat. The next line we will set at 30 to 40m deep close to the boat. We place a light stick in each bottle so we can see where the line is, and it also indicates a strike. We only ever run 2 sword baits when night fishing.
If you wish, you can do some jigging as well when night fishing. I have had a strike on my jig while doing this, but unfortunately after striking my jig, the sword decided he wanted a squid instead, So we still got the sword, but it was on the bait. I'm sure it would have been a lot more fun on the jig rod. (maybe next time).
The best light stick colour is definitely green, blue will catch some, but is not anywhere near as good of an attractant as green, and it must be remembered that the natural lights in the ocean is always green, as in the Cookiecutter shark that emits a green glow in its belly that attracts tuna, Broadbill, Moonfish and other fish to investigate, and then the Cookiecutter spins out a cheeky feed from its unsuspecting host. And the phosphorus you see on certain nights in the ocean waves is also green, so stick with what the fish are used to.
Night fishing generally provides you with much livelier fish, and if you prefer to release your fish, then the night caught fish will have a better chance at survival. You are also likely to catch a few sharks, especially blue sharks when night fishing, as they absolutely love squid and light sticks. When night fishing, don't be shy to catch some fresh squid around the boat while you sword lines are out, and use them as livebait for a sword, or have them for brecky.
Another trick for night time Swordfishing, is to tow a lumo lure at a slow troll (about 2 knots) while watching the sounder (make sure you have a rig baited and attached to a rod ready for deployment. As you are trolling through the area keep a close eye on the sounder (top 100m) of water and keep an eye out for an "ARROWHEAD" of feed, when you find this arrowhead of feed normally at about 30 or 50metres deep you will invariably have also found the swords as they will be circling the baitball you have just found on the sounder. Drop your baited rig into the baitball and you will know within a few minutes if you have struck the jackpot. And you may well catch a sword on the lure while looking for the baitballs. There will normally be at least 6 or more swords feeding on the baitball.
DAYTIME SWORD FISHING:
PE20 on Makaira Rod Attached to a Swordy
Daytime swordfishing is the more enjoyable method, But requires exceptionally good robust gear. Don't bother with shit gear, or you will simply strip the gears in your reel, burn the drag out, or bust the rod. So have a high quality rod and reel, and a proper game belt and harness. Swordfish are Gladiators of the sea they fight pretty much to the death, don't think they are going to give up early to make it easier on you, as they won't, they will beat that powerhouse tail till the death.
Also only use best quality line, and if it has already had a good fish that has stretched it, then change it. Stretched line breaks.
The line you use is personal choice, and all options will catch fish, but will require different methods and drag settings.
If you are going for your first sword, then put everything in your favour and stick to 60kg (130lb). Once you have one tucked under your belt, then play around with lighter tackle, if that is your thing.
Some very successful Sword guys use all mono, Not my cup of tea, but it works for them very well.
I will start with how i set my gear up. My Real is a Jigging Master PE20 and the rod is an Okuma Makaira fully rollered 37kg bent butt game rod. The Makaira game rod can handle knocks and severe drag, it is heavy and a broomstick but you can haul down on a fish wish with some serious drag when needed and have complete faith in the rod.
The line I use is New Zealand made Tasline Hollow Braid 100lb X 1000m With a 50m topshot of IGFA 60kg Mono. The topshot is renewed for each fish. And when I am chasing bluefin, I change the topshot for 50m of IGFA 37kg.
I always use Hi-Vis topshot so it is quick and easy for the skipper to see where the line is at glance and can safely manoeuvre the boat while the fish is being played.
Graham and I use different hook rigs each time, rather than sticking to exactly the same all the time, Once again all options work, but some will work better in certain circumstances.
I commonly use a rig with a 17/0 Tuna Circle at the top followed by a large Mustad Offset "J" Hook at the bottom.
If you wish to release your fish, then stick to a hook rig, with the hook being a large Circle Hook, as it will nearly always hookup in the corner of the mouth and you can release the fish at the boat if the sword is still in a healthy condition.
As far as lights and light sticks go the more the better, light it up like a xmas tree, but don't put any lightsticks closer than 5m to the bait. Personally, I only use 2 Deep Drop Diamond Strobes (green). But a lightstick up by the coastlock clip is definitely advantageous.
For the disposable weight you can use anything you like, window sash weights are good as are any old bits of steel (2 to 3kg) you can fill a 2 litre milk bottle with gravel off your drive or grab some river stones, some people make their own out of concrete in a round bowl. These work well as they go down well, but due to the flat top, they have a lot of resistance when you lift up on them which makes it easier to break the "breakaway line". The best of all tho
is old "Digger Teeth"
off excavators, they need to be replaced regularly so you can generally score these off a mate in the industry, or purchase the old rusty ones cheaply from a scrap metal merchant. These go down really fast as there is little water resistance and when it comes time to bust them off, they ping away really easy as the cavity provides plenty of resistance to pop the breakaway.
We use a rubber band to attach an 8oz sinker to the coastlock clip, and this helps keep the bait from drifting back up with the current after the main weight has been broken away. We use old line in 30-50m lengths to make throw-away droppers which are attached to the main weight and then into the loop at top of throw-away dropper we tie 2 strands of IGFA 3kg mono about 1/2 a metre long, and attach this to the bottom hook of the baited rig. Once the main weight hits the bottom, we wind up slack, and a couple of firm lifts on the rod, and the main weight breaks away. Then the skipper just keeps backing up on the gear to keep it straight up and down.
The reason for using the 30-50m dropper is so that your bait stays high off the bottom from the beginning, if you let it go to the bottom and then windup the 30-50m then chances are you will put the sword bait through the bluenose, and they will hammer your bait, and you will likely be pulling up a bycatch of Bluenose before a sword gets a look in. The secret is, don't let the bluenose know it's there in the first place.
The sword will strike relatively quickly if you are in the right place. And then you either wind like f__k or put the boat in gear to get some angle on it as soon as possible. As the sword will most likely start heading to the surface at speed. I have made the mistake of not moving off, the sword got his bill to the braid just above the topshot. Hence fish and topshot and trace was all gone. Wasted effort.
Swords are not solitary diners and will regularly be in schools of 5 to 10 fish. This is why you get a strike early when in the right place, and why it is possible to catch more than one fish in the same area.
Bait is important to get right. When starting out a smaller bait is a better option, as it increases your chances of at least hooking into a smaller sword (for first sword, who cares if its a smaller one) they all taste good. If you only want a big sword, then by all means rig a big hearty bait upto Large Squid or Skippy size. But for more strikes, you are better to present smaller baits. Whole squid are great sword bait, but they also get demolished by the bluenose. Belly flap off gemfish folded around hook or hookset and cabletied or sewn into a nice round tube work well. Lay the belly flap down on the bait table and lengthwise remove a "V" section of meat, this makes it easy to fold nicely leaving skin out. total length of bait should be about 10 to 15" long. Frostfish (a half is generally enough) also makes a very presentable bait, as do a lot of smaller fish species like a 500gr Kahawai.
If I put down a squid, Then Graham will put down a cut bait in a Squidshell for the second drop. This way we cover our bases.
The Places to find Swords:
Night fishing and daytime sword drops present different scenario's for targeting swords successfully. Night time swords obviously are near the surface and frequent the canyons and troughs. Like Around white they like the troughs around the western arm and the runaway sea-valley's, and off Gisborne the prime night fishing spots are The Gisborne Sea Valley, Poverty Sea Valley and the Richie trough further south. And south of Napier, they frequent the Madden Hole (inside the madden banks). If you want a night time grandeur then head for the Richie Trough of the Madden Hole (Along with the best gear you can afford).
Day fishing holds no reel surprises, the swords will always be anywhere you find bluenose, Not because they eat bluenose, but because they eat the same food as the bluenose do. And bluenose hang around deep mounds and ridges. And you will find the bluenose spots don't change year after year. So set your plan to head to a good spot, but really, if nothing happens within the first 2 drops be prepared to move on to plan B. If they are in the area you will know soon enough, so don't waste your day in dead water. If they aren't on the hill you are targeting when you first get there, then there is a high probability they won't be there 4 hours later. So move onto fresh grounds.
Be prepared for a long battle, and have everything you need at the ready. Don't even pick the rod up without a quality gimbal harness set. Depending on your hook rig has a lot to do with the ensuing battle, an offset J hook is likely to be swallowed and hurt the fish, which can significantly shorten the battle. The risk with this is, that it can also tear the stomach as the fish regurgitates the bait, in which case you will lose the fish, and it will probably die. So a wasted fish. With a Circle hook the sword is generally caught in the corner of the mouth, this does not apply much hurt to the fish, so you are in for a long battle, but chance are you have a well hooked fish and will reap the rewards after a few hours.
You can't apply too much drag pressure as their mouths are very soft and a hook can tear through without to much pressure. Steady pressure on the fish and an abundance of patience are your best friends.
It is also possible when the sword attacks the bait and swims past that the hook connects with the dorsal fin, this makes for a long and arduous fight, as there is no pain inflicted onto the Swordfish, All pain in this scenario is inflicted on the angler. If you are ever unfortunate enough to catch a Swordy by the dorsal, then hopefully it is a small specimen, you will never forget it.
A decent 80w Game reel will definitely do the job, However smaller reels are more popular and are still capable. Some smaller examples would be the talica 50, Tiagra 50W LRS, Makaira 50W or Penn 50W.
Rod choice is hugely important, Bent Butt is a good choice, as a bent butt rod is easier on angler for raising fish that are down, straight butt rods are more for marlin and tuna where the fight is on the top of the water. The rod must be a minimum of 37kg and should be extremely robust. Money talks when getting a Swordy rod, skimp here on the dollars and it will end in tears (along with a loud cracking sound) There is no such thing as a cheap Sword rod. $500- would be the cheapest that will do the job.
Trace, use about 8-10m of high quality 400lb trace with good abrasion resistance. Do not go higher in poundage as the line then becomes too thick and wirey and will look like a big stem coming out of your bait (to the swordy) you will get little to no action if you go too heavy in the trace.
Use a quality game coastlock swivel. don't use your bottom bouncing ones that have treated you well, they will fail.
Start fresh with new line. All the reels above will hold 1000m of 100lb tasline hollow core braid along with a 50m length of topshot. the reason I say 50m topshot is because with this length it gives you enough mono to act as the bungy between you and the fish, yet it is short enough that you can still sense the bottom (to bust off the weight) and sensitive enough to feel the bites, and most of the time at 450m you would think you had a tarakihi nibbling on your bait. I prefer 60kg (130lb) topshot for sword fishing, as you have a long battle ahead, and you can never be sure as to what size fish you are going to encounter, so it just puts a bit more in your favour. 37kg (80lb) topshot is fine if you want a longer battle, or maybe you are experienced enough to go hard with 80lb (and if that is the case then you probably wouldn't be reading this page in the first place). Be prepared to change your topshot after you have had a good fish, as they will dung it out and it will simply break on the next battle.
When gaffing aim for the eye socket, swords are very soft in the mouth and face area and a gaff will rip through most places, I personally always do the bill work, and you must have gloves, all I have ever used is the standard commercial issue white cotton gloves (about $1- each) they have always afforded me good grip, feel and protection. I choose to be billman, as I am comfortable with grabbing the bill as soon as first gaff goes in, and I am generally the biggest person on the boat, so can hold on pretty well. I am also well practised and comfortable tracing any fish with cotton gloves, but if you are new to tracing, then I suggest getting the expensive leader gloves to avoid serious injury. I have always found 2 spade handle swivel gaffs to be the ultimate gaff for strength and control. Billman must hold and control the bill until the fish is landed and subdued, or until fish is released, if that is your choice. Remember too, that a swordfish is the GLADIATOR OF THE SEA, So it will fight to the death. If you manage to get a fish to the boat in the first 20minutes, then it will be very fresh, and dangerous. So be extremely careful with fresh fish, as they can cause serious injury and damage if not subdued instantly. A fish at the end of a long fight will be far safer for newbie sword fishermen to control and safely land. Once you have boated your sword, do not allow your exposed skin to come in contact with the skin of the swordfish, or you will suffer from "Broadbill Rash" which is extremely painful. The broadbill skin is rough like a shark and totally covered in bacteria, so if you allow your forearms to rub on the fish, then you will get excruciating pain and a large infected rash.
Here's hoping this may help you to catch and land your first swordy.
And don't forget to get your bill carved, As they are porous you can only etch carve them, My sword was done by a Gisborne local, Dave Ratipu as a gift for me. And he made the handle out of Kanuka, (the insets in the sword, and the eyes in the handle are Paua Shell) He did the gods on one side, and fish on the lighter side, So I could have a different view by turning it around!!