We spent 15 minutes on the phone with Capt. Brian Suschke to discuss deep dropping to swordfish with the deep drop swordfish eel off the coast of the Florida Keys. Here's what we learned...
Capt. Brian Suschke
Facebook: Brian Suschke
Targeted Species: Swordfish
Location: Florida Keys, Florida - Offshore
Despite being a New Jersey resident, Capt. Brian Suschke spends the majority of his winters fishing for swordfish 25-miles off the Florida Keys. Finding these fish can be difficult at times but experienced anglers like Capt. Brian know to look for steep drop offs and specific depth markers on the edge of this continental shelf; specifically in depths ranging from 1500 to 1700-feet.
“If you have the proper sounder, you can see the depths the swords are at or mark bait,” Capt. Brian said. “If not, you want to work the end of that shelf up and down.”
Tides: These waters are not tide dependent but Capt. Brian has found that the bite tends to be better around the week of the full moon.
Approach: Capt. Brian normally heads straight out to the edge and sets out their rigs, advising to deploy the baits and fish one or two at a time with a down rod and a buoy rod.
“Basically, you’re covering the lower portion of the water with your down rod and the buoy rod is set to a depth from 1000 to 1200-feet,” Capt. Brian said.
Once they get their drop, they position the best they can over the bait, preferably vertically on top of it.
“If you blink, you can miss the bite,” Capt. Brian said. “But they normally hit a few times.”
With these fish, setting the hook isn’t necessary. Seeing the rod start to load or go completely slack are indications that you have a bite. Depending on the bite and the depth, you can either drop down or come up. Capt. Brian prefers to drop the weight straight to the bottom. He uses lead weights ranging from 8 to 12-pounds.
Rigging/Lure Selection: Deep Drop Swordfish Eel
Why This Bait?: In South Florida specifically, they’ve been seeing a problem with squid. They will attack your baits, trying to eat them and ruin them. When using the artificial eel, you have the advantage of deterring the squid from destroying your baits and you’ll be able to fish a single bait for a longer period of time.
“The day that we were fishing, the baits were getting attacked and we put the eel out and weren’t being harassed,” Capt. Brian said. “With the natural baits, the squid can give you a "false bite" where as they do not bother the rubber eel."
This lure is perfect for when the squid presence is heavy. Capt. Brian also finds them to be extremely durable, mentioning that with one lure, he’s caught as many as six swordfish with no hook breaks, bends or tears to the plastic.
Colors: Purple and White
Retrieve: The best way to fish these lures is by drifting over the shelf. Most drifts last about 30 minutes but it all depends on the conditions (tide, wind, current) that will cause you to bring the bait up and reset. When there too much scope and too much line out, you have to retrieve and reset.
When you have a fish on, let the fish run and take line when you can. Some fights can last 15 minutes, some fights can last over 5 hours but typically, they average from 30 minutes to an hour.
Rod: Capt. Brian uses a custom sword rod that is extra heavy with a soft tapered tip. You need the softer tip to see the bite but you also need the strength of the extra heavy rod with the larger weights you’re deploying. Length: 7-feet.
Reel: Shimano BM9000 Beastmaster Electric Dendou Reel or Lindgren-Pitman Electric Reels
Line: Braid works best for the capacity that the reel is going to hold. There is also less drag in the water with braid that will keep your baits down. In Florida, there’s a stronger current so 65-80lb test works the best. Capt. Brian tends to go lighter with the heavier current and the smaller diameter in the water is what you want.
Leader: 150-feet of 200lb monofilament top shot
Poon Harpoon: This was the first fish that Capt. Brian caught with this new harpoon but he has been using this harpoon out of Ocean City for over 2-years. There’s no particular reason why Capt. Brian prefers this harpoon to others but the style, weight and the ease of breaking it down and storing it. Capt. Brian has also used this harpoon while commercial fishing for Bluefin tuna and it has proved its durability.