PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – There are sea monsters. Just ask Jennifer Cameron.
On April 16, the Stuart, Florida angler caught the largest swordfish of her fishing career, weighing a giant that weighed 436 pounds.
Cameron fished with husband Capt. Glenn Cameron, who owns the Floridian fishing charter docked in Stuart Florida’s Sailfish Marina, and colleague Nick Cremasco.
Catching an animal weighing almost a quarter of a ton like a swordfish is a challenge in itself. Doing this while grappling with a 102-degree temperature is something entirely different.
“I didn’t feel so good that day, the day after I got my second Moderna shot,” for COVID-19, she told TCPalm | Treasure Coast Newspapers, part of the USA TODAY Network. “But we had to catch a fish, so I went with them. After we took the boat, I felt my fever, went into the cabin and wrapped myself in a blanket, and slept all the way back to the marina on the boat trip.”
Why did she have to catch a fish?
The reason they fished in the first place was because Cameron is one of the main organizers of the Black Gold Jubilee, an annual spring festival and charity fundraiser celebrated at Torry Island Campground in Belle Glade, Florida.
One aspect of the event is a fish roast. Cameron wanted to catch a fish big enough to feed dozens of participants, so aiming for a swordfish would have accomplished that goal.
“Sometimes we get criticized for keeping a fish so big and not releasing it. But we have literally allocated 300 pounds of fillets to fry and provide families in the Glades who need fresh fish,” she said. “We only kept a few small pieces for our family.”
She was also able to educate people about the difference between swordfish and marlin, a similar-looking fish whose harvest is strictly limited in US waters and which is not sold here as food fish.
How she almost lost the swordfish
Catching the sword almost didn’t happen, said her husband. The fish was apparently hooked into its dorsal fin – not its mouth.
“We were in 1,650 feet of water straight out of St. Lucie Inlet using bonito belly as bait,” he said. “We had a bite on our first drift, but the fish came off pretty quickly. So we stopped, ran back south (upstream) and started our second drift. As soon as Nick put the lines back on, I turned my head and when I did looked back at the buoy, it was gone. “
That said two things to seasoned anglers: The fish was hungry and was big.
A common method of catching swordfish is to use a large buoy to hold the bait far from the boat and at a depth sufficient to attract a swordfish’s attention. They are known to live in the dark depths where sunlight penetrates from the surface – at least 300 feet below.
To keep the bait this deep, Cameron used a 13 pound lead weight. He said the buoy had not appeared in a long time. After that happened and they were able to separate and retrieve the lead, the fish came to the surface and jumped.
“It buried the buoy for 20 minutes and told me it was a really big fish. When it jumped, I knew it was bigger than 350 pounds,” Glenn said. His wife reeled in the fish with an electric Lindgren Pitman reel.
“After we took off the line, the fish returned to 100 fathoms (600 feet) under the waters of the Gulf Stream. After we got the fish back to the boat, it was time for Nick to harpoon the fish. Though he did He’s never done that to a swordfish before, he did an excellent job and stoned him, which ended the fight, “Glenn said.
Then it was up to the captain and Cremasco to gaff the fish and collect it through the tuna door of the 60-foot cart.
It wasn’t Jennifer Cameron’s first swordfish.
She caught two in 2017, but the last one got her chasing the International Game Fish Association’s conventional Billfish Royal Slam Club, which awards anglers who catch these seven Billfish, with two caught in two oceans:
- Black marlin
- White marlin
- Striped marlin
- Sailfish in the Atlantic and Pacific
- Blue marlin in the Atlantic and Pacific
Jennifer just needs to catch a black marlin and a striped marlin, her husband said.
Other Martin County residents who are members of the IGFA Royal Billfish Slam Club include Doug Blanchard of Stuart, Julie Crispin of Sewall’s Point, Floirda, and Bob Pelosi of Palm City, Florida.
It’s been an eventful year for the Camerons. In June, the couple experienced a bit of fear when they encountered a wave at Beaufort Inlet in Morehead City, North Carolina while fishing at the Big Rock Blue Marlin tournament. The wave broke the pulpit at the bow and tore open the top of the hull. Fortunately, the boat never took in water.
Still, Glenn had to commute between Stuart and North Carolina for about six weeks to oversee the repairs. They were able to complete the repair of the 60-foot sport fish from Carolina in time to fish more tournaments in the mid-Atlantic states and participated in the Treasure Coast winter run of sail fishing tournaments.
They have plans to fish the Custom Boat Shootout and the new Invited Walker’s Cay tournament in the Bahamas next month, Jennifer said.
The fall swordfish bite can be good too, Glenn said, especially for large fish over 300 pounds, sometimes referred to as “markers” by commercial swordfishers.
“We catch big swords off Stuart all year round, even if we don’t fish for them all the time,” he said. “You can catch them here every month of the year.”
Case in point? On the same day, Capt. George Gozdz of Flatlined Charters in Jensen Beach and host of the Unfathomed television show on the Outdoors Channel also had a very nice sized 150 pound swordfish in front of Stuart.
Imagine fishing for swordfish in what has been dubbed the “Sailfish Capital of the World”.
- Minimum size: 47 inches measured from the lower jaw to the fork length of the tail
- Pocket limit: One per combine per day, a maximum of 4 per ship (not for rent) or 15 per rented ship. No daily pocket and possessions limit for the captain and crew of rental ships.
- Reporting obligation: All landed swordfish must be reported to NOAA within 24 hours at 800-894-5528.
- Required approval: A permit for highly migratory species is required in federal waters.
- More information: For full state fisheries regulations, please visit MyFWC.com.
- Florida record: £ 757.8, Bill Lussier, Islamorada, March 31, 2019
- Pending Florida Record: 767.8 pounds, Timmy Maddock, Pompano Beach, Jan 25, 2021
- World record: 1.182 pounds, Louis Marron, Iquique, Chile, May 7, 1953
Follow Ed Killer on Twitter @tcpalmekiller.