Big Swordfish on a Tiny Boat

175 pound sword on 14 foot boat
Dylan Reed targets, and catches, big swordfish in the 1,000-foot depths fishing out of a 14-foot boat he outfitted for the purpose. Dylan Reed

The numbers tell the story: 14-foot boat, one person aboard, 12 miles offshore, 175-pound swordfish feeding at a depth of 1,000 feet.

San Diego-based Dylan Reed, holder of a 1,600-ton captain license, catches big fish with a small boat. It’s not because he’s a daredevil; he studies weather forecasts and picks his days carefully. Reed fishes from a small craft because it lets him fight the fish, operate the boat, and reach his flying gaff all from one place.

On a larger vessel, like the 23-foot and 28-foot Parkers he uses when guiding for Bight Sportfishing, “there’s more real estate, there’s more distance between everything,” Reed said. “This boat is a lot of boat packed into a small package. I don’t even think it’s really that small.” Swordfishing is growing in popularity along the West Coast, and Bight’s boats caught 19 last year.

Solo Swordfish Vessel

175 pound swordfish in port
Pulling into port can be difficult when your catch is wider than your boat. Dylan Reed

But Reed often found himself fishing for swords alone, so he set out to build the perfect solo swordfish boat. He spent six months outfitting a Mexicat catamaran hull with gear including a 50-horsepower Tohatsu outboard, reinforced rod holders, and a 1Kw B175L transducer for reading bait and bottom structure at the depths that swordfishing requires. “The things I thought would work, worked,” he said.

His first solo sword from the Mexicat came in late September, on a squid with a 10-pound weight. Pulling the fish up from that depth is not as difficult as you might think, Reed said. “When they go to swim away, the sinker pulls the hook on the fish, and it’s getting pulled down, so the fish swims straight up,” he said.

When the rod goes slack, Reed gets ready for the fight, drinking water and positioning the gaff. “Then I start taking tension on the fish to see where it’s going. You’ve got 1,000 feet of line out. It might come up right next to the boat or it might head for the horizon. If it’s a big one, it might swim with the sinker for a mile.”

Reed was using 80-pound braid with a 300-pound mono leader on an Avet 50 reel and a rod he built himself. The fish eventually came up and “bulldogged” Reed for 20 minutes. Finally, “I could see it on its side,” which is a good sign the fish is getting tired,” he said.

The fish was soon on the deck and the Mexicat headed back to San Diego. Along the way, Reed and his fish got noticed.

“I was going through the bay with it and I had the fish covered up, but part of it was kind of hanging over the side,” Reed recalled. Passengers on a pleasure boat knew what they were seeing and cheered him – and posted a picture on Instagram. “I had 20 text messages by the time I got to the dock,” Reed said with a laugh. Maybe as word gets around, he won’t have to fish alone anymore.

Another Big Swordfish

150 pound swordfish
Reed caught another large sword, this time a 150-pounder, out of the 14-foot Mexicat. Dylan Reed

That big sword was no fluke. On October 19, Reed repeated the feat. This one weighed 150 pounds, and he garnered the same attention in port as he had previously.

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