2012 continues to serve up milestones in billfishing.
Last week, Capt. Vic Gaspeny landed his 200th swordfish Wednesday --probably the most ever caught by a single angler sportfishing with a manuel reel. He was fishing aboard the Catch 22 out of Bud N' Mary's Marina in Islamorada.
Gaspeny's swordfishing career reflects the history of the fishery. He caught his first two swordfish in 1928, and didn't catch another, or really bother to fish for them, for 23 years.
"Industrial fishing off the Straits of Florida during that time really depleted swordfish resources," Gaspeny said. "But they (the U.S. government) banned longlining for swordfish off the east coast of Florida just after the millennium."
Early this century, Gaspeny and close friend Richard Stanczyk, owner of Bud N' Mary's, started fishing for swordfish again, at night, and quickly realized that the new regulations were working and working rapidly to rebuild the population.
The fishery was coming back," he said. The Stanczyk clan and Gaspeny got so hooked on swordfishing that they refined night-time tactics and pioneered day-time tactics now used to target larger fish.
"Swordfish are powerful, have marlin-like speed and tuna-like stamina," Gaspeny said. "They are a world-class game fish."
Gaspeny is humble about the achievement.
"It's really not about the numbers," he said. "It's about the excitement of fishing for and pulling on them and the joy of doing it with people who share the passion."
Because of the superb fishery, anglers are coming from as far away as Australia to catch swordfish in the Keys. It's a good idea to book your charter way in advance.