It was teen angler’s second swordfish
Earlier this year, Al Morris, Jr. of Atlantic Beach, N.C. caught his first swordfish. The 100-pounder was a good introduction to the species for the 14-year-old angler. And on March 24, he caught his second swordfish, and this one was nearly as big as the North Carolina state record.
Fishing aboard his dad’s boat with Capt. Sam Collins of Emerald Isle at the helm, Morris battled the big fish for four hours, finally landing the 400-pounder that he hooked about 100 feet off the bottom of a 1400-foot hole. He was using a 20-inch Baitmasters of South Florida squid as bait.
“We were offshore of Big Rock and we’d made one drop, missed a bite, and pulled up to try another spot. We found a 1400-foot drop and sent the bait down again. After about 45 minutes, Junior hooked the fish. It was about 11:30 a.m. He fought it with a bucket harness for an hour, but it was evident this was a really big fish, so he put the rod in the gunwale rod holder and fought it,” said Capt. Al Morris, Sr., the young angler’s dad.
After an hour of fighting the fish, Morris had it all the way to about 80 feet, but the fish made a deep dive.
“He got it up to about 80 feet below the surface, and the fish dove back down to 998 feet. After another hour, he got the fish up to 60 feet, but then it went down to 660 feet. Another hour, he got it to 50 feet and it dove to 200 feet. It was still fighting, but you could tell it was wearing out with each dive,” said Morris, Sr.
Persistence pays off
Finally, after another 45 minutes, the fish was at 35 feet. That was the first time the crew got a look at the fish and knew for sure it was a swordfish.
“We were able to get the weight and the clip off the line, and we saw the fish for the first time. A few minutes later, I got hold of the leader and Sam (Collins) put a gaff in it. Then Junior put another gaff in it. We got the fish loaded up, cranked up the Mercury outboards and we headed in. That was already a full day for us and we wanted to get the fish weighed,” said Morris, Sr.
The crew went to Chasin’ Tails Outdoors to get it weighed, and had to hogtie the fish to get it off the ground so the scale could do its job. It weighed an even 400 pounds, 41 pounds shy of J. Horace Murray, Jr.’s state record 441-pound swordfish caught in 1979 out of Wrightsville Beach.
Morris, Sr., who runs Sea Drag’n Charters (252-269-1346) said the swordfish bite is great off the coast of North Carolina, and that the only reason people don’t hear more about it is because it takes a lot of patience and the right equipment to fish in water as deep as you need to in order to catch these fish.
“It’s exciting fishing. You drop a bait that big down in depths like that, and you don’t know what you’re going to come up with. Besides swordfish, we’ve caught huge groupers, giant sharks, and an assortment of other big fish. This ocean is full of mystery and it’s just exciting to hook something that deep,” he said.