Leading Caymanian fishermen Clarence ‘King’ Flowers and Buster McLean smashed a 25-year Florida record by landing a 545 lb 10 oz swordfish on Sunday.
Fishing off Government Cut, Miami on the 33-foot Bouncer’s Dusky, the team battled for more than five hours to bring the fish into the boat.
The feat took every ounce of skill – and strength by the experienced team which included swordfishing legend Captain Bouncer Smith, Captain Steve Huddleston and John Herndon.
Not only did the fish clinch the Hydroglow Summer Swordfish Slam tournament but is also believed to be the biggest swordfish caught in Florida waters for more than a quarter of a century.
Tournament president Drew Kettlehutt said: ‘The world’s largest swordfish tournament now can say, to the best of our knowledge, that it has weighted the heaviest sword to be caught in a tournament.’
‘It’s the fish of a lifetime’, said an exhausted Flowers who was back in Grand Cayman ahead of this weekend’s Cayman Swordfish Challenge. ‘This is the fish that everyone talks about but somehow always gets away.’
The fish grabbed a day-drop sword rig at around 2,000 feet while it was being set, just an hour after the tournament began.
Because of the powerful currents, it took some half hour for Smith to figure out that it was a fish, and not the bottom, that they had hooked.
Using 80lb test line on a 70lb Penn International reel, the team managed to get the fish close to the boat within 45 minutes.
‘It circled around us at 25 miles-per-hour and we got a good look at it’, recalls King. ‘We couldn’t believe its size – like a sunken boat. The fish then sounded and, as the fight dragged on, a powerful thunderstorm closed in the boat.
‘With every lightning strike, the fish pushed deeper,’ said King. ‘But it was like a submarine, steady and unstoppable, like nothing I’d ever hooked before’.
More than five hours after hooking up, they had the massive fish within 200 feet of the boat – this after a virtual stalemate where line was gained only by quarter turns of the reel.
It was now that the experience of the brilliant Smith began to pay and with a combination of instruction and boat-handling skill, they were able to work the fish to within gaffing distance.
‘It took five gaffs and, eventually, a tail rope,’ saidKing, ‘but even then he mashed the transom with his huge tail and slapped Steve Huddleston across the deck with his bill.’
Beyond exhaustion, the crew then had to gather enough strength to get the monster into the boat.
‘In 42 years as a full time fishing guide,’ declared Smith, ‘I have never taken part in a fight with a tougher fish.’
Flowers recalls that, on leaving the dock for the evening’s fishing, Captain Bouncer had predicted they would ‘hook up early, boat a 425lbs and go to the scales early’.
‘So I missed by 120lbs,’ laughed Smith. ‘It must be a fuzzy crystal ball.’
The team is now looking ahead to the Cayman Swordfish Challenge, the second annual tournament which takes place this Saturday and Sunday.
As with the last year’s inaugural tournament, Smith and Huddleston and the other top names in Florida swordfishing will be here to offer their training and guidance to Cayman’s anglers.
‘These guys simply know their stuff,’ declared Flowers. ‘I thought so before, but having seen them in the ultimate battle, I can attest to it. We’re incredibly lucky to have them here for the challenge.’
As for the swordfish, diners can enjoy a taste at the Brasserie in Cricket Square.
King Flowers urges any angler with a dream of landing a swordfish to get involved. The tournament kicks off this Friday at 6:30pm with registration and fishing masterclass at the Brasserie Conference Centre, Cricket Square. Visit www.caymanswordfish.com or call 916 2177 for full details of the event.