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Swordfish from a Kayak

One young man’s dreams turn to reality in the Florida Keys

January 29, 2021
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Three anglers sit on a boat deck and hold a large swordfish.
Colby Blackwell, center, with his dream fish. Courtesy Colby Blackwell

Eighteen-year-old Colby Blackwell from Birmingham, Alabama, was determined to make his dream come true: successfully catch a swordfish from his kayak. After releasing a blue marlin from his ‘yak in Golfito, Costa Rica, in 2019, he set his sights on the ultimate predator—the gladiator of the sea—and he wasn’t going to let it slide, not this time.

For two years running, Blackwell has been out with Capt. Nick Stanczyk from Bud N’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada, Florida. Perhaps one of the most accomplished swordfishermen of his time, Stanczyk was able to put Blackwell on the fish of his dreams in 2019, but the fish came unglued an hour into the fight. Blackwell may have been duped the first go-around, but during the first weekend of August 2020, that would change.

Stanczyk had a great plan, and the day before Blackwell’s birthday, they were off to make it happen. After several drifts with nothing to show for it but a cooler of mahi, the team regrouped on Day Two, and during the second drift, Blackwell’s birthday luck had turned the corner for the good: He was connected—down and tight.

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“My adrenaline started pumping,” he says, “as I began to settle in to what I knew would be a good battle.” The swordfish began to pull his kayak around like a sleigh while line disappeared from the 50W at a fast clip.

Read Next: A breakaway weight system for daytime swordfish.

At one point during the fight, the fish rushed the surface and the reel got jammed by the wind-on, but Blackwell quickly recovered. Eric McDonald from South Florida’s Deep Blue Kayak Fishing was there to assist, gaffing the 107-pounder into submission after the fish previously dodged both the gaff and the harpoon.

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“I was instantly relieved,” he says, “Capt. Nick and everyone on board were excited too. We finally made this goal a ­reality, and I can’t thank everyone ­involved enough.”

As Blackwell took the fish’s bill in his hands for the first time, a year’s worth of anticipation disappeared, and it dawned on him that this was absolutely the best birthday he’d ever had. “I couldn’t have gotten the job done without Nick providing expert guidance,” he says, “nor without Eric, who is my role model when it comes to kayak-fishing. He has taught me so much.”

The Bonito Taco is one of the most popular baits for daytime swordfishing. Here’s how to rig it.

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Blackwell got hooked on kayak-fishing when he was many years younger after he realized he could catch pelagics while literally being on the water. “I don’t want to set any records or ‘go down in history,’” he maintains, “but this certainly is an ­accomplishment I’ll always remember.”

I just love kids who fish. I can’t wait to see what he does on his next adventure.

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