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‘Stars Align’ to Help California Anglers Shatter State Record with 520-Pound Swordfish

Three anglers landed the record-breaking fish on 80-pound test
Dac Collins Avatar
california swordfish record
From left: Mason Karafa, Ezekiel Cruz, and Dillon Houston with the new state-record swordfish. via Facebook

A few days before Halloween, a group of three experienced anglers headed off the southern California coast in search of broadbill swordfish. They left before sunrise on Oct. 27 and returned to Dana Landing in the dark with one the heaviest swordfish ever caught on the West Coast. The fish weighed 520 pounds, which shatters the previous California record of 452 pounds.

“The culmination of countless hours, days, years, a lifetime of hard work and mental dedication. Most see the end result,” Brothers Sport Fishing wrote in a Facebook post. “Few see the commitment and grit that preceded.”

That “end result” has now been certified as an official state record, according to Western Outdoor News. Capt. Ezekiel (Zeek) Cruz shared the full story behind the catch with WON, including their stressful, hour-and-a-half long battle with the giant swordfish.  

“It was just incredible that we were able to catch that fish in such a short amount of time,” Cruz told WON. “If the stars had not aligned, we’d have lost that fish a dozen times.”

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The three anglers pictured with the swordfish on the same night they landed the fish. via Facebook

Capt. Cruz went out that day with angler Mason Karafa and Dillon Houston, the owner of Brothers Sportfishing. The arrived at their spot before daybreak and stayed for most of the day, deep-dropping their baits over 1,000 feet to the ocean floor. With only a couple hours of daylight left, they still hadn’t gotten a bite, so the crew ran 9 miles to a new area.

They used the same setup when they got there: a squid rigged on an 11/0 J-hook with 12 pounds of lead to carry it to the bottom. The reel was filled with 80-pound braid, tipped with 100 feet of 200-pound monofilament line and a bite leader made of 300-pound mono.

“The bait was down there for less than five minutes when it got whacked,” Cruz said.

Karafa was the first one on the rod. He reeled down on the fish while Houston ran the boat and Cruz cleared all the other gear from the deck. They worked on the fish for the next 45 minutes until they finally saw some color and identified the billfish as a sword. The giant swordfish made a hard run on the surface and then did a U-turn, swimming directly at the boat.

When the fish got to the stern, it started spearing the motor and attacking the boat. Cruz tried sticking the fish with a flying gaff but hit it square in the bill, breaking the pole. The swordfish then looped back around and charged the boat again, where Cruz hit it with a second flying gaff just behind the shoulder.

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Cruz stands behind Karafa as he battles the swordfish. via Facebook

The swordfish made a hard run, taking hundreds of feet of buoy line in less than a minute and dragging the buoy across the surface.

“We drove up on the fish because we could see it thrashing on the surface,” Cruz said. “It was kind of just flailing, and it had wrapped itself in that buoy line.”

By the time they unwrapped the swordfish, it had fought itself to death. It was now dark, and they tail-roped the fish and hauled it over the stern.

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Arriving back at Dana Landing, they tried weighing the giant fish but couldn’t find a scale that went over 500 pounds. They eventually brought the swordfish to Chula’s Seafood at Driscoll’s Wharf, where it tipped the scales at 520 pounds.

Although the California Department of Fish and Game has not yet updated its record book, Brothers Sportfishing confirmed with Outdoor Life that the record has been certified by the agency. The previous state record of 452 pounds was set in 2003.