Monday, July 17, 2017


May 6, 1973
By Ted Malley
Mom passenger on boat, son Tim captain,
 his brother Ted swordfish spotter in plane.
      The type of fishing we do is the most exciting commercial fishing in the world.  I know that for years—and I don’t mean five years or fifty years, I mean for hundreds of years—when the season starts, fishermen have taken off their nets and given up the sure steady income of dragging for ground fish, put on stands and topmasts, and set out in pursuit of swordfish.  And pursuing swordfish is a very tenuous, risky, uncertain business.
    So why do reasonably intelligent, hard-working family men give up their sure and secure incomes to chase around after the elusive broadbill?  Because swordfishing is the most exciting, heart-throbbing experience they can find.The main problem with catching swordfish is that you can’t catch what you can’t find. Recently—say in the last fifteen or twenty years—this situation has been mitigated by the use of spotter airplanes.
      I spent twelve years spotting swordfish for the local fleet.  My brother Timmy has spent six years doing likewise.  Last year we joined forces, bought our own boat
 and went after swordfish big time.  Although neither of us had ever been swordfishing on a boat or even operated a boat, we managed to set a modern day record for swordfish harpooned in a season. 

Ted records weight: average 200 feisty pounds
     I don’t understand why no one has ever made a documentary about this modern day enterprise. It has all the ingredients to make the average TV documentary look like a soap opera re-run.
     What makes sword fishing so exciting?  How about 15 hours non-stop in a single engine aircraft 250 miles from the nearest point of land?  Or racing sunset and thunderstorms for the hangar.  How many times have we left early in the morning with clear, calm, beautiful weather, only to return after dark to fog and rain with no alternative but to make ceiling zero, visibility zero instrument approaches into unfamiliar airports.
    That’s what the pilot faces.  What happens on the boat?  Days of waves as big as houses.  Waves so big that they break stands made of 8” aluminum tubing as if they were toothpicks—sometimes with the striker still in them (this happened to me).  Masts have also been known to break with accompanying loss of lives.  Dories lost in the fog for hours, days —sometimes forever.  Dory-men skewered by irate swordfish.
     Then there are the good things, like tying alongside another boat or two on a calm night with clambakes, lobsters, halibut and swordfish steaks sizzling on deck.  And booze and stories and lies.  Or those unbelievable calm days with fish everywhere and the promise of fat paychecks.  But the money never comes easy.  Horsing 300-pound fish around has broken many strong spirits.
     This life of the swordfishermen, depicted by shots from the planes, the stand, the topmast or dory would make a standout documentary.
From Ted's plane, his mom snaps Carla Joyce, captained by his brother Tim.
Fishing trip on son Tim's Carla Joyce


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