Seven of Louisiana’s Top 10 swordfish have been caught on Capt. Peace Marvel’s boat — but none have ever gotten up-close and personal with him like an aggressive 294-pounder did Friday afternoon out of South Pass.
Near the end of an epic 2 ½-hour battle with Brett Pritchard of Alabama, the massive 124-inch female that sported a 38-inch bill — destined to be the No. 2 sword in the state records pending final approval by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association — turned the tables on the anglers and took aim at the boat, very nearly making it onto the deck.
“We were fighting the fish, and the fish jumped maybe 40 yards out and looked at us and got a bearing on us, then turned and charged the boat. She jumped and tried to spear the angler,” said Marvel, who owns Peacekeeper Charters. “I was at the helm, and one of my customers was leaning over the side, and when the fish came up it knocked him against the console.
“Had the gaff not been in the rod holders, she would have come in the boat. She was swinging her bill and almost knocked the angler’s hat off. It got real there for a minute.”
Marvel said the sword closed the 40-yard distance to the boat in no time, and was thankful the handle of the gaff helped avert would could have been a real catastrophe — considering his clients that day were three fathers and their young sons.
“It would have been like a 300-pound person swinging a 38-inch sword in the boat,” Marvel said. “She knew she was going to die, and she wanted to take as many people with her as she could.”
Marvel’s boat is getting new engines, so he was with Capt. Andy Cook on Cook’s 39-foot Contender Friday in 1,550 feet of water, where they had hooked up with two nice swords earlier that day but lost them when they pulled the hooks.
But the big 294-pounder — which officially tipped certified scales at 294.5 pounds — was gut-hooked, which thankfully made for a shorter battle. Considering it waged anyway for 2 ½ hours, Marvel said it could have been a lot worse.
“They don’t fight as long when they’re gut-hooked. That fish could have easily fought six hours,” he said. “That fish hooked in the corner of the mouth? I might still be fighting it.”
The big sword bit a ‘squinita,’ a term one of Marvel’s customers coined for the captain’s custom-made bait he fashions from a Killer Bee squid rigged with a bonita belly used to create tentacles.
In retrospect, Marvel thinks the fish actually hurt itself when it rammed the boat.
“After that, she went back to the bottom doing 50 (mph), then the next time she came up I was able to gaff her,” he said.
But even early on, Marvel suspected it was a special fish.
‘Usually if they pull drag early in the fight they’re big,” he said. “Most of them will casually swim to the top — I’ve boated a 255(-pounder) in under 15 minutes ….” he said. “When she ate and the rod got tight and she felt that hook and started ripping drag, I knew it was a bigger fish.”
So what advice does Marvel share with his customers to help them endure a potential hours-long fight and ultimately outlast a big sword?
“I tell them repeatedly, ‘It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Calm down.’ And people want to look at the reel while they’re reeling. There’s no information on the reel — all your information is on the rod tip.
“If it starts to straighten out, you should be reeling. If the rod is doubled over and you’re reeling, all you’re doing is exercising because no line is coming in. Take line when she’s giving it, and rest when she’s taking it.”
The big sword made three jumps, the last of which Marvel saw from a front row seat at the helm. Any doubts he still had then about the fish’s size vanished, he said.
“When she body-slammed the boat and was literally a foot from my face and she was bigger around than me, I knew she was a really big fish ….” he said. “When three people were trying to lift it in the boat and we had to scream for somebody else to come grab it, I knew it was exceptionally big.”
Pending final certification by LOWA, the big sword will likely replace the 291-pounder caught by Mike Shiro with Marvel in 2008 for the No. 2 spot in the state, right behind the No. 1 fish: A 310-pounder caught by Thomas Dantin in 1980.
It will be Pritchard’s second sword in the Top 10, easily beating his 251-pounder (caught with Marvel last summer) that will move down to No. 7 all-time.
For Marvel, it was just another exceptional day at the office.
“It’s just such an awesome gift for me to be able to take people and help create memories that will last a lifetime. I still love it. This is my 21st year and I’m still excited to go,” he said. “I’m definitely blessed to do it.”