If one of the heroes in Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and The Sea” is the old man, then the other is certainly the noble swordfish. There is a price you have to pay when it comes to hunting swordfish, first you put in your soul and if necessary your life! Whether you hunt with the latest technology fishing gear or with a harpoon, you can easily go from being the hunter to being the prey. For one touch of this catch is enough to turn you into the prey or in some cases kill you!
My acquaintance with swordfish goes back to my childhood. I guess it was in more quantity back then or it was not that known in Turkey yet… Our fisherman brought it whenever he could find it. In the past, there used to be neighborhood fishermen who knew families well enough to know which fish to bring to whom. My parents would fish in full trust, certain that it was swordfish. I found out that some fishermen would sell sharks in slices instead of the real swordfish. This is why I do not easily order sword fish if I am not familiar with the restaurant. Besides, there is usually only one swordfish dish on the menu: Shish-swordfish, which looks so dry that when it comes to your table, you cannot help but feel sorry for the fish.
In my house, we usually grilled it with a little lemon and Daphne leaf sauce… Sometimes in the oven with the same sauce… My mother and father would cook it in thick slices, just like they would cook steak. They would add a little bit of olive oil so that the meat would not dry up. However for me, the best swordfish dish is the raw one! I only found this out later in life, as soon as I had my first taste of swordfish Carpaccio. This uncooked swordfish comes in thin slices usually previously rested in lemon sauce with a little arugula and basil. It should not wait in lemon sauce too much because it disintegrates and loses its freshness. When you eat this dish, you feel like you can taste the ocean!
You Respect a Catch like This!
During my vacation in Assos years ago, I ate swordfish almost every day. To my luck, it was fishing season and the people who were staying at my hotel had come to catch the swordfish.
Almost every day, the fish they had caught could come to our table. For the fishermen serving the fish is just as important as catching them. As if they want to share their challenge with everyone… Because swordfish catching is actually a test of character for the hunter. The swordfish battles for its like for hours and it is a fierce competition. The hunter, even when he pulls the fish onto the boat, has a deep respect for the fish. I showed the same respect and love as I was eating the swordfish, because this sort of deliciousness requires you to pay a certain price.
Does Not Sell Its Life For Cheap!
I know how to eat swordfish although I have never caught one. However most people are familiar with Ernest Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”. The fish that battles with the fisherman in the book is this fish. Or the image of the fish jumping a couple of meters above the sea while struggling to get away from the fisherman will come to your mind. That fish is most probably the swordfish or its kin; the Mediterranean spearfish… Sometimes the fish wins the battle and escapes from its hook. Some sell their life for a high price and wounds the fishermen. Furthermore, it is said that these fish have killed fishermen with the extension on its top jaw which also gives it, its name.
Swordfish catching is a real challenge… This is why it is a legend amongst amateur fishermen. It requires outstanding physical strength, excellent fishing equipment and a great boat; so swordfish catching is not for everyone!
However this adventure is not so common nowadays. There are a lot of fishermen ready for the hunt but there is almost no swordfish to catch! This is because the quantities of swordfish, which are usually found in the warm Mediterranean, Aegean and Marmara Sea, have decreased drastically during the past few years. Excessive hunting, especially during the wrong seasons, as well as heavy sea traffic and pollution have caused the swordfish to disappear from our shores.
If you are the winner of the hardest fishing challenge, then you really need to be attentive to the swordfish. That white meat, with the right marination and cooking, becomes one of the most delicious dishes. This is why you should always feel sad when you see the dried meat that comes in restaurants served as “sword-shish”! Unfortunately there are only a few quality restaurants in our country that actually show this fish the appropriate respect.
It Slices its Prey in Half
Let us give the necessary information about this fish for those who still want to hunt for it. Of course with the condition of catching it during the right season! Swordfish usually live in +12ᴼC degrees waters and during mid-spring when the waters become warmer, they stroll around at sea level. After the end of October, when the waters cool down, they go down 25-30 fathoms deep where the water is between +12ᴼC to +15ᴼC. The swordfish is one of the strongest and biggest fish in our seas. Its sword shaped nose is two thirds of its body. Even though it has a very big mouth, its sharp sword prevents it from swallowing its prey in one bite. However it uses its sword to catch its prey. It sneaks up on its prey with speed, arches its body like a bow and hits it with its sword from the side. After being attacked by the swordfish, the prey is cut in half and it can easily be eaten.
It’s Beautiful Color Disappears As Soon As it is on the Boat!
The swordfish’s back is dark blue. Its sides are more of a grayish blue color. Its stomach is white. When it is alive, the swordfish possesses these colors; however as soon as it is pulled on to the boat, it turns to a grayish-black color. The swordfish is between 1.80- 3.30 meters long, however it can sometimes reach up to 4 meters. Its average weight is between 45-150 kg, although some are as heavy as 300 kg. The swordfish, which usually travels alone, can sometimes travel in pairs. Even though it looks calm, it is speedy, impulsive and powerful. The swordfish have been known to attack bigger fish and even boats.
The swordfish catching done with fishing lines and set lines in Prince Islands in Marmara and Izmit Gulf, or the swordfish catching done with nets in the Bosporus years ago, have almost been forgotten. The fish do not enter these places anymore due to sea traffic and pollution.
All throughout the world swordfish catching is a test of will and character… Of course to those who do it because they actually value the fish, not to those who do it for the sake of having an adventure during a cruise in the Caribbean’s… In the Atlantic and Pacific shores of America and the Caribbean’s there are annual swordfish catching tournaments. In the last frames of these tournaments there is usually a swordfish hanging upside down next to a tires but victorious looking fisherman. However instead of pride on the fisherman’s face, you see the respect he has for the fish!
It used to be Hunted with Spears in the Past in Marmara…
Because this fish rises to sea level when the waters warm up, the fishermen hunt it with fishing harpoons in the west side of the Marmara, Imrali and Marmara island. When the sea is calm and clear enough, the fishermen who travel with motor boats, look out for its back mane on the surface. When they see the mane, they sneak up on the fish to use the harpoon as they stand on a special plank placed on the edge of the boat. When the fisherman is close enough, he uses the harpoon. The harpoon used in swordfish catching consists of two main pieces; sharp steel spear and long wooden flag staff. The spear part is lodged into the flag staff and when the flag staff is pulled back, the spear which is lodged into the fish can be controlled from inside the boat, through the rope. The ears of the spear are closed when it gets lodged into the fish. When it is pulled, these ears open and stay put. The speared fish tries to get away and the fisherman holding the rope lets it move some amount. After the fish is tired, it is pulled up onto the boat. In our country, catching swordfish which is lighter than 15 kg is forbidden. Is this a rule that is being followed? Sadly no!
There are Tournaments in the U.S.
The swordfish catching done with fishing lines is not that common in Turkey, however it is the real breathtaking hunt! This hunt takes place in West American coasts of the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean’s and the Pacific with strong fishing sets on big boats. Amateur fishermen pay large amounts of money to enter these tournaments in Cuba, Cabo San Lucas and Kona Hawaii to hunt swordfish, spearfish and marlins. Especially the spearfish hunt creates unforgettable images. This big fish stretches the line and all of a sudden the line is loose and you see the fish jumping out, making half twists a couple of meters above the water. Sometimes this struggle can last for hours. Sometimes the fishing line breaks or the fish gets loose or it attacks the boat. However usually mankind wins this battle!