215-Pound Swordfish Caught in Inflatable Boat

One SoCal angler is targeting, and catching, big fish that can puncture the boat he’s fishing from.

Swordfish in Inflatable Boat
Chris Madison managed to get the 215-pound swordfish aboard the inflatable boat after fighting, landing, and bleeding it out. Chris Madison

Using a 15-foot inflatable boat for fishing off the coast of Southern California makes perfect sense to Chris Madison. The vessel is inexpensive to own and maintain, and it’s easy to transport to and from the water. But it does require some caution when fishing for the one species that is practically designed to puncture an inflatable boat.

Madison, a 32-year-old staff sergeant (E-6) in the Marine Corps, has caught thresher and mako sharks, and bluefin tuna from the inflatable. Now he’s accomplished his goal of boating a swordfish — a 215-pounder on the morning of Nov. 4, near Oceanside, CA.

A Swordfish Charging Toward the Boat

fighting swordfish in inflatable boat
Chris Madison Madison fought the big sword from a homemade fighting chair, using a rod he built fitted with a Penn 50 Wide. Chris Madison

“I thought it was a shark at first, because it had dogged me down for 10 minutes and wouldn’t come up,” Madison recalled. Then the line shot toward the horizon. “I thought, oh yeah, it’s acting like a swordfish now.”

Things got really interesting about an hour later. “It actually charged the boat a couple times when I got it close. I just hit the throttle and moved away from it,” he said. “When I got it up to the swivel, it started shaking back and forth, and a couple of times it hit the side and the prop. It gets the adrenaline going and made me a little anxious, but at the same time, I had expected it and was able to counter what the fish was doing.” After another 20 minutes, the fish was in the boat.

Madison landed the 215-pounder from a homemade fighting chair. He used a rod he built for the occasion, with a Penn 50 Wide reel spooled with 65-pound braid and a 12-inch squid and skirt on a size 22/0 circle hook. The entire set-up was put together with the small, inflatable craft in mind.

Madison’s fondness for small vessels began with kayaking. He was shopping for pedal kayaks when he found the Saturn KaBoat, with twin, chambered PVC tubes. It was less expensive than a Hobie pedal kayak, easy to carry in the back of his truck, and a good size for Madison and his 8-year-old son Donovan to chase bass and halibut inshore. He set the boat up with a 9.8 horsepower Tohatsu motor.

Meanwhile, he started seeing swordfish over the summer. “We were going out looking for bluefin, and we’d see them sunning themselves,” he said. “That perked my interest. I said to myself, ‘I really want to get one of these.’”

He got some advice from Bandon Hayward, owner of Bight Sportfishing in San Diego and mentor to Dylan Reed, who has gotten some attention for catching swords from a similarly sized (but non-inflatable) boat.

More Swordfishing in an Inflatable?

Swordfish in water alongside inflatable
After battling the big fish for over an hour, the sword was brought alongside the inflatable and bled out. Chris Madison

Will there be more? “I’m debating,” he said. “I got so much meat from that fish, I literally gave away an entire side to people at the dock. It’s fun targeting them, but I don’t know if I can safely do catch and release from the boat.”

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