If the lion is king of the jungle, the swordfish is king of the sea. Aloof, beautiful and most monstrous, it appears first in history in Aristotle's Historia animalium, as Xiphias, the sword. Almost two and a half millennia ago the philosopher well described the fish and the terrible things it was capable of.
Ever since, the swordfish has never been long out of sight or out of history. But it has stayed feared, respected and comparatively unknown.
In this century it has also become much eaten. That's because, like the nonpiscine whale, the swordfish falls in unequal combat to the harpoon; and so today we serve it on our tables whenever we wish.
For the angler the swordfish is today the ultimate challenge. Next week Staff Writer Thomas Lineaweaver brings Aristotle up to date for the sportsman. He writes Xiphias' biography—its history, biology, economy and most especially its current place in big-game fishing. Months ago, when Lineaweaver started this story, the fish he had not caught was the swordfish—the reason he wanted to do the story.
The first swordfish ever taken on rod and reel was off Catalina Island, Calif. in 1913. Since then no more than 750 have given in to the angler, or something less than an amazing 20 a year. It seems to disdain man-offered bait and it has a soft mouth, which won't hold a hook. It is marine competition at its best. Those who fish for it must have the means to go get it, the patience to wait it out and the knowledge and stamina to fight it once they hook it. All these things Lineaweaver studied and then wrote.
Two weeks ago the largest number of swordfish in 13 years moved off Long Island, and Mr. E. L. Gruber of Spring City, Pa. had a double, taking two broadbills in one day, a feat done only 11 times before (by 10 men and one woman).
Although his story had just been finished, Lineaweaver, now both swordfisherman and reporter, went to see Mr. Gruber. With true sportsman's hospitality, Mr. Gruber extended the fighting chair in his boat, the Helen H., to Lineaweaver, who soon hooked his first swordfish. He lost it after a three-hour fight—and then immediately and almost without precedent hooked a second. Two and a half hours later Lineaweaver took his first swordfish.
It was a fitting, 317-pound finish to next week's story about the most desired of fighting fish.
CATCH & CATCHER