ISLAMORADA, Florida Keys — A former Navy helicopter pilot, who retired from military service three weeks ago after flying surveillance missions over Iraq for a year, reeled in a 455-pound swordfish Saturday, Sept. 24, off the Florida Keys.

John White, 33, of Rochester, N.Y., fished with Captain Nick Stanczyk and mate Matt Davis on the Bn’M, based out of Bud N’ Mary’s Marina in Islamorada.

“I was thinking how tired I was after three hours,” said White. “I wanted to give up, but my wife (Pamela Marie) kept pushing me to go on.”

After the fish hit at 1:30 p.m., it took five hours to get it to the boat via a Key Largo Rods’ swordfish stick, rigged with a Shimano wide reel spooled with 80-pound test braided line. The big fish bit a dolphin (mahi-mahi) belly fished almost to the bottom in 1,600 feet of water, some 30 miles to the south of Islamorada.

Stanczyk, 26, said that it is likely one of the largest swordfish ever caught off the Florida Keys using non-electric, conventional tackle.

White said he came down to the Keys for a month’s vacation to mark the end of his military career. He said he had read about daytime swordfishing off the island chain and thought he wanted to give it a try.

“We figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go swordfishing,” said White, who has been married for a year. “We didn’t think we’d have the chance afterwards with kids and everything.”

Stanczyk said they didn’t realize how big the fish was until it came close to the boat 90 minutes into the battle.

“When I saw it, I knew it was a 400- to 500-pound fish,” Stanczyk said.

White said that, when the fish was finally slid through the tuna door, there was a lot of whooping and yelling onboard.

“When we saw how big it was, there were lots of high-fives and everyone was really excited,” he said.

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