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Meet the Fisherman: Swordfish Specialist, John Hett

By Rebecca Gardon

Captain John HettSwordfish have a wide distribution and are fairly resilient to fishing pressure. According to the latest stock assessment, swordfish in the southwest Pacific are not overfished and overfishing is not occuring.

Although harpoons and handlines are used infrequently in the commercial swordfish fisheries, these catch methods result in little to no bycatch. This makes harpoon- and handline-caught swordfish from well-managed fisheries like the eastern Pacific a “Best Choice” as indicated by Seafood Watch. Gillnets can result in higher bycatch, but U.S. fisheries are regulated by the Marine Mammal Protection and Endangered Species Acts in addition to the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management Act, which require them to minimize their impacts. As such, swordfish harvested by this method is a “Good Alternative” and is also approved by our partner in sustainability, Seafood For The Future.

Swordfish is by far one of our favorite local catches, and an ideal choice if you’re looking to replace red meat. It’s steak-like texture makes it a natural for the grill. It boast a mild, slightly sweet flavor that stands up well to marinades, sauces, and spicy seasonings. Currently Pacific swordfish is available fresh at our San Diego fish market, as well as online (frozen fillets also available).

One of the fishermen we receive Pacific swordfish from is Captain John Hett of the F/V Temptation. Captain John started fishing not because his father or grandfather fished, as is common in the industry, but rather solely because he loved the water and decided to learn the business by working for other fishermen with big boats. He started fishing in 1978, first for swordfish from a small yacht out of Newport Beach. He continues to specialize on swordfish but also fishes albacore and thresher shark and sells opah as bycatch. Today as one of San Diego’s top producers, he brings in between 200 and 500 fish per year. He has been a boat owner for 25 years, having owned the Temptation for the last 12. His three man crew includes son Greg, who has worked on and off the boat for the last eight years.

John is a hardcore fisherman. His most recent trip he was out to sea for 8 days when they had to sit on a sea anchor for a whopper of a two-day storm. Most fishermen would head in under such conditions but not John. When storms get really bad, he simply installs his “bulletproof windows” — aka wooden boards — and waits it out. His last trip paid off because the day after the storm lifted he caught 55 fish. His favorite thing about fishing is the hunt; the challenge of finding fish. Or as John himself puts it, “the thrill of the kill.”

Check out this video to see Captain John in action, and how West Coast swordfishing is done!

Fishing Pacific Swordfish on the F/V Temptation

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