Sailfish are an extremely sought after gamefish in the warmer waters of the ocean. This incredible species not only puts up a good fight, but is also a beautiful fish to catch.
Sailfish are characterized by a long body with an erect dorsal fin running the length of its’ body. They also have an elongated bill thus putting them in the billfish category. Typically 7-10 feet in length and weighing upwards of 150 pounds, this fish can swim up to speeds of 70 miles per hour. Sailfish are predominately blue and gray in color, but can be seen with flashes of yellow, bright blue and silver when excited or scared.
Sailfish live offshore in deeper waters although they are typically found near the surface. They feed on smaller pelagic fish and schools of smaller fish like sardines and anchovies. They hunt with other sailfish and use their sails to corral the fish for an easier meal. They also eat squid and octopus.
Bait and Tackle
The best time of year for sailfish fishing is the winter months: December through March. Sailfish prefer clear water with a good current. They hang out on the edge of the blue water line where the blue water meets the reef. A full moon makes for good sailfish fishing.
Live bait is popular in the Florida waters. Typical bait includes pilchards, goggle eyes, blue runners, herring and pinfish. If not using live bait, pieces of bonito, ballyhoo or other small fish can be used as well. It is important the bait is lively; its’ panicky movements are what will attract a hungry sailfish. If bait is not possible some fishermen use good size lures with teasers to catch these big beasts. Trolling is the prefered method for sailfish: the edge of the blue water where reef meets open ocean and deep wreck trolling can provide a catch. Slow trolling is favorable.
Sailfish put up a solid fight with explosive jumps breaching the surface and incredible speed. That being said, a strong rig is needed to land the fish; lines with at least a 30 pound test need to be used on trolling rigs or spinning rigs. Kite fishing and flatline drifting are also common techniques for sailfish.