Sailfish

Sailfish are among the fastest moving and hardest fighting large gamefish in the world. Found in all the warmer oceans, this billfish is very difficult to hook, more difficult to land, but well worth the effort.
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Where and When?

The sailfish are found in the warmer parts of all the world’s oceans. Like most billfish, this is a highly migratory species. In their “core” areas the sailfish may be present, and caught, all year round, while in some localities they may only be caught for a few months of the year. Many of the most popular and some of the best localities for catching sailfish are around the “middle Americas”, in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. There are many excellent sailfish fishing destinations on the Pacific coast of Mexico and Panama, as well as Florida, Costa Rica and around the Caribbean Sea. Further afield, Mozambique, South Africa, Australia and even Malaysia also have bases from which sailfish may be caught, in season, by sport anglers. Warmer months are generally better than cooler but some localities provide good chances of success all year around.

About Sailfish

Scientists generally recognise two species, the Indo-Pacific sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) and the Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) but the two species appear similar, act and react in much the same way and identical fishing techniques are used for both. Both are extremely fast moving, voracious feeders and exciting and strong fighters. Sailfish are “billfish”, that is, fish that have a long thin hard extension protruding in front of the head. The bill is used to slash at and kill their prey. They are reported to attain a maximum length of 3.8 metres with a mass of just over 100 kilograms but “good” specimens are around 2.5 metres and 70 to 80 kilograms. They grow fairly rapidly and reach about 13 years of age. The characteristic “sail” is usually raised only during feeding and when the fish is hooked. While they are edible and a commercial species, in some areas most sport anglers release sailfish after capture and a photograph.

How to Catch?

Sailfish are mostly found in the upper layers of the ocean and are only very rarely caught from the shore. Nearly all fish are hooked from small boats and various types of trolling are the most popular methods. It is common practice for “teasers” to be trolled behind the boat, or cast out, to attract sailfish and this is particularly important when fly fishing. Sailfish usually use their “bills” to slice into shoals of fish to injure some of them and then they circle back to consume the damaged fish. The areas around their mouths are bony, hard and, as they often immediately explode wildly into the air on feeling a hook, keeping a fish firmly on the end of a line is not an easy task. The net result is that a high proportion of “bites” will not result in landed fish. This, however, renders the landing of a good specimen even more desirable. Techniques like employing circle hooks when trolling and waiting till the fish has actually got the hook in its mouth when fly fishing can increase success rates markedly.