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Sailfish Fishing in Florida

Written by Capt. Steve on Saturday, 21 January 2012. Posted in Fish Info

Miami SailfishThere are two species of Sailfish (the Atlantic Sailfish and the Indo-Pacific Sailfish) that live in the warm waters of the world. They are members of the Istiophorus genus from the family of Istiophoridae. Their name is directly related to their huge dorsal fin that stretches the entire length of their back and resembles the sail from a sailboat. They have incredibly long bills and this is why they are considered billfish in sports fishing circles, along with marlins and swordfish. Sailfish are among the most popular big game fish caught in Florida.

Predominantly blue and gray, sailfish are also known to have black, purple, silver, subdued browns and green coloring. These are often highlighted by stripes of iridescent blue or silver specks. They grow quickly, as much as 1.20m and 1.50m in their first year. They can grow up to 3m in length and weigh as much as 200lbs when fully grown.

Kept to the side while swimming, and folded down, Sailfish are able to rise or lower their sail when they are excited or feeling threatened. This makes them appear bigger than they are and is a tactic used during feeding when they are herding groups of squid or smaller prey fish. Sailfish feed at mid-depth or on the surface and their diet consists of smaller pelagic fish such as tuna and mackerel, as well as squid.

Sailfish are extraordinary predators, with a few capabilities that they use highly effectively. They are among the fastest fish found anywhere in the world, reaching speeds nearing 70mph. Prey simply do not see them coming and if they do, they are unable to escape in time. In addition to this, Sailfish can change their colors almost instantly – a change controlled by their nervous system. They can quickly turn a light blue with yellowish stripes when excited, which completely confuses their prey and makes it easier to catch them. This characteristic also signals their intentions to their fellow Sailfish.

Any angler will confirm that Sailfish are a highly prized game fish. Their speed is absolutely breathtaking and they will leap high out of the water. They also hunt in schools, which mean that there is always a possibility of having a few of them on your lines at one time. When this happens and there are two or three (or more) Sailfish performing incredible leaps at the same time, anglers delight in the majestic and beautiful spectacle.

Among the easiest billfish to catch, Sailfish congregate in large numbers at different times of the year off the coasts of Panama, Costa Rica, Florida and Guatemala. Here is some information to help you with sailfish fishing in Florida:

Tackle for Sailfish

It is always a good idea to have tackle designed for deception. These intelligent fish are often successfully caught using kites, dredges and skirts. A conventional medium weight setup works well, but for trolling a 50lbs setup can be used (because something bigger may always bite). If pitching bait then a 30lbs setup will work. Quality spinning reels are good choices for pitching baits, and something like an Accurate BX2 30 for trolling.

Baits for Sailfish

Although Sailfish can be caught on lures and frozen bait, live bait works better by far. Small mackerel, tuna and squid are recommended. If using lures, then troll rubber skirts such as Zukers with 12in lures. Trolled plugs can work but Sailfish often throw treble hooks when jumping. Poppers are sometimes used but not very successfully because of their bony mouths and when Sailfish jump, they frequently spit them back at high speed.

Techniques for Sailfish

Our VIP Fishing Charters troll for Sailfish. Sometimes we locate them with lures and then throw them hooked bait when we see their dorsal fins chasing our lures. The best methods are definitely kites and dredges. This is how they work:

  • Dredge fishing relies on deceiving Sailfish. An umbrella-shaped device, the dredge is designed to hold multiple live baits which are attached to it and trolled through the water. This effect makes it appear as if a school of fish are swimming by, and that is something that a Sailfish finds irresistible. Larger predators – such as the Sailfish – have a higher chance of catching prey if they chase a school of fish as opposed to a solitary one.
  • Kite fishing is also reliant on deception. Live bait is attached to long lines. These are temporarily suspended from a kite that is flown behind the boat and are rigged to break free from the kite when the Sailfish takes your bait (so that they can be reeled in). The kite keeps the bait near the surface of the water and makes it look as if the fish is panicking or sick. Weakness in prey is a great temptation for any predator, including the sailfish.

Call today and book your Sailfish Fishing Charter in Florida and be exhilarated.




About the Author

Capt. Steve

Captain Steve's Bio

Steve was born in Bethesda, Maryland but has spent most of his life in South Florida.  Currently residing in Fort Lauderdale, Captain Steve is a partner in Ocean Brands LLC and operates VIP Fishing Charters.  Over the years Steve has cemented relationships with the top fishing captains and best fishing boats.  His mission when creating VIP Fishing Charters was to make sure every client has the best experience possible regardless of the conditions.  You can often times find Steve waiting at the dock after you arrive back from your fishing charter, making sure everyone had a great time and you caught a ton of fish!

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