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The Sailfish, Istiophorus Platypterus

Upper surfaces usually dark blue to black; silvery below; vertical stripes often visible on sides.

SIZE: Averages 30-60 pounds, but many under 30 pounds and a few up to 100 pounds are also taken. Potential maximum is less than 150 pounds in the Atlantic Ocean. World record 221 pounds; Florida record 116 pounds.

FOOD VALUE: Very good broiled or smoked, and should be kept if inadvertently killed. Protected commercially.

GAME QUALITIES: Unsurpassed in its size range for combined strength and spectacle.

TACKLE AND BAITS: Light ocean trolling or heavy spinning outfits with lines up to 30-pound test; 12- and 20-pound lines are adequate in experienced hands and provide great sport. In Southeast Florida, live-baiting—either by kite fishing or flatline drifting— has become perhaps the most popular approach to sailfishing, with blue runners, goggle-eyes, pilchards or pinfish being the common offerings. Historically, most sailfishing has been done with rigged trolling baits, mainly ballyhoo and strips of bonito or other small fish. Many sailfish have been caught on jigs and on drifted ballyhoo/jig combinations. Fly casters have also taken them on occasion, but Atlantic sails do not decoy as readily as their Pacific counterparts and so fly fishing for them has not become very popular—despite the fact that science has proclaimed the sailfish of both oceans to be the same species.

FISHING SYSTEMS: Trolling; Drifting; occasionally Casting.


  • Atlantic Sailfish
  • Spindlebeak
  • Pez Vela

RANGE: All Florida coasts; Bahamas; Caribbean Islands. Most plentiful along Florida’s Atlantic side from roughly Fort Pierce through the Keys.

HABITAT: Like the other Billfishes, the Sailfish is considered an ocean species, but generally can be found closer to land than the rest, seeming to prefer areas where coral reefs and/or freshwater runoffs mingle with ocean water. At times, particularly in Southeast Florida, the Sailfish comes right into the surf and quite a few have been caught over the years from beaches and piers.