Sailfish are the ultimate trophy fish as they are abundant, display huge leaps and tail walks when hooked, and they tire quickly so they can be caught on light tackle. The giant dorsal fin that they can expand and retract at will serves as the namesake and most identifiable feature of this popular game fish. When feeding sailfish will expand their dorsal fins like giant sails to appear larger and frighten the baitfish into tighter schools which makes for easier hunting. When sailfish hunt they use incredible bursts of speed to whack their prey with their bills, which stuns or kills them so they can eat at leisure.
Sailfish are found in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, though the Pacific Sailfish almost always seem to be larger in size. Although they are very similar in appearance, Pacific Sailfish tend to be a slightly darker blue if not purple while Atlantic Sailfish are a brighter blue. Highly migratory, it is believed that sailfish will travel up to 200,000 miles throughout the course of their 16 year lifespan. Sailfish are often seen swimming lazily at the surface, which often times is a sign of breeding. The female will swim slowly with her dorsal fin above the surface to attract males, and once joined, she can release over 4,000,000 eggs in a single spawn.
WHAT THEY EAT: Similar to marlin, sailfish feed on smaller pelagic species like bonito, ballyhoo, flying fish, squid, mackerel and small dorad. It is common to catch multiple sailfish at the same time as they typically live in small groups of 2-6 individuals and have been seen hunting in coordinated efforts. For this reason fly fishing for sailfish is very popular in Central America as you can get plenty of chances to present your fly when skilled mates tease the sailfish right to the back of the boat.
WHERE TO FIND THEM: Sailfish are found in tropical waters across the entire globe. They are a migratory and pelagic fish so they are most commonly found in deep water and can seem to withstand slightly warmer water temps than marlin. While sailfish can be caught in the Atlantic Ocean and large sailfish are caught in Panama, the true sailfish heavyweights of the world are Costa Rica and Guatemala. Blessed with warm waters, plentiful baitfish, and the right underwater geography you can catch sailfish every month of the year while in season some boats report raising as many as 30-50 in a single day!