Stunning Florida Sailfish

By: Peter Miller, Bass 2 Billfish

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Get a hook into the stunning sailfish, found off Florida's coasts.

Known for their incredible jumps and the color changes they undergo when excited, sailfish are highly prized gamefish. Recognizable by their long dorsal fin known as a sail and their elongated bill, sailfish are described as billfish among sport fishermen.
Atlantic sailfish are found in the warm waters of the Atlantic and the Caribbean Sea and are closely related to the marlin. An offshore fish, sailfish are found throughout Florida but often associated with waters near the Gulf Stream.

This rapid-growing species reaches four to five feet in a single year and swims at speeds up to 50 knots. Known to feed at the surface or mid-depths, the largest sailfish caught in Florida was 116 pounds. Average size is six feet, with weights around 60 pounds for Atlantic sailfish. Common foods include smaller pelagic fish, which they hunt in schools, as well as squid and octopus.

A sailfish will often hunt prey by attacking first with its bill then circling back to swallow it. Some experienced anglers will drop trolled bait back after a strike and free-spool the line in hopes of making the bait appear stunned. Though ballyhoo is a popular bait, artificial bait has proven effective with sails as well.

When hooked, sailfish put on an amazing acrobatic display complete with dives and leaps. A large fish can take hours to land. Though their population is considered stable, and they are not widely eaten, care should be taken to revive an exhausted fish boat side before release. Conservation and good fishing go hand in hand.


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