Sailfish Season in Florida

    By Terry Gibson

    One of the seasons I most look forward to is sailfish season in Florida, especially now, almost 13 years into a new century. Thanks to our catch-and-release ethic, as well as other conservation initiatives, the sailfish population's numbers seem to be higher than at any time in recorded history.

    Last year, just about every record was broken for Florida fishing tournaments and single-day releases. Plus, fishing for these beautiful, acrobatic fish is an art, a long-running tradition that displays great pageantry. Did I mention that I live just a few miles from Stuart, the official Sailfish Capital of the World?

    And the bite is about to be on.

    A few days ago, a powerful cold front pushed off the Florida coast and brisk northwest winds have filled in behind it, dropping air temperatures into the 50s and bringing water temps down as well. Waterfowl and other migratory birds are pouring down the coast. Beneath the Gulf Stream's surface, so are the sailfish.

    Sailfish season in Florida is determined by the weather, specifically by cold fronts. The fish begin appearing in large numbers from Fort Pierce southward during the first major cold front and won't leave until after the last major front, typically some time in late March.

    The fishing's been so good in recent years that we're catching sails year round, on calm winter days that traditionally weren't so productive, and even in the summer. Double-digit numbers always get reported when the wind is from the north and the swells are bucking in the Gulf Stream -- sailfish like to get up and surf those swells.

    Some of the best sailfishing captains in the business operate between Fort Pierce and Key West. That's because large schools of fish move up and down the coast all winter long between these two ports of call, and anglers fishing out of Islamorada, Key Largo, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Stuart (of course) get in on the action.

    Whether you're headed to Florida to visit this winter or if you live here, you owe yourself a day or two of sailfishing. It's literally never been better.