Istiophorus Albicans



Offshore, Nearshore

50 - 142 pounds

90" - 124"

Atlantic Sailfish

Guides Who Fish This Species

Atlantic Sailfish (Istiophorus albicans) Fish Description

The Atlantic Sailfish is one of the most popular saltwater gamefish. It has a blue to gray metallic color with a majestic sail-like dorsal fin (which is why it’s called a sailfish) and like other marlins, it has a billed-snout. They are a close relative of the swordfish and barracudas. The Atlantic sailfish is a carnivorous species that likes to hunt school of fishes like sardines, anchovies, and mackerel. They’re also known to prey on squid and crustaceans.


Interesting Facts About the Atlantic Sailfish

  • Considered to be the fastest fish in the world but a lot of scientists disclaimed the 68 mph speed since it was recorded when it was leaping out of the water. Regardless of the varying findings of their speed, they’re still one of the fastest fish in the world.
  • Sailfish usually group and form schools, especially juveniles They can be seen hunting together to eat balls of baitfish. Sometimes they also hunt alone, mostly observed by adults.
  • These fish have a special nervous system to change their colors. They use this to communicate with other sailfish when they hunt. They can change from blue, black, and stripes. It’s also been observed that they use their huge dorsal fins to herd baitfishes.


Size and Speed

The Atlantic sailfish is a large fish that can grow up to 10 feet long. Despite their vast length, they’re pretty light for their size (they need to maintain this lightweight to help them preserve their speed ). The biggest Atlantic sailfish ever caught was 142 pounds. Their average length is 7.5 feet and weighs about 50 lbs.

The speed of the Atlantic sailfish is still being debated, some scientists estimated it to be at 68 mph. Recent studies claim that it’s only 22 to 34 mph.


Habitat and Distribution

The Atlantic sailfish are epipelagic fish that prefers warm tropical waters with temperatures between 70° to 83°F.  They can be seen in coastal areas and nearshore waters. They usually swim near the surface around 30 to 65 feet but they can hunt in deep waters with depths of up to 650 feet. 

The Atlantic Sailfish is a highly migratory species that varies depending on the temperature. They migrate by following where the warmer areas are in the western to the eastern Atlantic Ocean. Their spawning season is usually in summer but can be as early as April.

The best fishing spot for the Atlantic sailfish is during the winter in the Florida Key. There is also a popular spot where anglers can catch Atlantic sailfish throughout the year, it’s called the Sailfish Alley in South Florida. The region is between North Miami Beach and Fort Pierce.


How to Catch the Atlantic Sailfish

The Atlantic sailfish are highly sought after game fish by anglers because of the way they battle. They are strong and have long endurance, they’re also known to repeatedly dive and leap out of the water during a fight. Remember to preserve your strength when catching this fish. Set up your gear to sink depths of 30-65, let your boat run slowly to let your leader swim freely. Tease the fish a bit and when the sailfish takes the bite, make your grip firm as it will immediately try to shake it off first. Wait for the fish to run before you try to pull.

Here are some of the recommended fly fishing equipment for the Atlantic sailfish. Use a 12-15 weight rod with 50-pound arbor reels. Use heavy sinking heads to help you get to a nice depth, a nice line length would be 65 to 80 feet. For the leader,  Use large 5/0 to 7/0 hooks

Recommended flies for the Atlantic sailfish are tube flies and popper heads. The most effective color for this fish is bright pink and white, blue and white color combination is also said to be effective. For baits, you can use squids, mackerels, or slice tuna.