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The Sailfish is Florida’s State Saltwater Fish

by Captain Gina Bradley
All I can say is, “Keep your eyes Open!” One of the most unique sights I have comes from a summer morning after hopping on the boat with Captain Richard. We went out of Port Canaveral to do some deep sea fishing and didn’t get very far before Richard said, “let’s put out the lines here the water is such a beautiful deep blue color.” You could see as far down as your eye would carry. I knew it was in the mid-summer, and we didn’t have to get out too far so being more nearshore we would begin hooking into fish, so I was good with putting out the rods quickly.

As I was baiting the lines and pitching them out behind the boat, I looked over and saw a large piece of trash in the water. To me, it seemed like a big black trash bag someone threw overboard.  I was insistent with Richard that we must go over and collect the trash as I thought how awful it was for someone to liter on the ocean.

sailfish saltwater fish
sailfish caught offshore

Richard tactfully and skillfully moved in the direction of the trash bag placing us right in the path. To my amusement, he surprised me with a slight turn then picked up a rod and cast to the trash. I thought it was the most foolish thing to try and snag that black bag with a fishing line. Immediately, nothing was foolish about what he did because as soon as the bait hit the water that trash bag came alive, he had a sailfish light up on the line! Richard knew what that “black trash bag” was; he has seen it too many times before! It was the sailfish! Only do sailfish raise their sails when they are excited or swimming at the top. I suppose this one was taking a break and relaxing on the surface.

What a day that made for being on the water. Typically, we can pickup sailfish here and there while deep sea fishing Cape Canaveral. They are not a target fish in our area. However, if you want to go after just sailfish, you will have much better chances down in the south Florida area where the gulf stream runs about five miles out from shore.


Atlantic Sailfish or Sail Fish, Billfish

Sailfish are OFFSHORE species, in south Florida, you will find them in waters near the Gulf Stream; off the Panhandle near the 100 foot fathom line. We catch sailfish more often in the cooler months and often seen them “sailing” off Cape Canaveral waters or around offshore bait pods “balling” bait together for the feed. Richard has shared with me a few stories of him witnessing a hand full of sailfish sailing on and around the bait feeding over some of the Cape Canaveral wrecks.


Sailfish are a rapid growing species, reaching 4 to 5 feet in a single year; swims at speeds up to 50 knots; feeds on the surface or at mid-depths on smaller pelagic fishes and squid. It is said that sailfish is the fastest swimming fish in the ocean.

Sailfish are colored dark blue on top, brown-blue laterally, silvery white underbelly; upper jaw elongated in the form of spear; first dorsal greatly enlarged in the shape of a sail. With many black spots, its front squared off, highest at its midpoint; pelvic fins very narrow, reaching almost to the anus; body covered with embedded scales, blunt at end; lateral line curved above pectoral, then straight to base of the tail.


63″ minimum from tip of bottom jaw to fork of tail. Limit of one per day per angler. Additional permits are required in federal waters. Florida Sailfish Regulations.

State Record
116 Pound Florida Record

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