Family: Istiophoridae (Billfishes)
Genus and Species: Istiophorus platypterus
Range: Formerly considered as three different species, the sailfish from the three different oceans have been united into a single species. The Atlantic form ranges from Brazil to Massachusetts, on the Americas coast, and are also found off the African Atlantic coast as well. But is most common in the warm waters along the edge of the Gulf stream. The Pacific form is similar in appearance but bigger, averaging twice the size of the Atlantic form, and ranges from Peru to Baja California, rarely northward.
(click image to view anatomy)
Description: The most distinctive billfish with an extremely high dorsal fin that is highest in the center. The body and sail are marked with light and dark blue spots that are vertically aligned against the rich blue of the back and sides. The sailfish is easily recognizable by its long bill and long high sail like dorsal fin, and also by its comparatively slim, compact body. The pelvic fins are notably long and the caudal fin lunate. Two keels are present on each side of the caudal peduncle. Sailfish are usually a purplish or cobalt blue in color, but are also seen in bronze , the coloring is lighter on the lower sides and belly .
Natural History: Usually found in the upper layers of warm water above the thermocline, but also capable of descending to rather deep water. Sailfish often migrate into near-shore waters, occasionally forming schools of up to 30 individuals, but often occurs in loose aggregations over a wide area. Feeds mainly on small pelagic fishes but also takes bottom-dwelling organisms. It is a rapidly growing species, reaching 4 to 5 feet in a single year.
Fishing Information: Sailfish can achieve sizzling speeds with up to 50 knots being quoted, but tire quickly and are generally considered a great light tackle species. The sailfish is famous for spectacular aerial acrobatic displays. When hooked sailfish can run at speeds of 60+ MPH. The most successful techniques are trolling with artificials or rigged balao, mullet or flying fish and kite fishing with live bait. This is also the most popular billfish with fly fishermen and can be caught by fly-casting a large fly to an excited fish after teasing.
Temperature Range: 72 - 85 degrees F.
Other Common Names: Atlantic sailfish, Indo-Pacific sailfish, spindlebeak, pez vela, au lepe.
Largest recorded: 221 pounds (Ecuador)
Sources: Marine Sportfish Identification, California Department of Fish and Game, 1987; FishBase, FishBase Consortium, 2014; Billfish, Saltaire Publishing, 1976; Phylogeny of Recent Billfishes (Xiphioidei), Collette, McDowell and Graves, 2006.
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