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Everything You Need to Know About Sailfish Season in Florida

Marina Nazario | December 7, 2021

Sailfish Season Runs From November to March in South Florida.

When the weather drops below 70 degrees in South Florida, locals tend to bundle up and light the outdoor firepit. But those who are experienced fishermen pack the center console with the best equipment and cruise into the Atlantic in search of sailfish.

Sailfish are the fastest fish in the world, reaching speeds of up to 68 mph. They range between 6 and 11 feet in length and weigh anywhere from 120 to 220 pounds. Sailfish have a gorgeous dorsal fin, a long upper jaw, and a strong, acrobatic body.

Sailfish season in Florida runs from November to March; technically, you can catch sailfish year-round, but they tend to appear in larger numbers when a cold front hits. Here’s everything you need to know about sailfish season.

How Do Sailfish Differ From Other Game Fish?


Before we launch into the who, what, and where, it’s useful to learn about sailfish and why folks get excited about the season. Sailfish are types of billfish (like blue marlin or swordfish). They spend their time near the surface of the water feeding on large bony fish, crustaceans, and squid. The long upper jaw is used to strike and stun large prey.

Sailfish sometimes work together to catch prey by using their dorsal fins to create a barrier around smaller schooling fish. So when large schools of fish travel up and down the East Coast during winter, there will most likely be a group of sailfish following close behind.

Because sailfish are the fastest fish in the water, they make for an exhilarating fight for recreational fishing; they cannot be fished commercially in the Atlantic Ocean.

Read: Sportfishing In Alaska

Where and when is Sailfish Season?


Sailfish season in Florida runs from November to March. These game fish love a cold front, making that the best time of year to bundle up and get after them. Sailfish follow schools of fish that are seeking warm and shallow water, so you don’t have to travel too far off the coast to catch one.

Fun fact: Stuart, Florida is the sailfish capital of the world, while Islamorada, Florida is the sport fish capital of the world. The best area to catch sailfish is between Fort Pierce and Key West during the winter.

South Florida fishing charters tend to be popular this time of year with novice to advanced anglers traveling south with hopes of having some fun on the water. There are also plenty of sailfish tournaments in December and January.

Read: 7 Florida Yacht Charter Destinations For Your Next Winter Getaway

How do you catch sailfish?

Fishing From A Boat

Sailfish are fast and hungry. They’re not picky eaters, but you’ll have better luck catching them using active live bait. A preferred method for catching sailfish is kite fishing, dangling live bait from fishing kites. This is an exciting technique because the bait is kept at the surface of the water and you can see when the sailfish strikes. Center consoles are an ideal boat for kite fishing because you can fight the fish from the bow. 

Other methods for catching sailfish are trolling dead bait or sight fishing (when you spot a sailfish on the surface and cast live bait). Once they eat the bait, they’ll start swimming. Fast. Sailfish put up a fight by jumping and twisting out of the water. That’s when it gets fun. Keep an eye on the other lines as you reel in a sailfish — if you hook one, there will be more around.

Read: 5 Center Consoles To Support Hardcore Fishing

What type of boat is best to catch sailfish?

Center Console Boat Drone Shot

You’re going to want a hardcore fishing machine to reel in a strong sailfish. Center consoles are an excellent option because of strategic rod placement along the port and starboard, and the ability to fight fish from the bow. You also don’t need to go far offshore to catch sailfish, so a center console like this 42’ Hydra-Sports for sale is a perfect option. 

Sportfish yachts are also an ideal boat for catching sailfish (or any big game fish) because they offer plenty of storage for live bait, tackle, rods, and equipment. Because of its flared hull, a sportfish yacht might offer a better ride through rough waters.

Read: Your Guide To Buying A Sportfish Yacht

Excited for sailfish season? Whether you are a novice, intermediate or advanced angler, make sure your boat can support your fishing needs. There are plenty of center consoles and sportfishing yachts for sale with Denison — contact your yacht broker to find the best fishing machine. Catch ya on the water.

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