Sailfish are the fastest fish in the world reaching speeds of up to 68mph. They are sought after by anglers the world over thanks to not only their speed but their dramatic jumps when hooked up. There are two types of sailfish, the Atlantic and the Indo-pacific. The Atlantic sailfish tend to be a little smaller than their Indo-pacific cousins. The record Atlantic sailfish ever caught was 141lbs in Angola and the largest Indo-pacific weighed in at 221lb which was caught off the coast of Ecuador.
They are an awesome fish to catch and they tend to stick to warm waters, meaning any sail-fishing holiday will take you to a warm tropical place. It’s always a tough life for fishermen. Here are some of the best places to catch sailfish in the world.
Thailand is well known as a fun, cheap travel destination but it is also home to some amazing fishing. Fishermen all over the world travel to Phuket to fish the waters of the Andaman Sea to target a variety of species. Large Indo-pacific sailfish are found around Phuket all year round but are there in large numbers during June, July, and August. This is, however, monsoon season and you may have to deal with rain and high winds.
There is a good fleet of sport fishers and professional captains in Phuket who know what they are doing and will put on your on fish. It’s not always a guarantee though, like with all fishing. There’s also a lot of great places to stay and you can enjoy a lovely beach holiday while on your fishing trip.
The Florida Keys are famous the world over for both offshore and inshore fly fishing. During the winter months, they have a huge run of sailfish as the fish move between the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. On some days you can see 20-30 fish per day, that’s some amazing fishing.
There are a lot of professional boats with experienced skippers lining up the marinas in the keys that will put you on fish. It’s not a very long run to start fishing but it can get quite busy at weekends.
The west coast of Costa Rica sees a very large number of sailfish that migrate down the coast from December through to August, although May is often a slow month. The sailfish fishing can be fantastic off the central west coast of Costa Rica and most anglers venture to the well-known marina of Los Suenos. But the whole coastline offers great fishing all year round, from Papagayo in the north to Golfito in the south.
There is a large number of marinas all the way up the coast and you’ll find quality boats and skippers than will have you catching sailfish on fly, conventional and, bait and switch. You can expect to see big Indo-pacific sails up to 120lbs and often lager. The seas can be rough but they are usually pretty calm. Sometimes cold green water can come in and stop the fishing for a few days, which is something to be aware of.
There are plenty of great places to stay and Costa Rica prides itself on being a welcoming and easy country to travel in. Sailfish are not the only species to target and most pelagics call the waters home.
There are a couple of spots on the Pacific coast of Mexico that have some amazing sailfish fishing. It’s quick, easy and cheap to get to and there’s a lot more on offer for the family than just fishing.
Baja’s East Cape does not have the numbers of sails as other places but it does have some big fish to target as well as the possibility of catching blue, back and striped marlin. The seas are usually very calm and the season runs from sprin to mid fall. The only drawback is you may have to run 10-30miles to start fishing each day.
The best place to fish for sails in Panama is in Pinas Bay at Tropic Star Lodge. The best time to be there is between May and July when you might find a lot of sails chasing sardines and triple hookups are not uncommon. There is also good fishing between December and January, this is also when huge blue and black marlin are in the area.
The sailfish here get very big and a lot of line-class records have been set here with fish close to 200lbs. The waters are calm, it’s a short run to start fishing and you’ll enjoy the incredible boats and crews of Tropic Star. They’ll talk you through catching sails on tease and switch, sight casting and on the fly.
The lodge is amazing but it’s expensive and there are no less-expensive options in the area.
Broome, a small town on the northwest coast of Australia has a great run of Indo-pacific sails between the months of May and November. There are good numbers of fish but they are not the biggest and range from 30-70 pounds on average. You’ll have to run 10-35 miles or more to get to fishing grounds each day and it’ll take you around 30 hours to travel to get there from the US.
The fishing grounds are empty, you won’t have to worry about competition here and the boats love to tease and switch giving you some amazing light line and fly fishing opportunities. There’s a lot more to do here too and once you’re there it’s worth exploring. Kimberley is easily accessed from Broome with some amazing scenery and barramundi fishing. There are also multi-day trips to the Rowley Shoals 160 miles offshore. The fishing it out of this world there.
Nowhere else in the world has the number of sailfish that Guatemala has and fishermen can enjoy nonstop action for days on this coastline. On good days, you’ll have over 20 shots are day and sometimes triple that. The fish are big and on average sit between the 80-105lb mark and the experienced boats and crews will have you hooking them on fly and pitch baits.
The water off Guatemala is usually very calm and it’s easy to get to from the states. You can hop on a cheap flight and find an outstanding boat to fish on in less than 12 hours. Quite often, anglers expect too much from Guatemala and can come away disappointed. There are no guarantees and off days happen, this is fishing after all. The fish can sit in close or be up to 40 miles offshore and it can change quite quickly. The best time to be there is between November and May.
The southeast coast of Malaysia is known as the world’s calmest sailfish hot spot and one of the best value trips too. The waters off Rompin in the South China Sea are rarely rougher than a millpond and the sailfishing here is on fire between the months of July and October. This area has become more and more famous for its sailfish bite and slowly becoming one of the best places to catch Indo-pacific sailfish. The fish here come in large numbers and range between 50-80lbs.
The tactics are usually to fish live baits on a drift with the engines off as the seas are so calm. You’ll see birds and sailfish on the top of the water and can often target them by sight casting. Double and triple hookups are not uncommon and seeing fish chasing bait on the surface is quite amazing.
You can book a package trip that includes transport from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, accommodation, meals and fishing. The guides speak fluent English and the gear is of high quality. The boats used are quite often traditional wooden open boats, that are spacious with a lot of shade. They work well for fishing but if you’re after a sport fisher, a few are operating there.
You don’t have to fly around the world to find some excellent sailfish waters. The area between Nort Miami Beach and Fort Pierce is known as sailfish alley and comes alive between the winter months of January to May. It’s a short run to the fishing, usually 10 miles or fewer thanks to sailfish migrating towards the Gulf of Mexico to escape the cold northern currents that move down the coast in winter.
The best fishing is when the north winds blow that bring both the bait and sails up to the surface. This can make for some choppy condition but it’s also when you’ll find fish in large numbers. You’ll often see packs of fish cruising down waves which is a sight to behold.
Tactics range from trolling ballyhoo in the north to kite fishing or slow trolling in the south. There is no shortage of outstanding boats and crews that will have you catching fish on excellent gear all day long. The sailfish here are not the biggest and are on average 30-50lbs, so use light tackle. It can get busy out there on weekends so don’t expect to have the fishing grounds to yourself.
You can find sailfish in Kenya between October and March but in the month of November, a huge sailfish run comes down the coast of Kenya and of the top places to target them is in the waters off Lamu Island, in northern Kenya. There are a few professional boats that call Lamu home and they can be booked through Peoni Hotel or Manda Bay Hotel. The fleet further south in Malindi and Watamu will often head up the coast to Lamu during this time of year also.
You can expect to see up to 30 fish a day and the boats are equipped to target them on light line. The fishing tactics are up to you and the crews are proficient in trolling, tease and switch and on the fly, but take your own fly gear as it’s hard to come by there. Sailfish are not the only pelagics in Kenyan waters and you can expect to catch wahoo, tuna, mahi-mahi, and black marlin.
There is a lot more to do in Kenya than just fish and you can easily tag on a safari before or after your island fishing.
A 100 miles south of Lamu is Watamu. It’s probably Kenya’s most famous offshore destination and from the months of October to March large Indo-pacific sails call the waters home. The peak time to be there is in November and you can have shots at 10+ fish per day. The best fishing locations are the Watamu banks and Mambrui which are a very short run from moorings.
The waters are calm and you’ll find a fleet of world-class sport fishers to choose from in the Watamu lagoon. Sailfish are not all you can target and there is excellent blue, black and striped marlin fishing, particularly in February and March.
Angola is known for big sailfish, ever since the all-tackle world record Atlantic sailfish was caught thee in 2014. The fish here are big, you’re likely to encounter some triple-digit fish in these waters and they are noted to fight harder than Pacific sails of similar size. This has made Angola a stopover for traveling fishermen, especially those looking to catch some line-class records.
The seas around Angola are usually calm and it is a quick run to the fishing grounds. You won’t see as many fish as you might in Guatemala or Malaysia but you can expect to have 2-8 opportunities per day but 10-20 shot days are not uncommon. There is also a good number of blue marlin that roam the same areas and often take sailfish baits.
El Salvador has some amazing sailfish which can be as good as it’s neighbor Guatemala. There are a lot fewer boats in these waters and you’ll have the fishing spots to yourself on most days. The best time to be there is between October and March and you can expect to have 15-20 shots a day at some big fish. The winds stay light and the oceans calm, plus there are some great marlin runs at times. The only drawback is the lack of professional charter boats and you may have to run 30 plus miles to start fishing.
The fishing off the Cape Verde Peninsula at Dakar in Senegal offers some amazing sailfish fishing between June and November. You can have shots at huge numbers of fish while being on an African adventure. Charter boats run cheap while being of good quality with experienced and professional crews.
There is also a great run of blue marling during the same period and the islands of Cape Verde are only a short hop away. It is a long way to go for some sailfish action and getting to Dakar is not cheap.