All you Need to Know about the Sailfish

Date Posted: 30/05/2017

Featured on the nation's coat of arms, the sailfish is a member of the genus Istiophorus which is prevalent in the Indian Ocean around Seychelles.


Why are they called sailfish?

The species is called sailfish because of its characteristic dorsal fin, which normally stretches the entire length of the fish's back. The fin is known as a sail due to its spectacular appearance, as it is usually much higher than the depth of the body, giving it the appearance of a sail.

Key characteristics of a sailfish

Predominantly grey or blue in colour, the most notable features of a sailfish are the erectile dorsal fin and elongated bill, with the upper jaw jutting out beyond the lower. Their body colour can contain stripes of iridescent silver and blue. The sailfish's body colour can change to light blue with yellowish stripes if excited.

The sail normally remains down when the fish is swimming but is often raised if the sailfish feels threatened. When feeding, a group of sailfish can use their fins to herd the school of fish. Their main food is schools of smaller fish, such as sardines and anchovies which are easy prey. They also eat octopus and squid.

They grow quickly and can reach 1.2m to 1.5m in length in one year. As an adult, they grow up to 3m long and weigh up to 90kg.

How fast do sailfish swim?

Individual sailfish have been registered at speeds of up to 75km per hour - one of the highest speeds ever recorded for a fish. However, on average, they do not exceed 36km per hour.

Where can you find sailfish?

Although sailfish are found in many of the world's oceans, they are prevalent around the Seychelles. As a rule, they swim near the ocean's surface and they don't go close to land.

Two species of sailfish have been identified; the Indo-Pacific sailfish, known as Istiophorus platypterus; and the Atlantic sailfish (Istiophorus albicans). However, there is no difference between their DNA and most authorities now class them as a single species.

The Indo-Pacific sailfish is found in warmer seas, such as the Indian Ocean surrounding the Seychelles archipelago.

Techniques for catching a sailfish

Sailfish are prized as game fish - they are known for their incredible speed and jumps. When hooked, they leap and dive repeatedly and can take hours to land. One tip is to keep your rod low so that after a possible miss, the fly is still in the correct position for another bite. During the struggle to land the fish, keep the rod low to utilise the backbone in the lower end. Lifting it higher than horizontal can waste your energy and cause lower back pain for fly anglers.

A hooked sailfish is likely to jump towards the boat at some point and it's important the slack fly line doesn't wrap round the rod tip, so stick the rod directly into the ocean where the drag of the water will prevent tip wraps and break-offs. Some anglers who target sailfish recommend a simple trolling spread using light trolling gear, with 20 to 30-pound rods pulling four baits; one from each outrigger and two flat lines close to the boat.

The sailfish will become tired after a long battle and some anglers may attempt to lift it into their boat but dragging the sail over the boat's side will damage its protective coat, so isn't recommended if you intend releasing the sailfish again. Although it's possible to eat sailfish, their meat is quite tough and not generally eaten.

Sailfish Being Caught

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