Sci: Istiophorous platypetrus
Common Names: The Indo-Pacific sailfish is also known as
the "sail", "spear-chucker" or "spearfish", although the two latter names may
cause confusion with the related, but rare, short-billed spearfish (Tetapturus
Description: The sailfish is a long but lightly-built
pelagic gamefish, characterised by having a top jaw which
extends into a long, slender bill or spear, and an extremely
high and ornate dorsal fin. Colouration is usually electric
blue to blue-green, darker on the back and overlaid with
broken vertical bars and dashes of lavender or powder-blue.
Some fish have a golden or coppery flush to the gill covers
and flanks when alive, especially if stressed or tired.
The sail-like dorsal fin is dark, steely-blue with many
blue/black or purple spots and broken dashes.
Size: Sailfish grow to almost 4 m in length and weights
of as much as 100 kg, but are more common at half that length, and weights of
15 to 45 kg. The biggest sailfish found in our waters have come from Queensland's
Whitsunday Islands, and the waters around Lord Howe Islands, off the north coast
of New South Wales. Distribution: Indo-Pacific sailfish are found throughout the
tropical and sub-tropical areas of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. A very closely
related fish occurs in the Atlantic, where it is usually smaller in size. Sailfish
are surface and mid-water wanderers, preferring to hunt in warm currents and upwellings
over inshore grounds and out toward the edge of the continental shelf.
Fishing Techniques: Sailfish caught by anglers in Australia
are mainly taken on trolled, rigged baits of garfish or mullet, pulled behind
a boat travelling at 4 to 8 knots, or small to medium live baits drifted or cast
close to feeding "pods" of sails or bait fish schools. They will readily strike
fast-trolled lures such as jet-heads and straight-running skirted heads pulled
at 8 to 15 knots. However, many strikes on these strikes fail to result in hook-ups,
because of the sail's long bill and hard mouth. In northern Western Australia,
a growing number of sailfish are being taken on live baits from the ocean rocks.
In the same area, adventurous fly rodders also target these fish on saltwater
fly tackle after "teasing" them to the surface with hookless baits or lures trolled
behind a boat.
Eating Qualities: The sailfish is quite palatable, despite
its dark, somewhat sinewy flesh, which is ideally suited to being smoked. In Australia,
the vast majority of sailfish taken on rod and reel are tagged and released. They
are pursued primarily for the superb sport they provide on light tackle.