The sailfish is one of the faster of the marine creatures, and one of the more popular in recreational fishing, despite the meat being of little value. This highly recognizable fish can grow to be over 10 feet long, including its elongated bill and its forked caudal fin. Its large first dorsal fin is usually taller than its body is and runs most of the length of its body. It is blue on top and white below, with rows of light blue dots, and its color can vary based on its excitement level.
The upper jaw is modified into a long bill which is circular in cross section. This upper jaw is approximately twice the length of the lower jaw. Two dorsal and anal fins are present. The first dorsal fin is large, much taller than the width of the body. This large fin runs most of the length of the body, with the longest ray being the 20th. The first anal fin is set far back on the body. Second dorsal and anal fins approximately mirror one another in size and shape. Both are short and concave. The pectoral and pelvic fins are long with the pelvic fins almost twice as long and nearly reaching the origin of the first anal fin.
Often working together in groups of two or more, swift sailfish thrash at and disrupt schools of smaller fish such as sardines and anchovies, thus allowing each sailfish to more easily snag its meals. The sailfish’s spear-like bill also comes in handy for slashing at larger prey fish, which stuns them into submission. Together, sailfish engage their huge dorsal fins, creating a fence around their prey to prevent their victims from escaping their clutches.
The maximum size for the sailfish from the Atlantic region is 124 inches (340 cm) total length and around 128 pounds (100 kg). The all-tackle record listed by International Game Fish Association (IGFA) is (100 kg). In southern Florida, the fish tend to be smaller, generally between 68-90 inches (173-229 cm) total length. Commercial longline vessels in the Atlantic generally catch fish of 49-83 inches (125-210 cm) in length. The largest fish are usually females.