Sailfish are saltwater billfish.
They can be found in both temperate and tropical waters throughout the world’s oceans. It is particularly abundant near the equatorial regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
The classification of the sailfish is uncertain. Some systems recognize two separate species: the Indo-Pacific sailfish (I. platypterus) and the Atlantic sailfish (I. albicans); most authorities now only recognized a single species Indo-Pacific sailfish.
Sailfish are epipelagic marine fish that spend most of their adult life between the mixed layer near the surface and the thermocline.
The average lifespan of a sailfish is 5 to 7 years. The maximum lifespan of the sailfish is estimated at around 15 years.
Generally, sailfish do not grow to more than 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length and rarely weigh over 90 kg (200 lb).
Easily recognized, sailfish are named for the spectacular sail-like dorsal fin that extends for nearly the entire length of their silver-blue body. Additionally, the sailfish’s upper jaw is far longer than its lower jaw, forming a distinctive bill that looks like—and sometimes acts like—a spear.
Body coloration changes depending on level of excitement, but normally the sailfish is dark blue along the back and silvery blue/white with brown spots underneath. On each side are 20 rows of longitudinal stripes made up of many light blue dots. The fins are usually blackish-blue, and the base of the first and second anal fins are tipped silvery-white. The sail (first dorsal fin) is scattered with many small, round black dots.
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 sailfish is the fastest fish in the world – able to swim at a speed of 110 km/h (68 mph). The secret to the sailfish’s speed is probably its shape.
At cruising speeds of 11 km/h (7 mph), they can fold down their first dorsal fin to reduce drag.
Sailfish are also known for their incredible jumps.
Spending most of their time in the upper 10 m (33 ft) of the water column, sailfish occasionally dive down to depths up to 350 m (1,150 ft) to find food.
While sailfish are cold-blooded animals, they have special organs next to their eyes to heat their eyes and also their brain.
The heating of the eyes greatly improves the vision, and subsequently improves their ability to catch prey.
Sailfish breed year round in the thermocline layer. A female might have 4.8 million eggs in one spawning. When their offspring hatches it will lack characteristics of its parents. When it enters its juvenile stage it will gain its parents characteristics.
Sailfish grow quickly, reaching 1.2 to 1.5 m (3 ft 11 in to 4 ft 11 in) in length in a single year.
While they are very fast swimmers, sailfish, and particularly young sailfish, find themselves prey of dolphinfish and sharks, among other predators. Hoewer, predation of free-swimming sailfish is very rare.
The sailfish is related to other “billed” fish, such as Marlin and Swordfish, which are also very fast.
Unlike many other billfish species, the Sailfish is not an endangered species. This is probably because their flesh is not a widely eaten and hence are caught very less by commercial fishermen. their meat is often used for sashimi and sushi in Japan.
Because of its speed and its strength, the sailfish is considered a big prize for fisherman. Some fishing contests offer up to $75,000 for the man or woman who reels in the biggest catch! Florida is a popular place to try to catch one. In fact, sailfish are the official saltwater fish of the Sunshine State.