Sailfishing in Miami

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By: Jennifer Agress

Find out why Miami is the “Sailfish Capital of the U.S.”

With its abundance of saltwater fish, Florida is one of the world’s top fishing destinations. And while there are countless types of fish to be caught in the Sunshine State, sailfish—named Florida’s official saltwater fish in 1975—is one of the most prevalent.

In Miami, (dubbed “The Sailfish Capital of the U.S.” because of its large concentration of sailfish), sailfishing is a popular sport. Sailfishing is an exciting experience for many reasons, one of the top ones being that it’s an accessible sport for novice and experienced fishermen alike. Both challenging and fun to catch, sailfish are swift, agile and beautiful creatures, and they don’t weigh more than 40 pounds or grow to more than six or seven feet in length.

Interested in sailfishing off the coast of Miami? You’re in the right place. Read below to find out where to go and when to do it, and if you’re a beginner, even get a few tips to help you get started.

Sailfishing Season and Cold Front Fishing

With South Florida’s warm temperatures all year round, it’s always fishing season in Miami. However, when it comes to sailfishing, the best time of year is typically from late November through April, when seasonal cold fronts force sailfish to migrate south for the winter. During the winter season, sailfish start to actively feed in South Florida, meaning boats could catch anywhere from 10 to 30 sailfish from just one day out on the water. The best chance of catching sailfish is when the winds blow from the west and northwest, pushing more baitfish and sailfish along South Florida’s shores.

Where to Find Them

As the “Sailfish Capital of the U.S.,” you don’t have to go far off Miami’s coast to find an abundance of eager sailfish. In fact, most Atlantic sailfish can be found hunting for food just 130 to 300 feet off the coast of Miami, in reefs and ledges. Other popular areas for sailfishing are in Government Cut (between Miami Beach and Fisher Island), in and around the Florida Keys or off the coast of the Palm Beaches.

As with any type of fishing, what you find will depend on weather and environmental conditions. That said, South Florida is one of the top sailfishing destinations in the world. It’s unique geography allows avid fishermen to spend all day within eyeshot of land, catch all the sailfish they could want and more, and be back at the dock in 20 minutes to take advantage of the many wonderful restaurants, cultural activities and nightlife Miami has to offer.

Go out and Compete

Test your skills against other sailfishing enthusiasts by entering one or more of Miami’s annual sailfishing tournaments:

Yamaha-Contender Miami Sportfish Tournament: This elite fishing tournament caters to anglers of all skill levels and centers around billfish, dolphin, tuna, wahoo, cobia and mutton snapper. It starts with a Captain’s Kickoff Party, and moves on to the competition, a Dockside Baywalk Festival and a final Dock Party, Weigh-In Celebration and Awards Party. The top boat is awarded a purse of $30K. For more information, or to register to compete, call (305) 598-2525.

Quest for the Crest: This three-leg sailfish series stops in Palm Beach, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. The winning team is awarded a purse of $2M as well as the famous burgundy jacket. Both the jacket and the crest that lies on it represents the highest level of achievement in sailfishing. For more information, or to register to compete, call ((954) 725-4010.

While these are some of the top sailfishing tournaments in Miami, plenty of other sailfishing competitions can be found throughout the year just south of Miami, in the Florida Keys.

  • If you’ve never been sailfishing before, go on your first expedition with a local, experienced charter captain. Miami is filled with sailfish captains with decades of experience, and they will tell you what to do, show you how to do it and have you catching sailfish in no time.
  • Use live bait—that’s the key to catching sailfish. Baitfish can be caught or purchased, and typically include fish like blue runners, threadfin herring, tinker mackerel, pilchards, sardines and goggle-eyes.
  • The most common way to catch bait in South Florida is with kites. Fishermen will attach a bait line to a clip on a kite line and pull the fishing line out towards the kite. By doing so, baits are spread out, and when a baitfish bites, the line simply pulls out of the clip.
  • Another way to catch bait is with an inexpensive sabiki rig. These bait tools usually have six small hooks, a little feather or mylar strip on each hook and a weight on the end. Fishermen simply jiggle the rig up and down until they feel the bait latch on. Then, they pull up the rig and keep their bait.
  • “Drag” is the amount of resistance a hooked fish feels when it pulls on a fishing rod. You don’t need a lot of drag to catch a sailfish. The more drag you use, the more pressure the angler feels.
  • Timing is everything. More often than not, the key to catching sailfish is being at the right place at the right time.

Read More:

Miami's Boating and Sailing Guide
All You Need To Know About Miami's Marinas
Enjoy Miami On The Water
Miami's Best Seafood Festivals


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