Sailfish, Indo-Pacific

(Istiophorus platypterus)

Commonly referred to as Sails!

The sail fish is one of the most highly regarded game/sport fish on the planet, its lightning fast bursts of speed are mind blowing to witness first hand and they are considered to be one of the fastest swimming fish in the entire ocean having been clocked at speeds of over 105 Km/h! Sail fish use their enormous sail like dorsal fins to heard small bait fish together before striking into them with their powerful bills and eating them whole. Scientists now also believe this sail acts as an in build cooling and heating system for the fish which is often seen raising its sail when close to the surface before and after high speed feeding chases. There are two separate varieties of sail fish commonly encountered around the world, the Indo – Pacific sail fish, (Istiophorus platypterus) and the Atlantic sail fish, (Istiophorus albicans). Atlantic sails grow to around 3.15 meters in length and are more common in other countries around the world with the smaller indo pacific sail fish being most commonly encountered here in Australia.


Sail fish can be encountered in W.A. waters from as far south as Jurien Bay right up to the magnificent Kimberley region and also throughout Queensland and the Northern Territory.


Indo – Pacific sails can grow to a staggering 100kg in weight and measure well over 3 meters in length although most fish encountered throughout Australia average around  25 – 45kgs depending on location. The current W.A. state record stands at 78kg and was a fantastic capture taken on 6kg line by Vic Raynor out from Exmouth.


Sailfish prefer warmer northern waters and are most commonly encountered feeding along the edge of current lines, bait schools and deep reef ledges. Smaller fish can also be found in shallow bays and gulf regions.


Sail fish as their name suggests have an unmistakably large sail like dorsal fin extending from the back of the neck down towards the tail wrist of the fish. They are long and extremely thin with a large, powerful forked tail. The mouth has a downward curving bottom jaw with a long, sharp, thin bill attached at the top. This bill is extremely coarse, similar to 80 grit sand paper and is used to swipe at bait fish during feeding.

Taste rating

  • Zero Taste Rating

Sail fish like all bill fish are best known for their good looks and fighting abilities rather than their eating qualities!

Sport rating

  • Ninety Sport Rating

Sail fish like all bill fish are a fantastic game/sport fish and deserve the respect of all anglers!

Tackle requirements

Light to medium lever drag trolling outfits or spinning combos are best suited for targeting sail fish in most situations. Rods and reels capable of holding large capacities of  6 – 10kg line are most commonly used and are attached to wind on leaders of around 80 – 120lb in breaking strain.

Recommended baits, lures and rigs

Live and fresh dead baits such as gar fish, small mullet, queen fish and mackerel are all ideal baits for targeting sails with small to medium soft headed, skirted lures also proving to be quite effective on the species. Popular hook styles include the Gamakatsu salt water fly hook in a 10/0 for dead baits and skirted lures with small, thin gauge circle hooks also growing in popularity for both live and dead bait presentations.

Handy hints and tips

Try to ensure all baits, lures and tackle used are of premium quality, there are no second chances when it comes to billfish!

Preferred fishing times and tides

Most pelagic game fish species prefer low or high tide changes and new moon phases.


[What The Fish]