THE SAILFISH BEHAVES like a beautiful woman playing hard to get. This streamlined blue-grey creature enjoys flaunting its good looks – more specifically its magnificent sail-like dorsal fin (hence its name) – by swimming near the ocean’s surface. Sometimes, it even acts “flirtatiously” by tail-walking or jumping in the air.
But looks can be deceiving, for catching one can be a challenge even for the most experienced of anglers, no thanks to its agile ways. Capable of reaching speeds of up to 110 km/h, this fish is widely recognised as the fastest fish in the ocean.
Near our shores resides the Indo-Pacific sailfish, one of the two main subspecies of sailfish (the other is the Atlantic). From August to November, they can easily be targeted off small towns in eastern Malaysia such as Rompin and Pekan. Hunters by nature, their main food sources are smaller schooling fish (scad, anchovies and the like). They chase them down, and stun or kill them with their long bill.
The most commonly practised and effective method of catching sailfish is by using live bait consisting of various types of scad. However, sports fishermen have also achieved success with artificial lures such as poppers and stick baits. The typical line class for sailfish would be in the 50lb range with reels spooled with at least 300m of mainline, as these fish often make long spirited runs. Fluorocarbon leaders in the 70lb range are recommended to both reduce the visibility of the leader as well as to resist abrasion from the rough nature of the sailfish’s bill.
Once you’ve hooked one, be prepared for a tough fight; they will fight vigorously, leaping and diving repeatedly. Bigger sailfish can take about 45 minutes to land. And it isn’t over immediately after you’ve reeled in your catch. The slime on the surface of a sailfish can cause an allergic reaction, so don’t place it against bare skin. As they say, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. It is no wonder that the sailfish is one of the world’s most prized game fish.