Best Place To Catch Sailfish

Best Place To Catch Sailfish In The World

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Fishing for sailfish is one of the most popular options for anybody who wants to get involved in some serious deep sea fishing. These fish can get really big, up to 100 pounds in weight or more.

Whether you are going trophy fishing, or doing good old catch and release, finding the best spots to catch these behemoths is what we are here for today. So, what is the best place to catch sailfish in the world? Here is our list of what we consider to be the top 15 places;

two men holding a sailfish
By WIDTTF (ryans sail 014) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

15 Best Places To Catch Sailfish In The World

Now, keep in mind that we have not really ranked these in any particular order, as they are all great sailfish fishing spots in their own right. Which one you pick might come down to the time of year you can go, cost, accessibility, and your own experience as an angler too.

1. Florida Keys, USA

When it comes to fishing for sailfish right in your own backyard, one of the best places to go is the Florida Keys. This is true all the way from the southeast to the upper Florida Keys, which is nice because you can embark pretty much anywhere from the coastline and find some nice specimen.

What is also nice here is that along Palm Beach, you don’t have to travel more than 10 miles offshore for great sailfishing actions, with some areas along the coast only requiring a 3 or 4 mile trip out to find some decent sized sailfish.

Florida Sailfishing
By Rich Gasparian (Rgaspari at en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Here there are also a great many charters and guides to hire, plus a lot of marinas, accommodations, and tourist attractions too. In the Florida Keys, you will find no shortage of sailfish, with 2009 being a record year, where within 2 days, 24 boats caught over 420 sailfish.

Now beware that the sailfish here are not overly large, usually coming in at 40 pounds at most, but there certainly is a lot of them. Also beware that in this area, the ocean can get quite rough, featuring big winds and even bigger waves, so make sure that you know what you are doing and dress adequately too.

2. Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Another great place to catch sailfish is off the Isla Mujeres, which is located just off the Yucatan Peninsula. It’s a nice trip because it is a short ferry ride away from Cancun, making it fairly accessible and easy to get to. Of course, a trip to Mexico is always nice thanks to the plethora of tourist attractions and awesome dining.

Here there is plenty of underwater photography taking place, with some truly awesome tropical and coral sights to see, which is how it is a well known fact that there can be hundreds and thousands of sailfish in these waters.

If you use the right bait, you will definitely not find a shortage of sailfish here, with them being abundant in numbers. Some people have actually said that there are so many sailfish here during certain times of year, that catching one in the mass of animals around can be quite difficult.

You really don’t have to travel far off the island to find sailfish, plus the costs associated with getting here and fishing here are quite minimal. The fish here, once again, are not massive, but you will find plenty of them.

Just beware that foreign boats are not allowed to use live bait to fish here.

3. Gabon, Africa

During the spring and summer months, the waters off of Gabon, Africa are usually fairly calm. Now, they can still get pretty rough at times, but the weather during the summer months is generally quite predictable.

You do need to have quite the sense of adventure to come fishing here, as the seas can be rough, accessibility is a bit of an issue, and you will end up spending a bunch of money.

First you have to go to Libreville, which will already take a couple of days and a few thousand dollars to accomplish, which is where you will then be fishing from. There is also not much offshore infrastructure for sport fishing.

With that being said, the waters off of Gabon are teeming with large sailfish. Here you can aim to catch up to 10 sailfish a day, and they get pretty big, ranging from 50 to 75 pounds, making them some of the larger ones out there.

With that being said, there have been record sailfish catches here ranging up to 150 pounds, so if you want to go trophy fishing, this is the place to be.

These waters are usually not very crowded at all, so here you will find lots of fish including sailfish, blue marlin, cubera snapper, giant threadfin, and a few other large fish species too.

4. Senegal, Africa

On the Cape Verde Peninsula in Sengal, Africa, you will find quite a few large sailfish. Now, here you will find neither the largest nor the most sailfish out of any spot in the world, but the fishing here is definitely good enough for Senegal to be on this list.

This is a French speaking place, just so you know, and it is relatively safe too. Now, beware that Senegal does have some problems, so you should always go with a guide, hire a charter, or work with somebody who knows the area well.

Although uncommon in recent years, local groups messing with tourists, such as kidnappings, is not unheard of, so just be safe at all times. With that being said, charters can be hired for alright rates, plus they are well prepared for any eventuality.

You will find decent numbers of alright sized sailfish here, but beware that it will cost you up to $4,000 for round trip airfare to Dakar, which is where you will have to fly to first in order to get to the Cape Verde Peninsula.

5. Angola, Africa

Another great African country to visit, Angola definitely has a lot of tourist attractions, cool sights to see, and so much more. Not only is a good tourist location, but of course, it also has some great opportunities to catch sailfish.

Angola is one of the best places in the world to catch sailfish, with record catches ranging from 100 to 200 pounds. Now, although the sailfish here can get very large, there are not many of them around. So, you will be lucky to catch 3 in a single whole day trip, but chances are that they will be very large.

In fact, in 1994 the Atlantic sailfish size record was set right here. What is also neat is that here you can find blue marlin up to 500 pounds (we have covered the 5 best places to catch blue marlin here), which actually often like to go for sailfish bait. What is also nice here is that you don’t have to travel far offshore to find sailfish, plus the waters are pretty calm for most of the year.

However, beware that Angola has had some problems in the past too, and still does. Most travel advisories would advise a large amount of caution when visiting Angola.

Don’t go alone and make sure to hire a reliable charter that knows the area, customs, the people, and the possible dangers too.

6. Iztapa, Guatemala

The waters off of Iztapa, Guatemala are a world renowned spot for sailfish angling. To get the drawback out of the way, you might have to travel up to 30 miles offshore for good angling, but most would say that it is well worth the distance.

Heck, if you travel here from the USA, it will not cost you too much either, which makes it a good budget fishing destination. Moreover, this area is well known for lots of catches, with some people catching up to 60 or even 80 sailfish per day, which is of course absolutely spectacular.

On that same note, the fish here can get quite large, with regular weights of 100 pounds or more not being uncommon at all. What is also nice about these waters is that the Pacific Ocean here is generally quite calm and flat.

Sure, the seas can get rough at times, but the weather is usually fairly predictable here, which is an obvious bonus. You can rent lots of guides and charters here which know exactly where to go for the best action, another big bonus no doubt.

7. East Cape, Mexico

sailfish mexico
Photo Credit

We have already mentioned Mexico once, but the first mention was a Mexican area bordering the Atlantic Ocean, whereas East Cape in Baja is on the Pacific Ocean side of things.

One of the best parts about going sailfish angling here is that the trip is fast, easy, safe, and very affordable, especially if you are venturing there from other North American countries. What is nice about this area is that the fishing season is quite long, with decent numbers of sailfish being present from early spring to mid-autumn.

With that being said the sailfish numbers are not as large here as in some other areas and you will be super lucky to catch even 5 of them in a single day. Now, while there are not too many of them around, the ones that do stick around can get quite large, up to 120 pounds or more.

However, to find these big guys, you will have to travel offshore anywhere from 10 to 30 miles, which is best done with a charter, which here in the East Cape should be generally affordable for most. There are a lot of good charters and fishing resorts here, as it is quite a popular tourist trap.

8. El Salvador

El Salvador is located right next to Guatemala and it also has some good sailfish action going on. Now, you won’t find as many anglers fishing these waters, as they can be a little rougher, plus the political situation in El Salvador is at the moment not exactly super stable.

It’s not like going to a warzone, but you don’t want to end up in the wrong parts of town if you know what we mean.
However, the good part about there not being so many boats and fisherman here is that there is more space to freely explore, plus the numbers of fish are not bad either.

Here, just like in Gautemala, you can find sailfish up to 100 pounds, and it is not uncommon to catch 15 to 20 per day. Now, beware that you might have to travel up to 30 miles offshore to catch these big fish, so hiring a charter or a guide is very highly recommended.

From October through to March, you will be able to catch dome very nice specimen here.

9. Pinas Bay, Panama

If you want to fish for lots of sailfish, doing so in Pinas Bay, Panama, from May through to July, is a great option. During these months is when the sardines spawn and migrate, creating big and rich hunting grounds for sailfish.

Yes, this means that this time of year also makes for great sailfish hunting. With that being said, if you cannot go during those months, December and January are not bad either.

There are some big records set here, with fish weighing close to 200 pounds not being uncommon. No, you won’t find these every day, but the chances exist none the less.

From Pinas Bay, you only have to travel a few miles offshore for great sailfish angling, there are tons of accommodations, lots of guides and charters, many tourist attractions, and this trip is a relatively affordable one too.

Keep in mind that flights are not too expensive to get to Panama, but if you want to find nice lodgings, the story gets a little bit pricier.

10. Flamingo, Costa Rica

costa rica sailfishing
CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to countries that are a must to visit, the country of Costa Rica is up there with the best of them. Between the rainforests, the turtle hatchings, volcanoes, and of course, excellent fishing too, it’s a country that everybody should have on his or her bucket list.

Here you will find great fishing yearlong all along the coast, with December through to July being the best, with the odd exception of May, which is not great. However, depending on where you are in Costa Rica, you will be able to find sailfish all throughout the year.

What is awesome is that Costa Rica is a tourist haven, so you will find tons of lodgings, fishing resorts, and charters too. With that being said, this is an expensive country to visit in every way imaginable, so it’s not the best place to go sailfish angling if you are on a tight budget.

Also, beware that the winds can get harsh and cold here, especially further offshore, plus the seas can get quite high too, so be prepared for some rough conditions. Catching up to 10 sailfish per day, ranging to 120 pounds and even more, is not uncommon here.

11. Vava’u, Tonga

You probably have not heard of the Kigdom of Tonga before, as it is a very small island Kingdom located to the northeast of New Zealand. It’s a puny island and most people probably don’t know it exists at all, but for those who do know where it is, it makes for one of the very best places to catch sailfish in the whole world.

When it comes to finding world record sailfish, this is one of the most reputed areas in the world. It’s not uncommon to find sailfish here that can range up to 220 pounds and more, with 221 pounds being the current world record.

What is nice about Tonga is that you don’t have to travel far offshore to find some big sailfish, as the steep underwater cliffs make the water real deep real quick. Here you will also find massive wahoo, yellowfin tuna, giant trevally, and dogtooth tuna too.

Now, beware that this is an expensive trip, one that will cost a few thousand at least, plus if you live in North America or Europe, except to travel close to 2 days to get here.

Also beware that during the best sailfish season in Tonga, which is during the southern hemisphere’s winter, 30 to 50 kmph winds are constant and unrelenting, making for some rough seas and chilly conditions.

12. Broome, Western Australia

If you want to go fishing in the Indian Ocean, doing so from Western Australia, from the City of Broome, is a great idea. This is the largest city on the west coast of Australia, and during the months of May through to November, you will find plenty of sailfish here.

Here you will find breathtaking sights, quite a few tourist attractions, and yes, an abundance of sailfish too. Now, don’t expect the sailfish here to be huge, usually ranging from 30 to 60 pounds, but it’s not uncommon to catch up to 20 or even 30 per day. Yes, the fishing here is good, but there are some drawbacks too.

For one, you will definitely spend a few thousand dollars with ease for this trip. Also, you will need to go between 30 and 50 miles offshore for good sailfishing action here, with some of the best action being in the Rowley Shoals, which are located a whopping 160 miles offshore.

So, going here without an experienced guide or charter is really not an option.

13. Watamu, Africa

Yes, we’ve already talked about Africa, but that was in relation to the Atlantic Ocean, whereas Watamu is located on the Indian Ocean side of things. If you did not know, Watamu is in Kenya.

Now, here you will find plenty of sailfish, with fishing actually getting much better in recent years. Although Kenya does not really suffer from offshore piracy, the country of Somalia, located directly to the north, does of course have a massive pirate problem, which is why many people stay away from here altogether, although the waters off of Kenya are usually considered to be fairly safe and free of pirates.

When it comes to the waters off Watamu, they are usually quite calm and you definitely won’t find it crowded, plus you can travel out as little as 1 single mile to find good fishing grounds.

Yes, there are plenty of sailfish here, and they can get quite big too, but beware that spending at least a few grand to get here and back home is the reality.

14. Kuala Rompin, Malaysia

When it comes to sailfish angling in very calm waters, the Indian Ocean located off of Kuala Romping in Malaysia is simply one of the best. Winds and currents are not very strong here, which means that the seas are quite nice to fish on at all times of the year.

In recent years, this area has seen quite a pickup in fishing due to the great action that can be found here. Now, the sailfish you will find here are not overly large, usually topping out at around 80 pounds, but there certainly is a whole lot of them to be found.

Drifting around with live bait and the boat engine shut off is a great way to catch large numbers of sailfish here. What is great about this area, other than the calm waters and ample numbers of sailfish, is that the trip here is not too expensive, you don’t have to go far offshore for some big catches, and the accommodations here are numerous.

With that being said, the fishing season in Kuala Rompin is very short, lasting from mid-July to October at the latest. Also, if you like nice fancy fishing boats, this is not the place to go, as here you will find old school wooden boats.

15. Phuket, Thailand

The final best place to catch sailfish on our list today is Phuket, a great tourist city located in the ever popular country of Thailand. When it comes to cheap flights, cheap accommodations, and cheap everything, Thailand is a great place to be.

Even for long fishing trips, you won’t spend too much money here, not to mention the awesome abundance of sightseeing possibilities and awesome street food too.

If you fish off the waters of Phuket, catching 10 or more sailfish per day is not unheard of. The fish here rarely get above 70 pounds heavy, but that is still a respectable size.

From June through to December, the waters here are usually fairly calm, plus the runs out to good fishing grounds are quite short.

Related: Helpful checklist on what to bring and wear on your trip, read it here.

Conclusion

After all is said and done, these are the 15 very best places in the world to catch sailfish. Yes, there are some other locations too, but none as awesome as the ones we have talked about here today.

Remember folks, deep sea fishing is not for the faint of heart, so always be sure to know what you are doing, or at least have somebody with you that does, plus be prepared for cold winds and rough seas too. However, if you want to catch some big sailfish, you will have to brave the waters no doubt.