GONE COASTAL: Florida's sailfish offers on-the-water excitement

fwc sailfish justin lerner

Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission employee Justin Lerner fishes for sailfish.

FWC / Special to the News Bulletin
Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 at 05:00 AM.

Sailfish hold a special place in many Florida resident and visitor’s hearts. Whether they’ve admired a replica of the beautiful fish while waiting for a fresh-caught meal at a local restaurant, or felt their blood pump as one leapt into the air on the other end of a fishing line, the fish known for its tall “sail-like” dorsal fin is a Florida icon.

Though you can find the highly migratory species in warm offshore waters around the globe, sailfish are so abundant off the coast of Florida and so popular with people it was made the state’s official saltwater fish in 1975.

Between its aesthetic beauty and its penchant for fighting, sailfish are a recreational favorite.

Like bonefish or tarpon, two of Florida’s other iconic fishes, the sailfish has a higher value as a recreational catch-and-release species than it does as a commercial food fish. The meat is tough and is rarely eaten unless smoked.

I sat down with coworker, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist and sailfish fan Justin Lerner to find out a little more about the appeal of fishing for sailfish.

“It’s very exciting fishing, especially when using a kite,” Lerner said, describing a fishing method where an actual kite is used to dangle bait at the top of the water, enticing the sailfish to take the bait right before your eyes. “It is a very fast, very acrobatic fish with a lot of energy.”

Lerner caught his first sailfish in 2000 on an offshore charter trip and was instantly hooked (my apologies for the pun).



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