Florida Sailfish Tactics

Targeting Florida sailfish with kites and more.
Greg Gawlikowski
The techniques vary when targeting sailfish off the coast of Florida. The crews in South Florida typically drift live goggle-eyes and threadfin herring off of kites while the boats in Stuart and Ft. Pierce prefer to troll dredges and dead bait. In this photo, the team on the Qualifier chase down a sailfish off of Palm Beach during the Palm Beach Sailfish Open. Story and photos by Greg Gawlikowski
Sandra MacMillan and her team on the Sandman are one of the top boats on the Florida sailfish circuit. They often finish in the money by capitalizing on all of the doubles and triples they hook. When you have more than one sailfish on the line, one of the anglers will end up on the bow as the captain chases down the first sail, then goes after the next one.
The top boats in Florida can hook, catch and release an Atlantic sailfish in three minutes or less when everything goes just right. And when you're fishing in tournaments, every second counts. You want to get that fish in as quick as possible, and put another bait in the water.
And they're off! The sailfish will move up and down the Florida coast depending on the water conditions. Sometimes the fish are holed up just 10 miles offshore or less. But if the bite is off Palm Beach and you're fishing a tournament in Miami, you could be looking at a long run. That's when the fast center consoles really earn their salt.
Using kites anglers can spread their baits out and present them on the surface so the baits look injured. Sailfish can't pass up a threadfin herring flopping away on the surface. Most boats fish three baits on each kite, and run at least two baits off flat lines. It's not uncommon to have eight or more baits in the water at any given time.
All Florida sailfish tournaments are catch-and-release these days. Many events require video documentation of each release. This makes the cameraman a very important team member.
The Sandman manages another successful sailfish release during their 2012 win in the World Sailfish Championship fished in Key West, Florida.

Save time and fuel with the FishTrack app.