Photo: A sailfish in the open ocean

The fastest fish in the ocean, sailfish can reach speeds of 68 miles (110 kilometers) per hour. Their large size and spirited fight make them a favorite among trophy fishers.

Photograph by OSF/Howard Hall/Animals Animals—Earth Scenes

Map

Map: Sailfish

Sailfish Range

Fast Facts

Type:
Fish
Diet:
Carnivore
Average life span in the wild:
4 years
Size:
5.7 to 11 ft (1.7 to 3.4 m)
Weight:
120 to 220 lbs (54.4 to 100 kg)
Group name:
School
Did you know?
Sailfish are the fastest fish in the ocean and have been clocked leaping out of the water at more than 68 mi (110 km) per hour.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Sailfish compared with adult man

The two main subspecies of sailfish, Atlantic and Indo-Pacific, range throughout the warm and temperate parts of the world’s oceans. They are blue to gray in color with white underbellies. They get their name from their spectacular dorsal fin that stretches nearly the length of their body and is much higher than their bodies are thick.

They are members of the billfish family, and as such, have an upper jaw that juts out well beyond their lower jaw and forms a distinctive spear. They are found near the ocean surface usually far from land feeding on schools of smaller fish like sardines and anchovies, which they often shepherd with their sails, making them easy prey. They also feast on squid and octopus.

Their meat is fairly tough and not widely eaten, but they are prized as game fish. These powerful, streamlined beasts can grow to more than 10 feet (3 meters) and weigh up to 220 pounds (100 kilograms). When hooked, they will fight vigorously, leaping and diving repeatedly, and sometimes taking hours to land.

Sailfish are fairly abundant throughout their range, and their population is considered stable. They are under no special status or protections.

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