Targeting Sailfish In The Southeast Region With Capt. Jimbo Thomas


April is usually a windy month, so we do a lot of kite fishing for sailfish. If the wind is calm, you can still fly a kite using a helium balloon to supplement the wind, or you can just go to slow trolling live baits.

In April, we typically target sailfish in anywhere from 90 to 250 feet of water, looking for rips or color changes. Some days the fish are better in the green water and some days you get the bite in the blue water. So, what we’ll do is sit right on the color change and put up two kites, each with two baits, and we’ll position them so that two of the baits are on each side of the color change. If you start getting bites on one side of the color change, then you want to move all your baits to that side of it.

At the same time, we have four baits out on the kites, we’ll put three or four more in the water on flat lines off the transom. Those baits will pick up anything that swims close to the boat, and at the same time serve as a bait you have quick access to if a fish comes within casting distance. All you have to do is grab the rod, reel the bait in and pitch it at the cruising fish.

Off Miami, we like to use threadfin herring for bait because they’re easy to catch, but goggle-eye, pilchards, cigar minnows and blue runners are also good baits. Ultimately whatever you have in the livewell will work, but we prefer threadfin herring.

Fish the sails on 20 pound tackle, either spinning or conventional, whichever you’re more comfortable with. We’ll use a 50 or 60 pound monofilament leader and 6/0 circle hook bridled to the baits using a Gerry Rig. When the fish swims up and grabs the bait, just wait for the rod to bend over and reel, and you’ll be hooked up.

Ideal sailfishing conditions off South Florida are a blue water, north current and a north wind. North current and blue water is pretty good on any wind, while a south current is usually the kiss of death, as is a southwesterly wind, although a westerly or northwesterly wind is usually fine. It seems like a southwest wind is an indicator of a rising barometer which will shut the fish down.

Our average sailfish is 40 to 50 pounds, but they get to about 70 pounds. Unlike the Pacific sailfish which are larger, the Atlantic sailfish is a lot tougher fish and better fight. These fish go ballistic when hooked, tailwalking across the surface and making long unbelievably fast runs, so you want to have reels that have at least 300 yard line capacity.

A lot of times the sailfish travel in small schools of 3 to 6 fish or more, so you don’t want to pull all the lines out when you hook a fish. Instead, you want to keep as many lines in the water and have a pitch rod ready to throw to the hooked fish in case you see another fish following it. It’s not uncommon to hook sailfish in multiples of two, three or four fish, which is just a blast to see. Any time you have a bunch of hooked sailfish jumping behind the boat and going crazy, the adrenaline will be flowing and everyone will be having a great day.

Even though it’s legal to harvest a sailfish if it’s large enough, we release all the sailfish we catch to help keep the overall populations strong. The fish you release today may be the fish you catch again in the future.

Captain Tips