florida billfishYou'll often hear Florida referred to as the “Sportfishing Capital of the World.” The moniker is well deserved as Florida is home to one of the most abundant saltwater fisheries in the United States.

Anglers flock to the Sunshine State every year to get in on the action, but of all the fish you can catch in Florida, the Atlantic sailfish is one of the most popular to target. I guess that's why the sailfish is the state's official saltwater fish.

Both tourists and locals chase sails because the fish thrive close to shore off of south Florida, they put on an acrobatic fight, they're the perfect size for any angler (man, child or woman) and for most fishermen, the sailfish was their first billfish ever caught. They're also beautiful and a challenging fish to catch, but the real beauty about catching a high-flying sailfish is that anyone can do it.

Florida Sailfish Season

You can find sailfish at any time of the year off the coast of south Florida, but the peak of the season typically starts in late November and runs full speed through April.

florida sailfishing“The good news is the sails are around for a long time,” says Peter Miller, who has been fishing sailfish tournaments in Florida for the past 22 years and currently hosts Bass2Billfish (, a television show on NBC Sports Outdoors. “The best time of year to target sailfish runs from November all the way to May.”

You can catch sailfish any time during the annual run, but certain conditions really kick the bite into high gear. Sailfish start to actively feed around the winter cold fronts that blow through the state. You may need to wear some foul-weather gear, but the payoff is a double-digit day with sails —you could catch anywhere from 10 to 30 or more fish on a single outing.

“My favorite condition is right after a cold front in a good north wind,” says Miller. “The sailfish actually surf down the face of the waves and you can sight fish for them.”

bass to billfish

Fishing Florida’s Sailfish Tournaments

There's a sailfish tournament just about every weekend somewhere in Miami from December through April. These events are a great way to meet other active anglers and compete with some of the best fishing teams in the state. You can also win a big, six-figure payday.

“For anyone that wants to start fishing tournaments, I'd say practice makes perfect,” says Peter Miller who has won several tournaments in Florida fishing on the Get Lit. “Go out there consistently and ask lots of questions. Go to seminars, watch videos online and practice, practice, practice.”

Just about all of the tournaments have a basic entry fee and then several optional jackpots. To get into the big payouts, you have to enter all of the various daily jackpots.

“When starting out, don't go into the big bets, start slow and work your way up,” Miller says.

Miami Sailfish Tournaments

Sailfish Kickoff:, (305) 461-2700

Mayor's Cup:, (305) 461-2700

Yamaha-Contender Miami Billfish:, (305) 598-2525

Capt. Bob Lewis Challenge:, (786) 395-0395

The Sailfish Challenge:, (954) 725-4010