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FISHING
FIELD GUIDE - BAIT FISH
Bill Fish

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Fishing Forum

The Bill Fish

Swordfish
Blue Marlin
White Marlin
Hatchet Marlin
Longbill Spearfish
Sailfish

From a sportfishing standpoint, Billfishes are the true kings of the open sea. They are not only among the fastest of all fishes, but also the most spectacular in the battles they wage against the latest in sophisticated boats and tackle, handled by the most experienced of anglers and crews. Moreover, two of our Billfishes - Blue Marlin and Swordfish - also rank among the largest fish in the sea, being surpassed only certain sharks and matched only by the Giant Bluefin Tuna. White Marlin, Sailfish and Spearfish are lightweights by comparison, but are even more acrobatic than their larger cousins and are equally esteemed - if matched to suitable tackle. Sailfish from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans are actually the same species, though sails in the Pacific oceans are actually the same species, though sails in the Pacific grow a good bit larger. One Billfish covered here - the Hatchet Marlin - is not yet accepted by science as a separate species, although several catches have been authenticated from the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic. Opinion is divided as to whether the Hatchet Marlin is a new type or simply a variation of the White Marlin.

Back To The Fish Species Directory Index

Fish Species brought to you in association with Wickstrom Publishers Inc.
Excerpts from the book Sport Fish of Florida a must for every tackle box and boat in and around Florida waters!!! Get your copy now!! Other great titles include Baits, Rigs & Tackle!

Swordfish (Xiphias gladius)

Swordfish - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: Broadbill, Swordfish, Pez Espada
RANGE: All deep ocean waters of Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
HABITAT: The deep sea.
DESCRIPTION: A chunky and powerfully built fish with a high, crescent-shaped dorsal fin and broadly forked tail. The pectoral fins are also large and lunate. The distinguishing feature, however, is the huge bill or sword - much longer and wider than the bills of Marlins and Sailfish. The eye is also very large. Color is mostly dark brown to purple, with whitish undersides.
SIZE: Historically, from 100 to more than 1,000 pounds; however, relentless and virtually unregulated commercial longline fishing has lowered the average to well under 50 pounds. World record 1,182 pounds; Florida record 612 pounds, 4 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Among the very best, which is helping skid the species toward oblivion.
GAME QUALITIES: Not as wild or acrobatic as the Blue Marlin, but an equally powerful and rugged fighter that can get off some spectacular jumps on occasion.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Although big fish are now rare, Swordfish are hooked so seldom that anyone who fishes for them is advised to use at least 50-pound line, matched to good ocean tackle. The best Swordfish bait always has been a large, rigged natural squid, but rigged baitfishes can work. During the 1970s, many Swordfish topping 400 pounds were caught by sportsmen, who fished by choice on calm nights, mostly during the summer, but also during good weather in fall and winter, and generally deployed two or more baits at different depths. The majority of strikes came at 100 feet or deeper.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Drifting.

Blue Marlin (Makaira nigricans)

Blue Marlin - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: Aguja Azul
RANGE: All deep blue offshore waters of Florida, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
HABITAT: A free-roamer that is best fished where bait is most plentiful ญญ- along weed lines; around schools of small tuna and other pelagic baitfishes; in areas where seamounts or other sub-surface structure creates up wellings and current; sharp bottom contours; temperature changes.
DESCRIPTION: Coloration varies a great deal. Most common phase is dark blue, almost black on the dorsal surface, shading to whitish. Usually, several vertical stripes are noticeable. Early in the 20th century, these variations led anglers to believe several species were involved. Science eventually determined that the Black and Striped Marlins are strictly Pacific species and that a Silver Marlin is non-existent. The Blue, however, is found in both hemispheres. The feature that distinguishes the Blue from others is the pointed dorsal fin that curves sharply downward. The anal fin and pectoral fins also are pointed.
SIZE: From about 150 pounds to 500; not rare over 500. World record 1,402 pounds; Florida record 980 pounds.
FOOD VALUE: Good, but normally released by sportsmen; protected from sale in North Atlantic.
GAME QUALITIES: Best of all for speed, power and jumping ability.
TACKLE AND BAITS: While many Blues have been caught on lighter outfits, the standard is a good balanced ocean trolling outfit in the 5-pound or even 80-pound line class. Marlin baits fall into three categories: 1. Artificial trolling lures; 2. Live, fairly large baitfish, such as school Dolphin or Bonito; and 3. Rigged natural baits, such as Mullet, Mackerel, Bonito, Barracuda, extra-large Ballyhoo ("Horse Ballyhoo"). Lures are used most often, because they allow more ocean to be covered. In somewhat limited areas, such as along weedlines or around seamounts and other well-established grounds, live bait is usually preferred.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Trolling; sometimes Drifting.

White Marlin (Tetrapturus albidus)

White Marlin - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: Spikefish, Aguja Blanco
RANGE: Blue ocean water off all Florida coasts and throughout the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
HABITAT: Like the Blue Marlin, a roamer of the open sea, and sought by anglers wherever feeding conditions or temperatures are most favorable.
DESCRIPTION: Similar in color to the Blue Marlin but proportionately lighter in body; Whites can be distinguished from small Blues by the rounded tips of dorsal, anal and pectoral fins.
SIZE: Averages 40-70 pounds; 100-pounders not too uncommon; maximum less than 200. World record 181 pounds, 14 ounces; Florida record 161 pounds.
FOOD VALUE: Good but commercially protected and seldom eaten by sportsmen.
GAME QUALITIES: Probably the most aerial-minded of our Billfishes, but with plenty of stamina as well.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Light ocean trolling or heavy spinning outfits with lines up to 30-pound test; 12- and 20-pound lines are tops for sport. Anglers targeting White Marlin usually choose rigged trolling baits, such as Ballyhoo, strips or squid. They will, of course, eagerly strike live Blue Runners, Goggle-eyes and similar baitfish caught are considered standard Sailfish baits. Artificial trolling lures also take many Whites.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Trolling; sometimes Drifting.

Hatchette Marlin (Tetrapturus sp.)

Hatchet Marlin - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

RANGE: Rare everywhere. The few examples have come mostly from the Gulf of Mexico, but at least one suspected Hatchet Marlin was caught off Dade County and others have been reported in past years from Cuba. If it is truly a species, it probably occurs wherever Atlantic Marlins are found.
HABITAT: The open seas.
DESCRIPTION: The Hatchet Marlin may simply be a variant of the White Marlin, but a difference in the scales lends credence to the belief that it might be a distinct species. The scales are round, whereas those of the other Marlins are pointed. Coloration is similar to the other Marlins, but closer to the White than to the Blue in body proportions. The name comes from the dorsal fin, which does not dip in the manner of the Blue and White, but tapers gradually to the rear, outlining a fin that's intermediate in size between those of the other Marlins and the Sailfish.
SIZE: Uncertain; possibly to 200 pounds or more.
FOOD VALUE: If you catch one, save it for science!
GAME QUALITIES: Probably same as the White.
TACKLE AND BAITS: See White Marlin or Sailfish.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Trolling.

Longbill Spearfish (Tetrapturus pfluegeri)

Longbill Spearfish - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: Atlantic Spearfish
RANGE: Deep waters off all Florida coasts, plus the Bahamas and Caribbean. not common anywhere.
HABITAT: The open seas.
DESCRIPTION: The name "Longbill" relates only to other Spearfishes occurring in different areas. Actually, the bill is quite short when compared to that of the Sailfish or White Marlin. Color usually is navy blue above; silvery on the sides and underparts. The dorsal fin is pointed at the front but dips only slightly and remains high for its full length - although not nearly high enough to mistake this species for a Sailfish.
SIZE: Usually 20-40 pounds; may reach 75 or more. World record 94 pounds, 12 ounces; Florida record 61 pounds, 8 ounces.
FOOD VALUE: Probably good but should be released.
GAME QUALITIES: Similar to Sailfish.
TACKLE AND BAITS: See Sailfish and White Marlin. Spearfish cannot be targeted and most catches are incidental to those fisheries.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Trolling.

Sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus)

Sailfish - The Outdoor Lodge Fish Species

OTHER NAMES: Atlantic Sailfish, Spindlebeak, Pez Vela
RANGE: All Florida coasts; Bahamas; Caribbean Islands. Most plentiful along Florida's Atlantic side from roughly Fort Pierce through the Keys.
HABITAT: Like the other Billfishes, the Sailfish is considered an ocean species, but generally can be found closer to land than the rest, seeming to prefer areas where coral reefs and/or freshwater runoffs mingle with ocean water. At times, particularly in Southeast Florida, the Sailfish comes right into the surf and quite a few have been caught over the years from beaches and piers.
DESCRIPTION: Upper surfaces usually dark blue to black; silvery below; vertical stripes often visible on sides.
SIZE: Averages 30-60 pounds, but many under 30 pounds and a few up to 100 pounds are also taken. Potential maximum is less than 150 pounds in the Atlantic Ocean. World record 221 pounds; Florida record 116 pounds.
FOOD VALUE: Very good broiled or smoked, and should be kept if inadvertently killed. Protected commercially.
GAME QUALITIES: Unsurpassed in its size range for combined strength and spectacle.
TACKLE AND BAITS: Light ocean trolling or heavy spinning outfits with lines up to 30-pound test; 12- and 20-pound lines are adequate in experienced hands and provide great sport. In Southeast Florida, live-baiting - either by kite fishing or flatline drifting - has become perhaps the most popular approach to sailfishing, with Blue Runners, Goggle-eyes, Pilchards or Pinfish being the common offerings. Historically, most Sailfishing has been done with rigged trolling baits, mainly Ballyhoo and strips of Bonito or other small fish. Many Sailfish have been caught on jigs and on drifted Ballyhoo/jig combinations. Fly casters have also taken them on occasion, but Atlantic sails do not decoy as readily as their Pacific counterparts and so fly fishing for them has not become very popular - despite the fact that science has proclaimed the Sailfish of both oceans to be the same species.
FISHING SYSTEMS: Occasionally Casting; Drifting; Trolling.

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