Billfish: The Great Saltwater Sport

Are you looking for a new angling adventure? If you live near saltwater and have an offshore boat, why not try billfish?

These impressive predators create a challenging sport and the thrill of a lifetime. This is the one type of fish you’ll never forget. 

Before you get started, let’s learn more about billfish, what they are, and how you can catch them.


“Billfish” is essentially a catchall term used to describe the large, fast, sleek, long-nosed saltwater predators. This term includes all types of marlins, swordfish, and sailfish. They are characterized by their sleek, streamlined bodies and long snouts, which they use to disorient prey. For recreational anglers, these fish are often caught for sport alone, and released once a photo has been taken and measurements have been made.

Although the various species and subspecies of billfish will have different ranges, they are most often found in warm, clear waters, usually at deeper depths in the open ocean.

The term “billfish” is used to describe numerous fish, although only 12 species are considered true billfish. Other animals with long noses like the paddlefish, sawfish, and needlefish are not considered billfish by most angler.


There are 12 different types of billfish, and most of them are a type of marlin or sailfish. For the purpose of this article, we’ll talk about three of the most important: the Atlantic blue marlin, the Atlantic sailfish, and the swordfish.

Atlantic Blue Marlin

This is the largest billfish in the world, reaching impressive sizes over 1,000 pounds, making them a highly sought-after trophy. They are found throughout the Atlantic Ocean, from southern Africa to the eastern coasts of Canada.

Atlantic Sailfish


Perhaps the most visually stunning of all billfish, the sailfish has a large dorsal fin that they use to corral schools of prey. They actually have the ability to change the colors of their dorsal fin, making them even more stunning to witness.



The swordfish is one of the most adaptable and hearty of all billfish, making it a common target for anglers across the globe. Like all billfish, they prefer warm waters, however, the swordfish is capable of handling water temperatures right above freezing. The nose of this fish is longer proportionally than any other billfish.


So, are you thinking about going after one of these impressive species? While strategies, tackle, season, and techniques will depend in the specific type of billfish you want to pursue, there are some general tips and tricks you should remember.

First of all, you’ll have to go offshore, as these fish are often found miles out from the coast. While you won’t have to fish at great depths, you will have to put some distance between yourself and the docks.

These types of fish are often caught on live bait, so finding bait pods is essential. You can look for bait pods by scanning the water, keeping an eye out for a silvery mass among the ocean blue. One of the best strategies is to look for predatory birds who will be feeding on pods near the surface.

You can also use artificial lure to catch marlin and other billfish. Large, flashy, vibrating lures will often trigger a strike, and many anglers will set out lines and troll the waters, covering a large area in the hopes of coming across a marlin, swordfish, or sailfish.

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