Home Fishing Tips & Advice How Fast Can a Sailfish Swim?

How Fast Can a Sailfish Swim?

It is very difficult to measure just how fast any fish can swim accurately so they rely on rough estimates. For a sailfish, that rough estimate is 60 mph to 110 mph, and maybe even faster. There is a recording of an angler hooking a sailfish and within three seconds, it had reeled out 300 feet of that angler’s line.

The sailfish belong to the billfish family and in this family are other speed racers; swordfish, tuna, marlin, and wahoo. But the sailfish, according to some records, is the second-fastest swimmer with the Black Marlin being the fastest.

What Makes the Sailfish Swim so Fast?

One of the things that make it swim so fast is its musculature; it has a lot of white muscle which is great for acceleration. Unfortunately, the sailfish’s white muscle is not built for stamina. The white muscle is boosted along the flanks by blocks of red muscle.

Red muscle needs more oxygen but they are good for sustaining its fast swimming. The heat that is produced by the red muscles is retained by a network of blood vessels. It makes the sailfish’s blood warmer than the water it is in. The warm blood is then channeled to the brain to help it hunt by letting it spot and chase any prey in colder water at deeper depths.

They are still trying to figure out the exact function of the big dorsal or ‘sail’ fin. Some think it helps with fast turning maneuvers. In addition to it being a fast swimmer, it was recorded as leaping out of the water at 91 meters in a little over three seconds.

Where Can You Find Sailfish?

Sailfish are found in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and have different names according to where they are found. In the Atlantic Ocean, they are called Istiophorus Platypeterus and in the Pacific Ocean, they are called Istiophorus Albicans. Scientists believe they are the same species with the only difference being their size and the ocean they live in. In the Pacific, they can grow up to ten feet and they prefer to live in warmer waters with temperatures around 79 degrees F.

Sailfish Diet and Growth

Although they prefer to eat tuna, jacks, mackerels, and other fish that swim near the ocean’s surface, they will also eat squid and flying fish. There have been divers that have seen several sailfish working together to corral their prey. They used their high fins as a wall to keep the smaller fish from getting away and to scare them into forming denser, smaller groups. The sailfish have also been seen to use their sharp, long bills to skewer and stun their prey. There are photographs of them hunting in groups.

Studies done to examine their growth rate found that after the female lays her eggs, they will hatch in only 36 hours. In one year, the hatchlings can grow up to six feet in length. On average, the sailfish can grow to six to eight feet but some can get as large as ten feet.

Other Fast Fish 

In addition to the sailfish, there are many other fast-swimming fish in the ocean, with many of them being in the same family, or genus, as the sailfish.

  • Black Marlin — the swimming speed of this fish is recorded as high as 129 mph. It is found in the Indian and Pacific oceans. This is the largest of all marlins.
  • Swordfish — the swimming speed has been recorded as 97 mph. They are a highly predatory fish and can be found deep in the sea or on the surface. They like the tropical regions of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. 
  • Striped Marlin — their maximum speed is 80 mph and they can be found in the temperate and tropical regions of the Indo-Pacific Ocean
  • Wahoo — they live in the subtropical and tropical waters around the world and have a swimming speed of 78 mph.
  • Yellowfin Tuna — their recorded swimming speed is 76 mph but of all tuna species, the average speed is 80 mph. Their speed of swimming is due to their tails that travel at astonishing speeds. This is one of the largest among the tuna species. They are mostly found in the mid-ocean islands like the Caribbean, volcanic islands of the Atlantic Ocean, and the Hawaiian archipelago. 
  • Shortfin Mako Shark — among the shark species, this is the fastest shark in the world and has an average speed of 72 mph. You will find this species of shark offshore temperate and tropical seas and oceans globally. 
  • Bluefin Tuna — it is found in the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean and its swimming speed is 70 mph
  • Blue Shark — you can find this shark in the deep waters of the tropical and temperate oceans. Their swimming speed is 69 mph
  • Bonefish — this is found in the inshore shallow waters of the tropics and it has a swimming speed of 64 mph.

Learn more about one of the fastest fishes in the ocean here.


Although this is the second-fastest swimming fish that can swim 60 mph to 110 mph, there is still a lot that scientist do not know about this fish so scientist is studying this fish to see if they can figure out the reason why the tail fin, why is it so fast, and how did it get to be so fast?

In time, scientists may have these answers but at the time, we know that the sailfish is not the only fast swimmer occupying the oceans of the world. The top ten fastest swimming fish, including the sailfish, have average speeds ranging from 64 mph to 129 mph, which is pretty fast swimming.

Due to its fast swimming and amazing jumping heights, the sailfish is a prized sporting fish but due to their low number, most request that you now do a catch and release after you have your picture taken with it. The high jumps and fast speed will make the angler work for the right to haul it on the boat. Over time, the list will probably change but for now, the sailfish holds the second spot on the fastest fish swimming list.