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Can You Eat Sailfish?

Sailfish are the fastest fish in the ocean, which means if you catch one, consider yourself a master angler.

a sailfish swimming in the water

If you’ve caught one, then you probably want to know can you eat sailfish, so you know if it’s worth keeping.

The short answer is that sailfish are edible, but you have to have a special permit to pull one from federal waters.

Do People Eat Sailfish?

The short answer is, yes, you can eat sailfish.  Many people around the world do consume sailfish and we’ll give you the details on how to prepare it in this article.

Sailfish on Bait Ball

About Sailfish

The sailfish is a migratory fish and will move to warmer waters if their current habitat gets too cold.

person holding a caught sailfish

It calls the warm regions of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans home, where the waters stay above 79 degrees Fahrenheit.

These fish eat just about any other fish they come across, including flying fish, tuna, mackerels, and more.

key west sailfish

The world record sailfish weighed 110 pounds and was over 10 feet long.

Eating Sailfish

As mentioned earlier, you will have to have a special permit to pull a sailfish from federal waters and keep it to eat.

a sailfish swimming underwater

The permit is called a highly-migratory species or HMS permit and will allow you to fish for billfish (which is the kind of fish a sailfish is) in federal waters.

You do not have to have an HMS permit to fish for billfish in state waters, but sailfish are rarely found outside the oceans.

A giant sailfish presented alongwith other seafood for dinner.

Smoking sailfish is the most common preparation for this fish, but other preparations include frying and baking.

If you have ever eaten fish tacos, you will likely have eaten some sailfish, as its meat is fairly cheap.

a single sailfish underwater

This is also why it is an ingredient in many dog foods as well. Not everyone believes billfish like the sailfish should be eaten, and there are better fish in the sea for dinner, most of which can be readily caught.

Sailfish Flavor

With sailfish, you’re not going to get a consistent flavor, as some of them are very fishy tasting and some are pretty mild.

a sailfish fighting on a fishing line

This could also contribute to its unpopularity as a meal. However, if you prefer fish meat that has a strong flavor, you will probably enjoy sailfish.

It is recommended that you brine your catch in a saltwater solution with salt, pepper, and your choice of herbs and spices to minimize the fishiness of the meat.

a school of sailfish

Smoking a sailfish also disguises the fishy flavor somewhat, so this is why it’s a popular preparation method.

If you brine your sailfish, it’s also good as grilled steaks, in stir fry, or as a component of kebabs.

Sailfish can also be fried or baked, but unless you like a lot of fish flavor, a little bit of meat goes a long way.

sailfish chasing a school of bait

For this reason, sailfish is better as a meal component rather than the entire entree.

Eating Sailfish Raw

Sailfish is eaten raw as ceviche, especially in other countries. As previously mentioned, there is some controversy about whether billfish should be fished at all, so finding it raw in restaurants is rare.

sailfish sashimi
sailfish sashimi

If you do have the proper permit, though, and you want to try sailfish raw, it is commonly served this way and does not present a danger to the consumer.

Again, it will have a stronger fish flavor than most other fish, so keep that in mind.

Final Thoughts

Sailfish is sort of an acquired taste, especially since it has more fish flavor than many other fish.

However, because you can get a lot of meat from just one fish, you can try an assortment of preparations and dishes to determine your personal favorite.

Try it smoked, fried, baked, or in tacos or stir fry before making up your mind about this controversial fish.

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