Miami Sailfishing Season has Arrived

Miami Sailfish Thrashing on the Surface

A Miami Sailfish Rocketing Across the Surface

The sailfish have finally arrived in force off the coast of Miami. Our last few trips have produced multiple double header sailfish hookups, delighting anglers with spectacular aerial displays and blistering battles. Pilchards, threadfin herring, and cigar minnows are readily available at the bug light and both our morning and afternoon 1/2 day fishing trips have been very successful.

On the 28th of December Dustin, an Iraq War veteran from Michigan, joined us to catch his first Miami Sailfish. The morning started out slow, producing a single 12lb amberjack. It was difficult to find current strong south of Fowey, but we heard a few scattered reports of sailfish to the North, with one report of a quad hookup off Miami Beach. With no bites to show for three drifts, we motored North and set up in 190′ off the Sea Buoy. After our first drift produced nothing, we moved slightly to the south and were finally rewarded with a double header sailfish hookup! With Dustin being the only angler on board, our mate had to jump in on the action.

Airborne Miami Sailfish off Key Biscayne

Carlos and Dustin Hooked up on Miami Sailfish

Tailwalking Sailfish off Key Biscayne

These fish would just not quit! The strength and stamina of Miami Sailfish never ceases to amaze me.  While the larger fish tend to make a dash for the horizon, the smaller specimens are clearly more agile and dance repeatedly in an effort to spit the hook. Dustin’s fish made it to the boat first and with a quick grab of the leader it was official. We turned the fish loose to fight another day.

Dustin with his first Miami Sailfish

Dustin with his first Miami Sailfish

Capt Charlie Ellis Releasing a Miami Sailfish off Key Biscayne


Carlos fought his fish for another 15 minutes before we could grab the leader and snap a few quick release photos. With a strong East wind, we had drifted in to about 90′ by the time we turned the Sail loose! Most of our bites have been between 180′ and 200′ the last few days…any trace of current seems to be where the fish are moving. The bite seems to be North of Key Biscayne for the most part, but sailfish are highly migratory and that could change in a matter of hours.

Fortunately for us, that wasn’t case on the 29th of December when our favorite junior angler joined us for a 1/2 day sailfishing trip. While we were prepping the boat at the marina – all we heard on the radio were groans and moans about the slow morning bite.  Most charter boats fishing off the Monument Buoy and Fowey were coming up empty handed, which was not inspiring to say the least. We left the dock at 1:30 and headed straight for the bug light to load up on big pilchards which have been holding steady there for a few days. Bait wasn’t exactly thick once we arrived, but we did mange to sabiki a few dozen pilchards and one of the fattest cigar minnows i’ve ever seen. I’m mad at myself for not taking a picture of it because its doubtful we’ll ever see one that size again – the cigar minnow probably weighted just under 1/2 lb and was about the size of a small cucumber!

We set up for our first drift in 230′, a bit deeper than we prefer but there was hardly any current and bluewater felt like the right move. Our first drift produced nothing, and with a southeast wind we were being pushed offshore.  We picked up in 250′ and headed in to ~ 190 where we found a trace of current and some sparse grass. We put the monster cigar minnow on the long, a pilchard on the mid, and as we were about to put the short in the water a HUGE sailfish starts tailwalking behind the boat!  We all flip as we realize it’s trying to eat the cucumber size cigar minnow! The tailwalking continued for about four seconds before the bait went flying from its mouth and our hearts sank. Remarkably, the cigar was still alive with a hook in its back…it was our mistake…we had not bridled the monster cigar minnow in our haste to deploy the lines.  🙁

We pulled in the midwater rods and set up again in 200′, just outside the light grass line which ran as far north as we cold see. About 15 minutes of soaking the baits once again and the mid gets slammed! A nice sail erupts behind the boat and starts snaking his way across the surface.  This fish was ferocious and put on one of the most epic aerial displays we’ve seen in a while.  Capt. Todd was quick with the Canon and scored some of the best sailfish pictures of the season.

Classic Miami Sailfish caught while Kite Fishing

Miami Sailfish making a blistering run across the surface

Sideways Miami Sailfish Tailwalking across the surface

Our junior angler and his father took turns fighting this fish for 45 minutes before bringing him boat side. This Miami Sailfish had no quit in it!  Even after the fight, the fish was still thrashing and frisky at the boat! We brought him on board briefly for a quick trophy shot since this was the last sailfish of 2012 and then sent him home carefully, making sure the fish was fully revived.

Miami Sailfish and Contender Logo

Carlos DeFillipi Landing a Miami Sailfish

Constantino, Nicolas, and Carlos with a Miami Sailfish

Constantino Releasing his Miami Sailfish

Constantino Releasing his Miami Sailfish

Another epic day of sailfishing in Miami came to a close and we headed home through Government Cut. As the weather cools, the sailfishing in Miami is heating up. We are stoked for another amazing year on the water and look forward to sharing the Miami Sailfish experience with our friends and customers this coming year.  Now is the best time to catch sailfish in Miami and our schedule for the month of January is filling up fast!

Happy New Year everyone!

Tight Lines,

Capt. C.






Capt. Charlie Ellis

Capt. Charlie Ellis

Captain at Miami Fishing Charters LLC
Capt. Charlie Ellis of Miami, FL has 25 years experience fishing for big game species like Bluefin Tuna, Sailfish, Swordfish, and Sharks. Capt. Charlie is also an avid scuba diver, world traveler, writer, and entrepreneur.
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