Sailfish is one of the hard-to-get game fish usually sought after by the hardest and challenge seeking anglers. They are found in the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Pacific. Sailfish are mostly caught for sport and not as food, but if you want to, can you eat Sailfish?
Yes, Sailfish is edible. They are quite balanced in terms of nutrition. Sailfish meat contains a reasonable amount of protein, fatty acids, and a healthy ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6. They also taste good, although it is subjective.
But two main things that may keep you from eating them are the federal conservation law and the mercury level in the fish.
Mercury pollution is nothing unique to Sailfish. Sailfish is strictly carnivorous. Like other predatory fish, they also get exposed to a larger amount of mercury. So, consuming Sailfish regularly could be harmful to health.
But it’s a debatable topic. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. If you want to taste Sailfish, here’s what you need to know.
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Sailfish is a predatory fish that roams in the colder oceans. They are the fastest fish in the water overshadowing swordfish slightly. They can grow up to 10 feet in length, including the bill, and the bill is usually a quarter of their whole length.
Sailfish look similar to swordfish, which is why many people confuse Sailfish with swordfish. But they are not the same fish. Sailfish have the iconic sail-like dorsal fin on their back that the swordfish lack.
Sailfish is also smaller and has a scale-like protrusion, whereas swordfish’s’ skin is smooth. Considering many anglers mess up the terminology often, if you land a catch and are not sure whether it is Sailfish or swordfish, take a look at the dorsal fin.
If it is similar, or at least close to most other fishes, it is a swordfish. But if the dorsal fin is way too big, tall, and spans over nearly the whole backside of fish, it is a sailfish.
Where To Find Them?
Sailfish being a deep-sea creature, the deep sea is where you will need to venture. Although they do travel to shallow water during the breeding season, you are not going to be able to fish for them at that time. So, your best bet is traveling far from shore.
Sailfish roams and hunts in moderate or colder water. If you are from the US, your best bet is to sail off the coast of the Florida Keys and South Florida. Those two are not only the hottest spots of the US for Sailfish but also among the remarkable spots around the whole world.
Outside of the US, Phuket of Thailand; Kuala Rompin beach of Malaysia; Isla Mujeres of Mexico; Off the coast of Exmouth, Australia; Costa Rica, and Panama are some of the hottest locations where you can find them easily and catch them.
Health Concerns Related To Sailfish?
The main health concern regarding Sailfish is metal pollution. Heavy metal such as Lead, Mercury, Nickel, and such tends to get absorbed into the tissue. When another animal eats a prey contaminated with such metals, the metals get transferred to the hunter’s body. So, the more an animal hunts, the more metal it collects in its tissues.
Sailfish, being strictly carnivorous, end up collecting a large sum of such metals. There is a debate, though, about the amount of mercury collected on them on average, whether it concerns health or not. Most agree that the amount of mercury is not outright lethal, but everyone agrees that limited consumption is all fine.
As long as you are not dining on Sailfish regularly, you will be fine. A meal or two every month is the hard limit. Your body should be able to process the mercury preventing it from collecting excessively.
What Does Sailfish Taste Like?
Sailfish taste is comparable to the taste Tuna fish; it’s pretty similar. Like Tuna, it’s quite meaty & firm. But unlike other pelagic fish such as Wahoo and Mahi Mahi, it has a stronger fishy flavor. So, most people like to smoke them or grill them. But sailfish meat lacks the rich flavor and mildness of Tuna and swordfish.
Should You Eat Sailfish?
Even if the Sailfish taste good, should you eat them? Yes, it has health concerns regarding metal pollution, mercury mainly. But limited and infrequent meals are enough to counteract that issue. But there are other things you should know.
Sailfish is under the supervision of NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration). So, hunting Sailfish in the American water is prohibited with some exceptions. You are free to hunt and eat Sailfish from the state water, which is up to 3 nautical miles from the shore.
You can catch a sailfish between 3 and 200 nautical miles, as long as it is for sport and without any intention of keeping it. You are to release it immediately unless the fish is gravely injured. Even if it is and is destined to die, you can keep it, but you will need to inform the incident to NOAA immediately.
Catching the Sailfish is troublesome as it is. So, if you are to go through all the troubles of finding, catching, and then investigation of NOAA, you can eat Sailfish.
The Cooking Process Of Sailfish
Although the fishy flavor is annoying to many, proper cooking techniques can help mitigate it. The best serving methods for Sailfish are frying, smoking, or grilling. This way, the fishy flavor gets masked, but the meat retains the original flavor.
Straight-up baking is not the best way to cook Sailfish because the smell can get overwhelming. If you haven’t had sailfish meat before, you should not start from a baked sailfish meal. Chances are, it will discourage you and leave an unpleasant memory behind.
The most popular cooking method is smoking. Just skin and fillet the meat, add proper seasoning, and smoke or grill the fish. That way, the majority of the fishy or meaty smell gets masked. The meat itself has a distinct lingering flavor which the meat retains well enough even after smoking or grilling.
Although Sailfish fish is edible, fishermen cherish it not for its taste but for the excitement of catching it. With its enormous strength, unbreakable persistence, and super-fast swimming speed, Sailfish put a tough challenge to catch them.
And that is why most people seek after them. It is not strictly forbidden to catch or even eat Sailfish, and they are not endangered as a species, but they are under supervision in many countries and states.
You can keep the fish and eat them as well if the fish dies during the fight or gets gravely injured so much that it is unlikely to survive. But trading or business of other kinds with the Sailfish is prohibited.
There is one exception to all these. Suppose you can manage a special permit such as an HMS permit. State water is free for all to begin with, but with an HMS permit, you can fish for all kinds of billfish and other migratory fish from the federal water as well. But what will happen if you get caught without a fishing license?
To wrap things up, if you really want, there are ways of eating Sailfish legally, and they do indeed taste good.