The sailfish and the swordfish are saught by anglers looking for the thrill of catching powerful billfish. Anglers catch both types of billfish in the offshore waters of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. While the two are in the same family, they are significantly different from each other. Understand the difference between sailfish and swordfish. 

What Is The Range Of The Sailfish and Swordfish

The range of the sailfish and swordfish is similar. Anglers catch the sailfish and swordfish off the coast of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina.


The sailfish has a smaller range when compared to the swordfish on the east coast. Anglers catch sailfish between New York and South Florida, but the most robust populations are on the southern end. 


Along the east coast of the United States and Canada, the swordfish ranges between South Florida and up to Novia Scotia. 

Is Sailfish The Same As Swordfish

Despite the two fish being part of the billfish family, the sailfish and the swordfish are significantly different. Learn the difference between the two fish. 

Sailfish Identification

Sailfish are the easiest billfish to identify. There is no mistaking a sailfish from another billfish. Much like the name implies, the fish boasts a beautiful and large sail-shaped dorsal fin.  

The sail is brilliant blue, with black spots scattered about each side. Below the dorsal fin is a deep blue, which fades to yellow and silver on the belly. When the fish is excited, black vertical lines appear along each side of the body. 

In regards to size, the average-sized fish ranges between 30 and 60 pounds. However, sailfish exceed 100 pounds. 

Swordfish Identification

Unlike the sailfish, the bill or sword of a swordfish is broad. The wide-angle of the bill is unique to all varieties of billfish, including marlin and spearfish. 

Don’t let the size of the eyes catch you off guard. They are enormous in size. Swordfish are equipped with a forked tail to propel the massive fish. The body coloration ranges from brown to purple on the upper half before fading to white along the belly. 

The swordfish exceeds 1,000 pounds, but the most common catches range between 50 and 200 pounds. 

Is Sailfish Good Eating

Sailfish are not good eating. The fillets of a sailfish are firm, meaty, and described as having a fishy taste. 

A sailfish that’s killed inadvertently should not go to waste if it falls within legal parameters per the state’s regulations. The best method for preparing sailfish is to smoke the flesh and create a fish dip.

Are Swordfish Good Eating

Most would agree that the swordfish is the best tasting billfish. The most common method for filleting a swordfish is forming steaks. 

The white meat is mild and sweet and, as a result, is prepared in a multitude of ways. Grilling is the most popular cooking method for fresh swordfish. Avoid overcooking the flesh to prevent the meat from becoming dry. 

What Methods Are Used To Catch Sailfish And Swordfish

Unfortunately, different gear is utilized for catching both sailfish and swordfish. The two fish feed in different levels of the water column, and the size difference between them is significant. 

What Size Rod And Reels Are Necessary

Anglers targeting sailfish are best suited to cast live baits with heavy spinning outfits or troll with baits with light trolling combinations. Considering the fish feeds at the surface, avoid purchasing and using lead weights. 

Break out the heavy gear for swordfish. A 50 sized trolling reel is required for hand-cranking swordfish. During the evening hours hand reel swordfish because they are closer to the surface.  However, when the fish are deep, consider electric deep drop rod and reel combos in the daytime. 

What Bait And Rigs Work To Catch Sailfish And Swordfish

Despite each belonging to the billfish family, the sail fishing and swordfishing techniques are significantly different. 

Sailfish are primarily surface feeders who chase rigged baits trolled behind a boat, including ballyhoo behind a skirt. However, live bait is equally as effective. Kite fishing methods or drifting live goggleyes on a circle hook entice sailfish to bite. 

The swordfish feeds suspended in deep offshore waters or along the seafloor. When it comes to locating swordfish find deep canyons or rapid depth contours in water over 800 feet deep. Rigged squid is preferable and drifted at varying levels. During the daylight hours, fish deep along the bottom. When the sun sets, raise the squid higher in the water column 

Should You Go Fishing For Sailfish and Swordfish in South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia

Anglers should make the run offshore to catch sailfish and swordfish. However, catching swordfish and sailfish on the same trip would be highly unlikely. The fishing methods differ significantly. Due to the long runs, consider hiring a fishing charter. Boats equipped with twin engines and constructed to handle rough seas are suitable for heading into the blue water. Lastly, purchase a saltwater fishing license and follow the state’s regulations to avoid keeping undersized fish.