Winter Sailfish Adventures

Sailfish on Fly

Sailfish are present in the Durban waters all year round, and whilst it is common knowledge that they are here in the summer, especially at the end of summer and the beginning of Autumn with April being a prime month for targeting Sailfish especially with small konas and feathers.

It is not common knowledge that Sailfish are present in Durban waters during the colder months and in these colder months is when we have hooked up the larger Sailfish with May, June, July and even August being the months that the larger species have been caught, usually leading up to the sardine time.

 The biggest Sailfish ever caught on my boat was caught in June with an estimated weight of 70Kg in the shallows in 22m of water, this fish was 3.57m long from lower bill to tail fork and was released successfully, we have also had multiple Sailfish hook ups in these colder months.

Just like with Yellowfin Tuna, the Sailfish also come in closer into the shallows during these colder months and will hang in the general area around the bait spots. These areas can be easily identified as one will more than likely see Cape Gannets diving in the general area. This gives one a huge advantage as one does not need to cover large areas like in the summer months.

Various methods have been successful during the colder months, and whilst small konas and feathers are not effective like they are in summer, strip baits and dead baits are more productive and one can often hook a Sailfish on a Couta Trace rigged with a pink duster or a drift sardine bait; my preference is towards small strip baits with belly shine from Bonito rigged with a pink Couta duster.

Another method that has been very productive has been trolling Rapala X-Rap Slash Baits in size 14 (SXR 14) which is a shallow runner that runs just below the surface.

The coloSailfish on Rapalaurs that have I have found to be most effective are Silver/Blue Mackerel which is by far my first choice, along with Blue Sardine, Glass Ghost and Silver. 

Live bait is by far the most effective method in winter and I have found 2 different ways to rig these live baits that are effective. An average sized Mackerel (Not Mozzie) is by far the choice live bait to target Sailfish with and if they are close to your boat one can get a hook up almost as soon as the bait hits the water.

Shad, Mozzies, Small Bonnies, Red Eye Sardine and even Sand Soldiers (When desperate) have also all hooked up Sailfish but a Mackerel is the real deal.


The first method is very simple as one simply rigs a VMC live bait hook or VMC Circle hook through the nose of the Mackerel and let it swim out on free spool whilst the boat is drifting. I like to use a 0.9mm Suffix Flouro-carbon or Zippy leader tied directly to the hook with a small loop to allow the hook to swing free.


The second method is to make a very light wire trace with Malin no. 2 wire and use one VMC 4/0 live bait hook through the nose as the leading hook and a VMC 1/0 3X Treble as the training hook through the back of the fish, as the treble is going through the back a black hook must be used to match the dark colour. Silver hooks are used when going through the belly where the fish is sliver.

The trace must be about 500mm long and a pink Couta duster sliding on the wire. Here I prefer to use Suffix 0.7mm Flouro-carbon or Zippy as a leader.

Depending on current one can free spool in normal conditions or one can down rig this in a strong current or one can send it out with a balloon when the current is slow to set the depth.

Typically one will fish with 20-30lb main line to keep it light; reels that I have used are Shimano TLD 25, Torium 30 and Tyrnos 30. My rod of choice still remains the Tiagra 5’6” 20/30 stand up. Tight Lines till next time!

 Sailfish on Strip Bait