Billfish: Regulations & Limits

Updated on July 19, 2022

Billfish Regulations, Limits, & Seasons

The regulations and limits for billfish can vary quite a bit from one location to another. Its important to know the regulations where you plan to fish to make sure you’re always following the rules. These limits have been set to make sure that these prized fish continue to have healthy populations and allows anglers to pursue them for generations.

What are Billfish

Billfish is the general name used to describe pelagic species that have a distinct spear-shaped bill attached to their upper jaw. These fish include sailfish, swordfish, marlin, and spearfish which can be found in the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans. These predatory fish are typically found miles offshore near the 100-fathom curve, continental shelf, or Gulf Stream Current. The extended distances and deeper water that comes with targeting these fish require specialized techniques to catch them.

Billfish Regulations Sailfish Fishing Charters

Federal Vs State Waters

In the Gulf of Mexico, state waters extend out to nine miles from shore and in some places billfish can be caught that close. Federal waters on the Atlantic Coast start at just three miles offshore, which makes it nearly impossible to target these massive predatory fish. To make things simple we have only included the state water limits for the Gulf states along with the federal water limits which apply to both Gulf and Atlantic waters.

Federal Water Billfish Limits for The Atlantic & Gulf of Mexico

While fishing in federal waters in the Gulf or Atlantic, the minimum size for a blue marlin is 99 inches. For white marlin and roundscale spearfish, the minimum required size to harvest is 66 inches. Sailfish have a slightly smaller minimum size requirement of 63inches but none of these species have a bag limit. Swordfish have their own unique set of rules for recreational anglers in federal waters. The minimum size for swordfish is 47 inches measured from the lower-jaw to the fork of the tail or 25 inches from the cleithrum to the caudal keel. The daily bag limits for anglers on a charter boat are one fish per person or six fish per vessel whichever is less.

Federal Water Billfish Regulations

Recreational fishing boats in the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico are limited to a combined 250 fish per year consisting of blue marlin, white marlin, and roundscale spearfish. Additionally billfish are not allowed to be harvested if a whiptail or hammerhead shark is already on board.

Unlike many fish managed by NOAA, billfish can be gutted at sea, but must be landed whole with body parts intact. To encourage good conservation practices, NOAA Fisheries promotes catch and release of billfish and any fish that is not intended to be harvest is required to be released without leaving the water.

Billfish Regulations in State water

Texas Billfish Limits

The Minimum length requirement for marlin in Texas is 131 inches for blue marlin and 86 inches for white marlin. Sailfish are required to have a minimum length of 84 inches to harvest while swordfish and spearfish have no limits.

Louisiana Billfish Limits

The Minimum length requirement for marlin in Louisiana is 99 inches for blue marlin and 66 inches for white marlin. Sailfish are required to have a minimum length of 63 inches while spearfish have no size requirement. While fishing for swordfish, the minimum length requirement is 29 inches of carcass length or 33 pounds dressed weight and no more than 5 per vessel. There is no defined bag limits for billfish in Louisiana

Mississippi Billfish Limits

The Minimum length requirement for marlin in Mississippi is 99 inches for blue marlin and 66 inches for white marlin. Sailfish are required to have a minimum length of 63 inches while spearfish have no size requirement. While fishing for swordfish, the minimum length requirement is 47 inches. There is no defined bag limits for billfish in Mississippi.

Florida Billfish Limits

The minimum length requirement for blue marlin in Florida is 99 inches and 66 inches for white marlin and spearfish. Sailfish are required to have a minimum length of 63 inches while spearfish have no size requirement. While fishing for swordfish, the minimum length requirement is 47 inches. While fishing for swordfish the minimum size requirement is 47 inches for the lower jaw the fork of the tail or 25 inches from the cleithrum to keel. The bag limit for billfish is set at one fish per person but for charter boats, harvest cannot exceed 6 per vessel. Regardless of the length of the trip, no more than the daily limit may be possessed on board a vessel.

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