These species are lesser-known and small members of the Istiophoridae family of billfish, which are also referred to as slender spearfish.
Other NamesLongbill Spearfish
longnose spearfish, Atlantic longbill spearfish; French: makaire becune; Japanese: kuchinaga, kuchi nagafuura; Portuguese: espadim bicudo; Spanish: aguja picuda.
shortnose spearfish; Arabic: kheil; Hawaiian: a’u; Japanese: fûraikajiki.
Tetrapturus belone. French: aguglia impériale; Italian: acura imperiale, aguglia pelerana.
IdentificationThe spearfish can be distinguished from other billfish by a slender, lightweight body; a short bill; and a dorsal fin that is highest anteriorly (higher than in marlin and lower than in the sailfish). The vent is located well in front of the anal fin; in all other billfish, the vent is located close to the anal fin.
The bill of the shortbill spearfish is barely longer than its lower jaw, whereas in the longbill spearfish it is about twice as long, but it is still noticeably
short when compared to those in other billfish. The pectoral fins of the shortbill and the Mediterranean spearfish barely reach to the curve of their lateral lines.
In the longbill spearfish, they extend beyond the curve. The longbill spearfish has more elements (45 to 53) in the first dorsal fin than does any other Atlantic billfish, although it may appear similar to the white marlin. The shortbill spearfish of the Pacific has approximately the same count (47 to 50 elements), but the Mediterranean spearfish has fewer (39 to 46).
The lateral line is single and arches above the pectoral fins. The dorsal fin is bright blue and has no spots. The vertical bars on the body are never as prominent as in other billfish and may show only slightly or not at all.
Size/AgeAvailable data indicate that the longbill spearfish matures by the age of 2 and rarely lives past age 3. The all-tackle world record for the longbill spearfish is a fish of 127 pounds, 13 ounces, and for the Mediterranean spearfish is 90 pounds, 13 ounces.
Food and feeding habitsSpearfish feed at or near the surface, mainly on small and medium-size fish and squid, including on dolphin, sauries, flyingfish, and needlefish.
Distribution/HabitatSpearfish are cosmopolitan, but nowhere are they abundant. They are pelagic, off-shore, deep-water fish that appear to be available all year in small numbers but are infrequently encountered by anglers in most parts of their range.
The longbill spearfish is known to occur in the northwest Atlantic from New Jersey to Venezuela, including the Gulf of Mexico.