Needlefish Fishing Tips

Photo of author
Last Updated:

There are over 32 species of needlefish. Some are referred to as sea gar or long-toms.

Most of these species live in cooler saltwater, and some also venture into freshwater sources.

needlefish fishing tips
Redfin needlefish Florida Fish and Wildlife


The needle-nose is a long, slender fish that fits its namesake. It has elongated upper and lower jaws, which are filled with sharp teeth. The upper jaw is smaller than the lower one, but in some species, the order is reversed.

The fish has a slender and elongated body that is silver on the side and blue to dark green all along the back. Irrespective of the species you catch, you will get a good table fish out of it.

One of the most spread species of this long and slender fish is called the houndfish, which can be found across the globe in warm and temperate waters.

It is quite common in the western Atlantic from New Jersey to Brazil, and in the east Atlantic, it can be found in Japan, Australia, and South Africa. The garfish needlefish can be found in the waters around France and the Canary Islands.

Needlefish Facts

Scientific NameThere several species of needlefish
Common Name(s)Needlefish
Identifying CharacteristicsElongated upper and lower jaws are filled with sharp teeth. The upper jaw is smaller than the lower one. The fish has a slender and elongated body that is silver on the side and blue to dark green all along the back.
Depth Range0 to 3m
Natural HistoryThe location depends on the species of needlefish. Usually, this fish is found across the globe in warm and temperate waters.

Needlefish Habitat

The needlefish or needle fish is distributed across the globe.

Some species inhabit fresh and saltwater sources worldwide. The fish swims close to the surface and hunts smaller fish, crustaceans as well as cephalopods while young ones feed on plankton. If you are fishing for them, make sure you are well protected. Excited schools have been known to leap onboard boats leaving deep puncture wounds on flabbergasted anglers in their wake.

You can find small schools of needlefish on the surface that are defended by males when the fish are feeding. The needle nose fish is a fast predator and usually catches prey with a sharp upward swipe of their head while chomping down with sharp teeth.

How to Catch Needlefish

If you want a great catch, you should fish for giant needlefish rather than the puny variety. These can be found in salt, fresh and brackish water swimming near the top of the water and are considered great sportfish on light tackle. The fish jumps like marlin when they are hooked and put up a vicious fight as well.

how to catch needlefish
If the needlefish are around, they’ll usually go after your bait without regard. cjnoof

The good news is that they are not picky about the bait and will bite almost anything, so you can use both bait and needlefish lures. Yet, to make your job easier, use lures. The fish takes its sweet time mouthing bait before swallowing it and will often tear it apart without getting hooked. Use lures that have tail hooks to snag them firmly.

You can also use shiny spoons and jerk baits such as the Yo-Zuri Crystal Minnow to lure the fish.

Use a lightweight saltwater spinning setup for tackle, and when you hook a needlefish, don’t go near the rocks. Allow the fish to jump around, and it will tire out and throw the hook off itself.

Needlefish Fishing Tactics

  1. If you are fishing for small long skinny fish, use small pieces of squid or fish for bait. Plus, use a treble hook that is small enough to fit in their mouth.
  2. Use Rentex (synthetic microfiber material) to troll for giant needlefish without hooks. The fish gets entangled in the hair-like material easily and cannot escape.
  3. If you use a hook to catch this thin fish, give the line a swift jerk to set it. Plus, make sure it is sharp enough to penetrate the hard jaws.

Quick Tips for Catching Needlefish

  • If you fish for needlenose fish using lures, cast across the current and reel as fast as possible. This fish tends to cruise near the surface for errant bait and prey and will bite.
  • Allow the fish a couple of seconds to gulp the bait, and then pull the rod back when it does. If it feels a strain on the line, it will let go without swallowing it.
  • Make sure the bait does not remain stationary in the water. Needlefish like action rather than drifting dead bait.

Needlefish Seasons

The mating season for this fish with a pointy nose falls between the months of April and May. During this time, the males compete for the females. You can find large needlefish in shallow waters while it is spawning.

How to Clean Needlefish

needlefish recipe
Needlefish ready to be cooked up in Kuala Lumpur. Dennis Hurd
  1. Lay the thin fish on its side on the cutting board.
  2. Make shallow incisions on top of the head right behind the eye and make another one near the anus. Do not cut the fish through.
  3. Grab the head and pull it off the body. The entrails should come out with it.
  4. Place the tip of the fillet knife at the incision you made near the anus and slit the fish to the top where the head was. Repeat with other needlefish you caught.

How to Cook Needlefish

  • Season the long-nosed fish with lime juice and salt.
  • Place 1 cup of all-purpose flour in a paper bag and dredge the fish in it.
  • Shake the excess flour off the fish and lay it on a cookie sheet.
  • Heat 3 cups of vegetable oil in a heavy frying pan and add the fish to the hot oil. Make sure it is not smoking when you place the fish inside.
  • Fry for 10 minutes or till the fish is nice and crispy.
  • Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
  • Serve with lettuce leaves and lime wedges on top.

Frequently Asked Questions

What do needlefish eat?

Smaller fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods.

Can you eat needlefish?

This fish is edible, but some can be wormy. Remove those before cooking the fish, and you should be good.

Is needlefish endangered?

No species of needlefish is currently under threat.

Insider Advice

This pointy-nosed fish may look unimposing, but you can get injured trying to catch it if you are not careful. The long and pointy jaw can pierce through skin and organs like butter, especially when the fish is agitated and trying to escape.

Do you have any tips and strategies that can prevent this from happening? Answer by commenting below and share this guide if you liked it.

Jon Stenstrom
Founder & Angler
Jon Stenstrom is a fishing enthusiast. He has over 25 years of fishing experience, and 6 years of spearfishing experience, and is currently learning how to boat. Jon has his Open Water PADI Certification and FII Freediver Level 1 Certification. Jon has traveled the world to fish and dive, most notably in the Great Barrier Reef, Baja Mexico, Thailand, and Malaysia. More Articles
× How can we improve it?
× Thanks for your feedback!

We're always looking to improve our articles to help you become an even better fisherman.

While you're here, why not follow us on Facebook and YouTube? Facebook YouTube

rainbow trout size

How Big Do Rainbow Trout Get?

Are you curious how big do rainbow trout get? Rainbow trout are one of the most popular game fish in the entire world. Trout guide and fly fishing instructor Daniel O’Neill, discusses how big rainbow trout get and how to catch these larger fish.  As a child, one of my earliest fishing memories involved catching
bass jumping out of water

Bass Jumping Out Of Water: What Does it Mean?

Have you ever wondered why bass sometimes jump out of the water? The first time I saw it, I was shocked and made it a point to research why it happened when I got home. In this article, we’ll explore why they jump out of the water and how this knowledge can transform your fishing
how long can you keep fish on ice

How Long Can You Keep Fish on Ice

Are you wondering if the fish you left in your cooler overnight is still safe to eat? I used to think fresh fish was always best, but after talking with chefs, fishmongers, and die-hard fishermen, I changed my perspective on fish storage. This guide examines how long you can store fish before it goes bad.
do bass sleep

Do Bass Sleep? Unraveling the Mystery of Bass Resting Behavior

Curious minds wonder about the secrets hidden beneath the water’s surface. This article will dive deep into the world of bass and uncover the truth about their resting behavior. Along the way, we’ll explore the factors that influence how these popular fish recharge their energy. Whether you’re an angler looking to refine your fishing strategies
northern pike teeth

Northern Pike Teeth: Everything You Need to Know

Northern pikes are natural predators whose teeth are razor-sharp, designed to slice and dice their prey. The teeth multiply as the pike grows. How many teeth a pike has depends on the age and size, but generally, a fully grown pike can have up to 700 teeth. Additionally, the length of their teeth depends on
muskie teeth

Muskie Teeth: All You Need to Know

Muskies are freshwater predators with hundreds of razor-sharp teeth to help them tear their prey. They have dozens of bigger canines and other small teeth arranged in rows. For example, grown-up muskies can have about 500 to 700 teeth in their mouth, and their biggest canine can range up to one inch in length. Muskie’s