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Needlefish Fishing Tips

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 which 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 which 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 inhabiting 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 catch 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 jerkbaits 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

Mating season for this fish with pointy nose falls between the months of April and May. During this time, the males compete for 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 in 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.


Q: What do needlefish eat?

A: Smaller fish, crustaceans, and cephalopods.

Q: Can you eat needlefish?

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

Q: Is needlefish endangered?

A: 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.

The Anglers Behind This Article:

Jon Stenstrom

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