If you’ve ever had a Black Marlin, a Tarpon, or a Wahoo on the other end of your line, you know how strong and fast these fish are. Have you ever wondered – how fast? Or which one of these is the fastest fish in the ocean? We’ll answer those questions and more in this list of the fastest creatures swimming the world’s waters.
Fish are a weird bunch of creatures, and there’s still so much we don’t know about them. Whether they’re swimming freely in the open waters or tugging at your line, measuring their exact speed is a very hard thing to do. However, scientists and wildlife experts agree that these 10 fish are most likely to be the fastest fish in the ocean. Let’s find out all about them!
How fast? 35 mph (56 km/h)
Opening up our list of the fastest fish in the ocean, Tarpon are some of the most beloved saltwater game fish in the entire world. They’re strong, stubborn, and put on a real acrobatic show. Their strength also increases their speed and they zip through the water at up to 35 miles per hour.
Tarpon like warm tropical and subtropical waters. You can find them as far north as Long Island, south all the way down to Brazil, east to the ends of the Texas coastline, and west to the brinks of Africa.
“Silver Kings” grow slowly and can live up to 50 years. They can reach lengths between 4–8 feet and weigh between 25–300 pounds. The majority of the fish anglers catch are usually between 25–80 pounds. Matching their speed with their size, and adding acrobatics to this equation – you’ll see why Tarpon are a favorite freshwater game fish!
How fast? 40 mph (64km/h)
Bonefish are the holy grail of flats fishing, especially if you’re fishing on the fly. It’s easy to understand why. When most of us think of speedy fish, our thoughts jump straight to Marlin and Sharks swimming out in the open waters. Just imagine chasing around a fish swimming at 40 miles per hour in the flats! If that doesn’t say adventure, then nothing does.
Their hydrodynamic constitution allows Bonefish to achieve 40 mph speeds and helps them escape from predators. They’re also sensitive to noise and require a very subtle approach. Bones love sandy bottoms or grassy flats as shallow as 6 inches.
You can find Bonefish in tropical and subtropical waters all around the globe. The highest concentrations of these fish are in the western Atlantic, from Nova Scotia to Brazil, including Bermuda, Turks and Caicos, and the Caribbean Sea. You won’t, however, find them in the Gulf of Mexico.
Bones don’t grow too large, and their size also depends on where you’re looking for them. In Florida and the Bahamas, they average between 4–6 pounds. If you go further south, into the West Indies, you’ll find Bonefish twice that size. The current Bonefish world record stands at over 16 pounds. Don’t let their small size fool you, Bones are one of the feistiest saltwater competitors out there, and they’ll fight you for every inch of your line.
8. Blue Sharks
How fast? 43 mph (69km/h)
The first Shark to make an appearance on our list is the Blue Shark. These lurkers love deep, cold waters where they can swim freely at a whopping 43 miles per hour. Keeping in mind that these predators can grow up to 20 feet gives their speed a completely new dimension!
Blue Sharks can be found throughout the world’s oceans, and they’ve been spotted in many seas, including the Mediterranean. However, they rarely stop by the Baltic and Red Seas, or the Gulf of Mexico.
Blue Sharks seldom find their place on anglers’ bucket lists. The reason for this is the fact that they live in very deep waters, meaning it takes some time to reach them. In return, these trips usually aren’t worth it. Blue Sharks aren’t admired for their game qualities and are considered relatively easy to catch.
Blues aren’t among the most aggressive Sharks, however, according to Shark attack statistics, they are still relatively highly rated.
7. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
How fast? 44 mph (70km/h)
Coming in at 44 miles per hour, Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is the fastest Tuna in the world. Bluefin Tunas are also some of the tastiest fish you can catch. Wondering which tasty treats are made out of their flesh? Sushi and sashimi. However, due to overfishing, Bluefins are, unfortunately, now facing extinction.
The Atlantic Bluefin lives, as the name suggests, throughout the Atlantic Ocean and in the Mediterranean Sea. They spawn during the summer around the Balearic Islands and in the Gulf of Mexico. One of the best migratory spots in the US is North Carolina, right off the coast of the Outer Banks.
These fish aren’t just fast, they grow really big too. Atlantic Bluefin can reach 12 feet in length and weigh 1,500 pounds. It goes without saying that these fish are some of the feistiest fighters out there. They’re well known for their sudden deep dives, and fast surface runs. To reel one in, you’ll need a heavy tackle, a fishing belt, and some prior angling experience.
Before you go out on the water to look for these fighters, keep in mind that there are many preservation activities in place to help keep Bluefins alive. Make sure to check fishing regulations in the area you’re fishing in to avoid hurting the fish population and earning yourself an unnecessary fine.
6. Mako Sharks
How fast? 46 mph (74km/h)
Not only are they the fastest Sharks in the ocean, but they’re also the most highly evolved. Makos have the largest brain to body ratio, their teeth are the sharpest, and they have the widest array of temperatures they’re tolerant to.
These predators are as scary as Sharks get. They don’t hesitate to attack similar-sized prey, including Dolphins, Swordfish, and even other Sharks! Anglers love them because they put up a phenomenal fight, and they’re very tasty, too.
Their average size is usually between 6–10 feet, and they can weigh anywhere between 130–300 pounds. They can be found worldwide throughout tropical and temperate waters in depths of up to 500 feet. They usually hang out in the offshore waters, but you might encounter a Shortfin Mako Shark closer to landmasses and in inlets.
Makos will put up a great fight, and they’re known for long and fast runs, that are sometimes interrupted by spectacular jumps and flips. However, you should also keep in mind that Makos are dangerous. They’re known for attacking boats and leaping into them once hooked. This can cause panic and harm to the equipment and people on board.
How fast? 48 mph (77 km/h)
Wahoo’s have a sharp set of teeth, a huge beak-type jaw, and speed only a few fish can match! Even though they put up a great fight, anglers usually don’t target Wahoo alone. More often, they’re hooked while targeting other species. However, that doesn’t mean that fishers aren’t happy to see Wahoo at the other end of their line, earning them a reputation for “the favorite bycatch” in big game fishing.
Their average size is usually somewhere between 40–65 inches and 15–35 pounds. You can find them in tropical and warm temperate waters all around the world, including the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea.
Getting a Wahoo to bite is the easy part of trying to catch one. They will eat just about anything, including live, dead, or strip baitfish such as ballyhoo and mullet. Once you hook them, the hard part begins.
As soon as they bite, Wahoo will make a scorching fast initial run that can reel off hundreds of yards of line within a few seconds! While you try to reel them in, they’ll sometimes violently burst out of the water shaking their heads to try and release from the hook, in the same way Billfish do.
4. Striped Marlin
How fast? 50 mph (80 km/h)
Besides being among the fastest fish in the ocean, Striped Marlin are also known for putting on an aerial show for the anglers who try to catch them. They are easily recognizable by the beautiful stripes on the sides of their bodies. When they’re excited, these stripes can turn to a brilliant violet color, which only adds to their spectacular show.
You can find Striped Marlin throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans, from Eastern Africa to the west of the Americas and as far south as New Zealand. Some of the most prominent Striper fisheries are around Southern California, Mexico, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Peru, and the Galapagos Islands.
These fish are a lot smaller than their relatives, but they can still reach a whopping 500 pounds in weight and 14 feet in length. Their size varies based on where you’re looking for them, and you’ll see a steady increase as you inch towards the equator.
Striped Marlin might not put up the best fight out there, but they are arguably one of the most spectacular fish you can find in the world’s waters. While you try to reel them in, they’ll show you lots of long runs, high leaps, tail-walking, and so much more!
How fast? 60 mph (94 km/h)
Next on our list of the fastest fish in the ocean is Swordfish. Compared to its feisty cousins, Swordfish is an often overlooked Billfish. It’s relatively hard to find Swordfish during chartered trips, which is why this fish is typically caught commercially by harpooning or longlining at great offshore distances.
If you’re ever lucky enough to come across a Swordfish on your angling journey, you’ll learn why this fast fish is the ultimate big game challenge. To reel one in, you’ll need some very good angling skills, excellent bait display, advanced technique, and a lot of strength.
You can find Swordfish anywhere in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans. It has the ability to preserve brain heat, meaning it’s able to withstand a wide range of temperatures. Swordfish is one of the most highly migratory species, and it moves into warmer waters during the winter to spawn.
Its length averages between 4–6 feet and it usually weighs around 100 pounds. However, they can grow much bigger than this. The largest Swordfish ever caught came in at a whopping 14 feet and 1,182 pounds!
How fast? 68 mph (110 km/h)
Coming in as the second-fastest fish in the ocean, this elegant creature will tug your line at speeds of almost 70 miles per hour! The first signs of a Sailfish won’t be it’s impressive speed though, but the sighting of a beautiful dorsal fin.
You can find Sailfish across tropical and subtropical zones of all oceans. If you’re looking to hook one, you’ll find them in Florida, both on the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Aruba, Curacao, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Hawaii, and many more beautiful spots around the world.
They can reach lengths of up to 11 feet and weigh up to 220 pounds, but the most common catches are usually between 6–8 feet and between 40–60 pounds.
Similar to its other relatives on our list, Sailfish is a very acrobatic creature. It’ll fight you for every inch of your line, showing a spectacular display of jumps and some violent head-shaking. The Billfish family is also known for tail-walking which implies exactly what the name suggests – the fish skip across the surface of the water using only their tails.
1. Black Marlin
How fast? 80 mph (129km/h)
Swimming at a speed of 80 miles per hour, Black Marlin is undoubtedly the fastest fish in the ocean! This isn’t the only title that Black Marlin proudly wears. It’s the king of the seas, and has a special place at the top of every big game angler’s bucket list. If fishing was an Olympic sport, then catching a Grander Black would be considered an achievement worthy of a gold medal!
You can find Black Marlin throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The most popular fishing hotspot for Grander Black is Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, which is appropriately nicknamed the Mecca of Black Marlin fishing. Some other hotspots are Mauritius, Hawaii, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Panama.
The largest Grander Black ever caught was 15.3 feet in length and weighed 1,560 pounds, but their size usually averages between 125 and 300 pounds. Having in mind their speed and size, it’s no wonder why Grander Blacks are the ultimate catch!
Contrary to its relatives, Black Marlin won’t waste its energy on leaps, tail-walks, and showing off! That’s why a fight with one is usually much more intense. Black Marlin don’t get tired easily, and it’s more likely that one will tire you out. Catching a Black Marlin is the ultimate angling experience you can have and requires serious experience, preparation, and proper gear.
Fastest Fish in the Ocean: The Great 10
As you can see, speed isn’t the only quality these fish have. All of the species we mentioned in this article are highly appreciated by both commercial and recreational fishermen for many different traits and qualities. However, when it comes to speed, these fish deserve all the bragging rights they can get!
Now back to you… Have you ever fished for one of the fastest fish in the ocean? Which of these fish is most impressive to you? Let us know in the comments below!
Thomas G Flake
November 16, 2022 Nov 16, 2022
I am surprised that barracuda didn’t make your list.
Replied on November 16, 2022 Nov 16, 2022
Thanks for reading and sharing your opinion. While Barracuda are certainly fast and fearsome opponents, they swim around the same speed as Tarpon. Maybe we’ll have to make a new list with those fish who didn’t quite make this one!
Trotting Bull moose
June 23, 2022 Jun 23, 2022
Personally I have no knowledge what so ever about these fish other then I got sick on sword fish when I was a kid in Monterey CA they all are beautiful fish. I don’t understand why it would be so hard to clock a tagged fish by GPS or otherwise data transmitted to those that tagged them. But like I said I know nothing about the fish or those that study them or catch them. Not to say I wouldn’t want to .
Replied on June 24, 2022 Jun 24, 2022
It’s Lisa here. Thank you for reaching out. Swordfish are incredibly beautiful but contain high levels of mercury, so they aren’t the safest to eat.
When it comes to tags, they’re actually able to give precise locations of the tagged fish. Tags are used to study the behavior, temperature, and migration of fish. You can track fish with electronic tags attached to them. Such tags produce a signal to the receiving equipment with the help of satellites.
I hope this answered your question!
March 21, 2021 Mar 21, 2021
I’ve been fishing a lot of years, east coast, west coast and many many places in between. I lived in Pacific Beach and fished out of Point Loma in the 90’s. At that time if you asked anyone who fished , captains, mates, hands, pier fishermen, boat owners, journalists who wrote fishing for a living, they all would undoubtedly, hands down answer Wahoo.
SaltWater Sportsman was at that time the most prolific magazine for saltwater fishing. In nearly every copy a blurb could be found about the Wahoo being clocked at over 70mph.
I don’t know who clocks these fish or keeps the data for claims review. I will be the first to say what is generally accepted as fact is seldom accurate and sometimes a long way to the truth.
Having said this, where is the data that you have based your claims on, how were the results achieved, what equipment was used and what are the sizes and locations of the control groups?
As you can tell I have lost the starry eyed anticipation of a teenager rooting for his favorite fish 😉
Replied on March 22, 2021 Mar 22, 2021
Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
Anyone who’s ever fished for Wahoo can understand where you’re coming from, these fish fight for every inch of their line 😁
When it comes to the speed of all of these fish, it’s very likely that they’re not 100% accurate. The reason for that is that it’s extremely hard to measure them in the wild, even for scientists who do this for a living. For this article, I haven’t measured any of the numbers by myself, but I tried my best to dig out the most accurate answers possible.
Now, when it comes to your favorite fish, Wahoo, I got the data from Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. In this article, they cited a list of references you can check out if you want to find more about the method of the research related to the speed.
In case you find some more information on this that supports your claim, please let me know, and I’d be more than happy to update the article with that.
February 23, 2021 Feb 23, 2021
When someone says ‘Fastest Fish’ all I thought of was a marlin on sailfish… who knew there was so much! It would be a wonder to catch any of them. Besides speed, could you let me know if any of these fish are strong?
P.S. That Black Marlin goes faster than most people’s driving in local; police got them yet?
Replied on February 24, 2021 Feb 24, 2021
Thanks for reading! I completely get you. When I was writing this article, I was really surprised to see Bonefish and Atlantic Bluefin Tuna make the list. Even though I knew they’re quite hard to catch, I never imagined them as some of the fastest ones in the ocean.
As for their strength, I don’t have any specific numbers to share with you. All of these are quite strong; otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to swim at such a speed. Additionally, some of these, such as Tarpon and Sailfish, are quite known for putting on an acrobatic show and displaying all their power in that way.
Hope that helps!