The World's 6 Fastest Fish

The question of the world's fastest fish is a tricky one. It isn't very easy to measure the speed of fish, whether they are wild fish out on the open ocean, a fish on your line, or a fish in a tank. But here you can find more information on the world's fastest fish species, all of which are highly sought-after by both commercial and recreational fishermen.

Sailfish (Maximum Speed 68 mph)

Atlantic sailfish, Mexico
Atlantic sailfish, Mexico. Jens Kuhfs/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

Many sources list sailfish (Istiophorus platypterus) as the fastest fish in the ocean. These fish are definitely fast leapers and are likely one of the fastest fish at swimming short distances. The ​ReefQuest Centre for Shark Research describes speed trials in which a sailfish was clocked at a speed of 68 mph while leaping.

Sailfish can grow to about 10 feet long. These slim fish can weigh up to about 128 pounds. Their most noticeable characteristics are their large first dorsal fin (which resembles a sail) and their upper jaw, which is long and spear-like. Sailfish have blue-gray backs and white undersides.

Sailfish are found in temperate and tropical waters in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. They feed primarily on small bony fish and cephalopods.

Swordfish (Maximum Speed 60–80 mph)

Swordfish (Xipias gladius) in open ocean, Cocos Island, Costa Rica - Pacific Ocean.
Swordfish. Jeff Rotman / Getty Images

Swordfish (​Xiphias gladius) are a popular seafood and another fast-leaping species, although their speed is not well-known. A calculation supposedly determined that they could swim at 60 mph, and some findings claim speeds of 130 kilometers per hour, which is about 80 mph.

The swordfish has a long, sword-like bill, which it uses to spear or slash its prey. They have a tall dorsal fin and brownish-black backs with a light underside.

Swordfish are found in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans and in the Mediterranean Sea. These may be the most famous fish on this list due to the story of "The Perfect Storm," about a swordfishing boat from Gloucester, MA that was lost at sea during a storm in 1991. The story was written up into a book by Sebastian Junger and later became a movie.

Marlin (Maximum Speed 80 mph)

Black Marlin (Makaira indica) caught on fishing line
Black marlin caught on a fishing line. Georgette Douwma / Getty Images

Marlin species include the Atlantic blue marlin (Makaira nigricans), black marlin (Makaira indica), Indo-Pacific blue marlin (Makaira mazara), striped marlin (Tetrapturus audax) and white marlin (Tetrapturus albidus). These fish can be easily recognized by their long, spear-like upper jaw and tall first dorsal fin.

This BBC Video says that the black marlin is the fastest fish on the planet. This information is based on marlin caught on a fishing line — the marlin is said to be able to strip line off a reel at a rate of 120 feet per second, which would mean the fish is swimming 80 miles per hour. This page lists the marlin (genus) as capable of leaping at 50 mph.

Wahoo (Maximum Speed 48 mph)

Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri), Micronesia, Palau
Wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri), Micronesia, Palau. Reinhard Dirscherl / Getty Images

The wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) lives in tropical and subtropical waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and the Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas. These slender fish have a bluish-green back, and light sides and belly. Wahoo can grow to a maximum length of about 8 feet, but they are more commonly about 5 feet long.

The wahoo's maximum speed is said to be around 48 mph. This was confirmed by scientists who studied a wahoo's speed, measured a wahoo's bursts of swimming speed, results varied from 27 to 48 mph.

Tuna (Maximum Speed 46 mph)

Yellowfin Tuna
Yellowfin Tuna. Jeff Rotman / Getty Images

Both yellowfin (Thunnus albacares) and bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) are said to be extremely fast swimmers, and it appears that while they usually cruise slowly through the ocean, they can have bursts of speed over 40 mph. In a study (also cited above) that measured swimming speeds for wahoo and yellowfin tuna, a yellowfin's burst of speed was measured at just over 46 mph. This site lists the maximum speed of an Atlantic bluefin tuna (leaping) at 43.4 mph.

Bluefin tuna can reach lengths in excess of 10 feet. Atlantic bluefin are found in the western Atlantic found from Newfoundland, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico, and in the eastern Atlantic, throughout the Mediterranean Sea and from Iceland down to the Canary Islands. Southern bluefin are found throughout the oceans in the southern hemisphere, in latitudes between 30 and 50 degrees. Bluefin tuna fishing is portrayed in the "Wicked Tuna" reality television series. 

Yellowfin tuna are found in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. These tuna can grow to over 7 feet in length.

Albacore tuna are also capable of speeds up to about 40 mph. Albacore tuna are found in the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea, and are commonly sold as canned tuna. Their maximum size is about 4 feet and 88 pounds.

Bonito (Maximum Speed 40 mph)

Atlantic Bonito (Sarda sarda), fresh fish on ice.
Atlantic bonito on ice. Ian O'Leary / Getty Images

Bonito, a common name for fish in the genus Sarda, includes several species of fish (such as the Atlantic bonito, striped bonito and Pacific bonito) that are in the mackerel family. Bonito are said to be capable of speeds of about 40 mph when leaping.

Bonito grow to about 30–40 inches and are a streamlined fish with striped sides.