Pelagic Fish Feeding Habits

by BFD Lures on March 15, 2022

There are many opinions about what pelagic fish eat. Geographical location, the year, the time of the year, water temperatures and prey availability all play a role. When I ask numerous professionals this question, it is surprising the variety of opinions I hear – often from Captains on the same dock!  The real facts matter, particularly when developing effective lures and color combinations. The only factual answers to these questions come from stomach content analysis. No opinion, just fact. The fish’s vote is all that matters.

I spent a few days digging around looking for information on pelagic fish feeding habits. I found that a lot of research has taken place over years past, analyzing stomach contents of the different pelagic species, particularly Marlin. But the most comprehensive, multi-specie report I could find did not set out to determine what pelagic fish eat. The purpose of the research was to determine what preys on Cephalopods (Squid, Octopus and Cuttlefish) in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. This research was generated by the Centro Interdisciplinario de Ciencias Marinas (CICIMAR) and Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission. The title of the research report is “CEPHALOPOD PREY OF THE APEX PREDATOR GUILD IN THE EPIPELAGIC EASTERN PACIFIC OCEAN”. The links below each provide a chart that reports the stomach content found in that specie. This data was collected in 6 different years during a 14 year time frame.

Yellowfin Tuna Chart

Bigeye Tuna Chart

Billfish Chart

Dolphinfish Chart

Wahoo Chart

The was once an entire 28 slide presentation (in scientific language) on all of the data of what pelagic fish eat, but it seems to be lost in the internet vacuum.

All of this is interesting information, and maybe helps to explain why some lures are hot one year and not another, and why some lures work consistently year to year.

The original report lumped all Billfishes together. But I found a lot of this same type of information specific to Sailfish, Striped Marlin, Blue Marlin and White Marlin that is included in our category "Billfish Feeding Habits". There are some similarities but also differences. Black Marlin information was a bit scarce.