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Mahi Mahi, also known as Dolphinfish and Dorado, are a highly-prized, fast and acrobatic deepwater game fish as well as one of the most colorful species found in our oceans.
Their colors are a bright mixture of deep green, blue and bright yellow/gold with small dark spots dotting the sides. Mahi colors can change rapidly when feeding or excited – they are said to often “light up” when putting up a fight against the line. This is caused by changes in the fish’s nervous system. The dying Mahi Mahi’s faded colors once pulled out of the water can also be attributed to these changes.
The current world IGFA record for Mahi is an 87 pounds (39.5 kg) fish caught in the Gulf of Papagayo, Costa Rica in 1976, but schooling Mahi Mahi are often caught in a range of a few pounds to up to 20 pounds. However, it is not uncommon to catch them in the 20-30 pounds range with catches of males or “bulls” in the 50-pound vicinity not unheard of. Larger Mahi tend to travel alone or in male-female pairs.
There is sometimes confusion over the name Dolphin when referring to Dolphin Fish. Although Mahi are often referred to as Dolphin Fish, there is absolutely no relation to the Dolphin (Porpoise) which is a mammal and an air-breathing species. Mahi Mahi are fish and, like all fish, breathe in water.
The species is a highly sought after sport fish because of their beauty, their fight and, of course, their delicious taste.
They rank, pound for pound, as one of the very best game fish in the world, prized for their stubbornness, long runs (reaching speeds of up to 50 mph/80.5 kph) and spectacular leaping ability. As for table fare, there are few fish tastier and more coveted!
Mahi Fishing Locations
Mahi are a blue-water, open ocean, highly migratory schooling fish found around the world in tropical and subtropical waters at depths up to 280 feet, but are more commonly found around 120 feet or so.
They spawn in warm ocean currents throughout much of the year, and their young are often found among the seaweed. They are found around the world in all tropical and subtropical oceans.
In North America, they are targeted along the Pacific coast, particularly in the Gulf of California, off the coast of Costa Rica as well as offshore in the Atlantic Ocean from New Jersey down to Florida.
Big-game fishermen in the Americas are particularly drawn to Mahi-Mahi located in the Gulf of Mexico, along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and the Caribbean Sea.
Other popular locations for the species include the waters around Hawaii, Southeast Asia, and along the coast of Oman in the Arabian Sea.
Techniques and Tackle for Catching Mahi
Trolling is one of the most productive methods of catching Mahi Mahi. Once a school dolphin is hooked and brought to the boat, leave it in the water.
The rest of the school will usually follow and stay nearby. Chum with cut bait or glass minnows will bring them in close and put them in a frenzy. For a wild and exciting experience start casting your spinning rods/fly rods with yellow or white bucktail jigs/flies. Usually, they will hit so fast you just have time to set the hook as it hits the water.
A very different technique uses land-based kites, instead of boats and rods, as the mechanism for delivering the terminal tackle at the end of a fishing line. This method has been used to catch mahi-mahi from cliff tops in Hawaii.
As always the best way to learn about Mahi Mahi fishing is to book a Mahi fishing guide or fishing charter. It’ll be money well spent.
Mahi Mahi Cooking and Eating
Not just great as a gamefish but also delicious in flavor, Mahi lends itself well to many easy-to-make and tasty recipes. Fresh Mahi is generally available throughout the year, but, in North America at least, you will find the best selection in mid-spring through mid to late-summer. You can also find frozen Mahi Mahi fillets all year round.
When buying fresh Mahi, look for fish whose meat is pink or light beige. Darker meat is certainly safe to eat, but the taste might be too strong for some people.
Mahi Mahi is a great all-around fish for just about any cooking method you want to use. Poach it, steam it, fry it, bake it, grill it—it’s all good. Just be careful not to overcook it.
Last Word on Mahi Fishing
Mahi Mahi, or Dorado, are some of the most exciting gamefish you will ever catch in the open ocean. This beautifully colored fish can be found in all tropical and temperate seas of the world. When hooked they put up a terrific fight with almost neon colors while putting up an exciting, high jumping, tail-walking display.
Mahi Mahi are prolific breeders, rapid growing and short-lived, which make them an excellent choice as a gamefish because they can sustain recreational catch without fear of over-fishing. Lastly, their value to anglers is only further enhanced by their outstanding table fare quality.
When it comes time to plan your Mahi Mahi fishing trip, check out our fishing charter page for listings to find a charter service specializing in deep-sea Mahi Mahi fishing adventures. They’ll make sure you’ll you have an experience that you will not soon forget.