Mahi mahi is such a popular fish, one name just wasn’t enough! It’s also known as dorado, one of perhaps from the gold hues it changes to after it’s been out of the surface of the water for a while, and dolphin, or dolphinfish, perhaps because of its bulbous forehead. In this article, you’ll learn something new on the topic of mahi mahi fishing: how to find and catch dolphinfish.
Mahi mahi fishing earned its prominence partially from its standing in the culinary world. For quite some time, it was merely bycatch for commercial and non-commercial anglers alike. But now, finding and catching dolphinfish is a pastime for big game anglers as well. ‘Mahi’ is the Hawaiian word for strong and, if you’re an amateur angler, you should remember this. Although it tastes as good as it looks, it fights!
And if you’re fishing offshore, you’re probably looking for a fight. Let’s get you equipped to your best advantage for mahi mahi fishing: how to find and catch dolphinfish. Below, we have detailed the movements of mahi mahi: their feeding, mating and reproducing habits, as well as the equipment required to start reeling in dolphins like clockwork.
To find the dolphins, you got to know what you’re looking for. Well that’s partially true—I mentioned above that mahi mahi is a popular bycatch. To identify them, you should know that the fish you see in the photos is different than the one you’ll see in the water, where it can change its color. Some say even according to its mood.
Equally important to the international pursuit of finding and catching dolphinfish is knowing what they look like is knowing where they’re most commonly found.
Beyond knowing that you can find good fishing for mahi-mahi in places like weed lines, I will teach you why different places appeal to different types of dolphinfish, i.e. location preference by type.
Where in the World to Find and Catch Dolphinfish
Geographically speaking, in order to know where in the world to begin to start fishing for mahi mahi, we have to consult what conditions it likes. Tropical, subtropical and temperate waters make good climate for dolphin, who like a pretty wide range of water depths even though they tend to swim rather shallow.
To give you an idea of the range of water depths in which the surface-dwelling Mahi-mahi can be found, in its preferred depth of 30 ft-150 ft. its prey includes crab, zooplankton, squid, mackerel and flying fish.
More to the Mahi
There are a few concerns that you might want to dive into before you get starting fishing for mahi mahi. The Natural Resources Defense Council classifies it as a ‘moderate mercury’ carrier. Because of its diet, there is a chance the dolphin fish you catch will have been exposed to some pollution.
In areas of the world like Florida, the best time to look for dorado is around April through September. Generally speaking, mahi mahi are found in the same waters as marlin and wahoo and other big game fish. And in the United States, that means the Keys and Atlantic coast of Florida. Mahi mahi also swim waters of Costa Rica, Panama, Baha California and the Asia Pacific/Hawaii.
Schools (of Dolphin) In Session
Teaming their ability to reproduce quickly (up to 1,000,000 per breeding event) with the territory they inhabit and the diversity of sizes they come in, it is no wonder fishing for mahi mahi is popular in many different places with folks who use many different ways.
The best way to find and catch dolphin without telling you which method to employ is tought because so many cultures catch this fish in so many different ways. Those decisions are definitely up to you and your current resources and equipment.
In French Polynesia, there is a boat specifically designed for the purpose of hunting the dolphin. The anglers who use it steer with their left and use their harpoon with their right hand. While these resources may not be very available to you or others, just know that when there’s a will, there a way for mahi-mahi fishing.
Location Location Location
Because of the Mahi’s wide range of habitat, its love for warmth, its bright colors, and its swimming patterns, they are susceptible to trolling jigs, using live bait, and using out-riggers. Kite fishing and even drone fishing are now coming into popularity as well. Also adding to the excitement of finding and catching dolphin is that they normally only live four to five years and have an ability to reproduce at early ages and high rates.
That means there’s plenty of fishing for all. When you’re fishing for mahi-mahi you’ll often hear male fish called bulls and females called cows. Cows lay up to 1,000,000 eggs per breeding season. Breeding is another prime time to be fishing for mahi-mahi—the fish work themselves into a frenzy and are very eager to hit any bait around them.
Even if you’re just fishing for mahi mahi, it’s important to think about the bigger picture. All kinds of other organisms are out there looking for a meal too. It’s worth a reminder that the waters are not only populated by fish and water animals, but also by birds and structures, and that paying attention to weedlines can be just as important as paying attention to birds, or little patches of driftwood.
Thinking about the Habitat
When sargassum—a reddish brown patch or clump—forms a weedline, it attracts bait fish. The problem with using this indicator alone is that there’s too much of it. As sometimes the weedline goes for literal miles, trolling where the weedline is dense but still isolated is most effective. Another way to think about how to decide which weedlines to troll is by selecting weedlines near birds who are there for the bait fish that brings your future catch to your rods.
The birds are after what the gamefish are after. They might be the foremost expert on fishing for mahi-mahi and where to find and catch dolphinfish! Sargassum is a great place for the baitfish, making it a great place to find and catch dolphinfish.
While the weedlines and floating structures make up the most common and fruitful dolphin fishing experiences, to catch a fish over the 30-50 lb. range requires being able to spot the more advanced hunters. In male-female pairs do you typically find the larger dolphins.
It is said that dolphinfish are social not only because they travel in large schools, but also because they are known to never leave a companion. If you’re serious about fishing for mahi mahi, you wouldn’t mind leaving the companion hooked while you still have some lines open.
Go Long the Habitat: Consider Different Methods
Here’s a pro-tip to help fisherman anticipate what the consequences of the method they choose and prepare for it. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if you are mahi mahi fishing by longline, then you have a high chance of injuring or killing sharks, sea turtles and seabirds. Preventing bycatch when possible is necessary.
As with all tools, hunting or otherwise, the skilled user demonstrates precision by minimizing the harmful repercussions of any one method, so don’t forget that you want to preserve the habitat for your future fishing trips. No matter how you go about fishing for mahi mahi, we want to make sure there are more to catch for years to come.