Dorado. Dolphinfish. Lampuka. These are all common names for mahi-mahi, one of the most commonly sport-fished ocean-dweller in the world. These fish breed fast, grow fast, and swim fast—they’ve been logged traveling almost 60 miles per hour. The Hawaiian word mahi-mahi means ‘very strong.’ As such, they make for a downright entertaining fish to hunt in the wild.
They also are one of the least threatened species in the ocean that are commonly fished, so you can go after these members of the Coryphaenidae family with a clean conscious.
This article is for the fishers who have moved from the ‘if’ to the ‘how’ to the ‘how best’ stage of their Mahi fishing journey. Below, we’re going to get into some zoology and technology in an effort to help you find the best lure for Mahi fishing.
Many folks like to go after Mahi using a baited line in one form or another. But if you’re among the more adventurous type who like to target Mahi schools either with a lure—either trolling or spin casting—this article is for you.
Before We Get to the Best Lure for Mahi Fishing, Some Background
If you’re headed out in tropical waters somewhere around the world, there’s a strong chance you’re going to find mahi in large supply. The Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Florida are no exception. Mahi can breed year-round in waters that average in the neighborhood of 83º.
Speaking of breeding, mahi are a high turnover species. They tend to live for four years and reach maturity in a matter of months. Two or three times a year, females release a brood between 80,000 and 1,000,000 strong. In the right conditions, anglers can expect a constantly and naturally replenishing stock of mahi.
Mahi Identification and Behavior
You can tell Mahi by their long dorsal fins and vibrant colors. Out of the water, the top half of their bodies tend to be dark blue-green, which fades into a vibrant yellow along their belly (hence their Spanish name, dorado, meaning golden). Out of the water, these colors fade to a duller yellow. Male Mahi also boasts one of the most prominent foreheads in the aquatic world.
These fish average between three to four feet in length and typically weigh between 20 and 40 lbs. Some get up over 50 lbs. South Carolinian angler Emily Seconi currently holds the record for largest mahi caught: 88 lbs off Exuma, Bahamas. Before you settle on the best lure for mahi fishing, you’re going to want to be working with a 10-14 weight rod with rapid to very fast action and tackle weighted accordingly.
Mahi are cold-blooded carnivores. They primarily eat other small fish like mackerel, flying fish, triggerfish, man-o-war fish, and sargassum fish. They also like to eat younger fish of numerous other species. Crab and squid also make up significant portions of their diet, and they’ve also been known to eat zooplankton. The best lure for mahi fishing is going to resemble their favorite food.
Despite getting a lot of their diet from bottom dwellers, mahi tend to hang out in middle and surface levels of ocean, usually in depths around 120 feet. As one might expect, they tend to be found near where they themselves find their food: reefs. Fishers also commonly find them around floating ocean debris and sargasso weed lines (again, where young fish like to take shelter). Because they have common diets, fishing guides often look for where frigate birds are fishing.
While other fish become most active during low-light hours, mahi tend to be active throughout the day.
Mahi Fishing Techniques
Deciding on the best lure for mahi fishing will depend on your approach. Most people go trolling after these fish. However, a good many folks also find luck reel casting with a lure or a baited line.
Some like to chum the water with cut bait. Mackerel, large ballyhoo, sardines, shrimp, and albacore are common choices. Mahi have a tendency to work themselves into a frenzy. Once they get going, you might have the opportunity to land dozens with your fishing party. So when you hook one, try and keep it under the surface where its peers will feel its frantic energy.
Mahi on the Line
Once the Mahi is hooked, get ready for a fight. These fish are large, fast, and strong. Many like to jump in a fight—sometimes into your boat—but they never dive. Instead, they’ll cut a zig-zag back, forth, out, and in around where they bit your lure. Some anglers have described Mahi as ‘dumb.’ There’s definitely no rhyme or reason to the course they cut when hooked. But it does make for one hell of a fight.
Factors that Figure Into Choosing the Best Lure for Mahi Fishing
Based on what we’ve gone over so far, the following are going to come into consideration when selecting the best lure for mahi fishing:
- The size of a small fish: roughly one ounce or more in weight, four to eight inches in length
- Has attributes of Mahi’s favorite food: sargassum fish, squid, man-o-war fish, flying fish, mackerel, or triggerfish
- Sturdy: composite parts should be able to withstand a 40+ lbs fish changing direction on a dime traveling 50+ miles per hour
You’re also going to want to consider whether you’ll be trolling or sight fishing to determine your best lure for mahi fishing.
Trolling lures don’t need to fly through the air. They’re designed to mimic the motion of fish as they move through the water while also catching the eyes of others. Of course, you can both troll and cast with many lures. But some are designed specifically for one or the other. If you’re casting, check below for the best lure for mahi fishing.
Mahi love ballyhoo. There’s a reason that they’re one of the most popular options for cut bait. This lure is designed to mimic the ballyhoo’s appearance on the front end, but then contains some plastic fronds that ripple and command attention underwater.
It’s also big. The bigger the lure, the bigger the fish you’re going to hook.
With a similar trail of eye-catching sparkle skirts, this lure from Ocean Cat has a markedly different head. It’s constructed out of copper and designed to look more like another one of Mahis’ favorite foods: octopus and squid. These seven-inch pieces are among our picks for the best lure for Mahi fishing.
This model from Boone incorporates some feathers into the eye-catching lure tail. The jury is out on which material and texture is more attractive. But especially if you’re trolling with a dredge or just throwing out multiple lines, it’s always good to bring some variety into the mix.
At 0.8 ounces and five and a half inches, his lure is the shortest and lightest of our options included.
Sight Fishing Lures
If you’re flinging your lure through the air, it will need to take on slightly different characteristics. While these laws are not set in stone, you generally want some weight on the end of your line.
Once in the water, it needs to sink to the level you’re after. It will also need to fly through the air in such a way that you can optimize for both aim and distance. Below, we’ve compiled some sight casting delegates of our pick for the best mahi fishing lures.
Ecooda makes the biggest lure on this list. Their Hornet model is just under three ounces and seven inches long. There’s nothing sneaky about its appearance; It’s designed to look much like a small mackerel, plain and simple.
Designed for anglers taking long casts for big fish, this Nomad option easily makes our list for best mahi fishing lure. It features a flashy silver design, fin and tail hooks, and a solid construction. Though on the small side—four inches in length—the lure has a heft of one and a half ounces. This is a good pick to have in your arsenal.
With a translucent body, this Rapala lure appears in the water much like a young fish that is soon to grow large. It’s ‘holographic’ eyes are designed to catch the attention of others. At five and a half inches and nearly two ounces, this is another solid contender for the best mahi fishing lure.
Reeling In and Wrapping Up
Going after Mahi makes for some of the most dependable and exciting sport-fishing available in the saltwater around Florida.
While some choose to bait their hooks, trolling and sight-casting with lures definitely ups your game.
Now that you’ve made it through this consideration of the best lure for Mahi fishing, you’re well on your way to having a great time out on the water.