Mahi Mahi Fishing

Mahi Mahi Fishing: How to Find and Catch the Dolphinfish

One of the more unique fish swimming around the oceans depths is the dolphinfish. With the bulbous forehead reminiscent of a dolphin or porpoise, it’s no surprise the name fits. Mahi Mahi Fishing can be one of the most exciting ways to spend a day on the water!

What’s not to like about them? Also known as Dorado or Mahi-mahi, these almost-cartoony characters are some of the world’s most popular gamefish.

Introducing the Dolphinfish

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The Dolphinfish, or Coryphaena hippurus, are decent-sized fish that are brilliantly-colored and fun to catch, as they fight hard and love to put on some aerial acrobatics when hooked. They also taste absolutely delicious – especially blackened.

Sadly enough, pictures just don’t do them justice, as they fade almost immediately once brought up. By the time you make it into the dock, they’re almost certainly already a dull gray color. In the water, they have the ability to change the intensity of their colors depending on their mood and are considered to be one of the most strikingly-colored fish in the ocean with bright hues ranging from yellows, greens, to blues. Their underbellies are generally lighter in color, while their backs vary from darker green to hues of deep blue. They may be splattered with dots of blue and green, and have been spotted in bright turquoise and even purple.

The males are called bulls, and the females cows, with the, well, bullhead of the males being more enlarged and pronounced. Their lifespan is only a matter of five or six years, so what they lack in longevity, they make up for with vim and vigor. They can grow to three to five pounds within the first six months of their life. Within a year, they can reach three feet and weigh in at 20 pounds.

They can grow to over 80 pounds, in part because they always seem to be hungry and eat aggressively right from birth.

Good breeders, they reproduce often to maintain their numbers, and mating can begin when the fish are as small as eight inches. Small fish will school together around floating debris or sargassum beds, but larger fish are loners, and are sometimes found swimming in male-female pairs.

Dorado are strong and fast swimmers, covering wide ranges in search for food. They can reach speeds of 50 mph in short bursts.

Where to Look When Mahi Mahi Fishing

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These guys roam the open tropic and temperate ocean waters all over the planet. Seas that range from high 60’s to mid 80’s are preferred. You can find them anywhere you find Marlin and Wahoo. Since small baitfish gather in large weed patches and flotsam, Dolphinfish are often closeby. The smaller ones will school under the weed beds and ambush the bait, but the larger fish will usually stay on the outskirts of the beds, since they can quickly strike from a distance with a great burst of speed.

Mahi Mahi Fishing… A Pound for Pound Fight

The name Mahi-mahi comes from Hawaii, meaning “strong-strong.” They employ a variety of fighting techniques. Short, blistering runs can end with a deep dive, then the fish stubbornly turning on its side and refusing to come up. They’ve been known to scream a reel in one direction, only to turn around and make a beeline in the complete opposite direction.

They can dazzle you with aerial displays and tailwalking.

They’ll even jump right on into the boat with you in some scenarios. But the fun doesn’t stop once they get in the boat. Their powerful, thrashing tails can really play havoc in the boat.

Mahi Mahi Fishing: Tackle & Rigging

You’ll want to grab a rod and reel combination well-suited for 30 pound fused line. Your rod should be around 7’ long with a rapid to extra-fast action with the ability to handle lure weights up to one ounce.

Fix the line with a three-foot length of 30 to 50-pound fluorocarbon leader and a 50 pound barrel swivel. Tie a 4/0 -7/0 circle hook to the leader, about three to four feet of 30 to 60 pound monofilament or fluorocarbon, and attach your primary line.

Most of the larger sized Dolphinfish are caught on trolling lures meant for Marlin or Sailfish like rubber skirts, or the feathers meant for Tuna. Many are also caught on trolled ballyhoo. They’ll also fall for Rapalas too. When they’re fired up, they’ll eat just about anything, though you have to watch yourself with heavier lures.

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These fish jump wildly when hooked, and there’s a good chance the lure could come flying back at you at high speed.

Though their mouths are relatively small, it’s amazing how much they can actually engulf, including large baits. They mostly eat fish, so traditional baitfish like sardines and Pacific Mackerel work well. The larger the fish, the larger the bait they’ll grab. Cut bait like shrimp and ballyhoo works well, too, but cut false albacore will drive them wild.

Here are a few other rigging ideas that work well with Dorado.

A Few Extra Mahi Mahi Fishing Tips

Throw some bait chunks into the water to get the fish into a frenzy, then bait your hook with the same bait, and drift it back with the chunks. You can also use some spinning rods rigged with bucktails or a top water plug.

Once you’ve landed one, keep the hooked fish in the water until you hook another. Similar to their feeding behavior, they’ll become frenzied with another fish nearby lit up.

One trip out, and you’ll get why these are some of the most highly sought after fish. Not only do they offer a good fight, but make for a delicious dinner at the end of the day.

This article was contributed by an ANGLR Expert

Become an ANGLR Expert and apply here.

Jacob Jesionek


Fishing for me is more than just a hobby. I have traveled the majority of the US targeting as many species as possible with some of my favorite species being the Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout, Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass, and Redfish. I have been fortunate enough to work with ANGLR as the ANGLR Tour host where we traveled 10,500 miles over 2 months and caught 59 different species.

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