Dolphin (Mahi Mahi) Fishing

Dolphin (Mahi Mahi) Fishing

Dolphin (Mahi Mahi)

Dolphin (Mahi Mahi)
  • Size 15 to 30lbs
  • Food Value Excellent
  • Game Qualities Good
  • Habitats Offshore

(Coryphaena hippurus)

Mahi Mahi is among the world's favorite big game fish - very strong (that's what its name means in Hawaiian), fun to catch, delicious and photogenic.

Dorado, as they're also called, are pelagic fish, preferring warm waters deeper than 80ft. They usually run in schools and are easy to spot due to their striking coloration. The big ones normally swim alone or in pairs.

They are very fast swimmers (more than 50mph), but, luckily, not the brightest fish in the sea. They are drawn to floating objects (buoys, seaweed, logs etc.) and, if caught in the middle of a feeding frenzy, will get hooked onto anything dropped in the water (even a piece of cloth).

How big

Dolphinfish (another common name for this species) are very fast maturers, reaching reproductive readiness at 4-5 months. They are able to reach up to 3ft in their first year, not exceeding that length drastically afterwards. Their life expectancy is up to 5 years, but they rarely live over 4. The average size of an adult is 15 to 30lbs, with males (bulls) growing larger than females (cows). Mahi over 40lbs are considered trophy catches.

This can easily be you, if you choose the right charter. Caught aboard Zikr in Nadi, Fiji

When & Where

Mahi Mahi are spread throughout tropical and warm temperate waters worldwide. They can be found in the Caribbean Sea, all over the Pacific coast of the USA, Mexico and Costa Rica, throughout the Atlantic Ocean, in the South China Sea and Southeast Asia, off Australia and east to Hawaii.

In Florida, they're best targeted April through June, when they begin their migration northwards. However, in places like the Keys, they'll stick around as late as September.  Here's where to go out for them:

  • Atlantic coast: Stuart and southwards, where it's easiest to access the Gulf Stream. This includes West Palm Beach, Miami and the Keys as prime areas. You can find good sized Mahi at about 20-30 miles offshore in those waters. In the northern part of east Florida, it will take a trip up to 50 miles out.
  • Gulf coast: Not recommended - going 40-60 miles out usually results in "peanut" Mahi.

Southern California sees excellent Dorado action with warm waters, and good spots to go out from are San Diego, Dana Point, Newport Beach and Long Beach.

If you're planning on going out of country, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Jaco, Punta Cana or Puerto Rico would be great options.

How to catch

Mahi fishing is done by deploying outriggers baited with live bait (flying fish, mullet, ballyhoo, squid), dead bait (rigged ballyhoo or cigar minnows), artificial lures, jigs or spoons. Trolling at a sufficient speed will make the bait skip across the surface of the water and swim alternately, which mimics the behavior of flying fish, Mahi's favorite meal. Once hooked, they will zip through the water rapidly, alternating directions.

As said earlier, Dorado are attracted to floating objects, so schools are most likely to be found near sea weed, buoys or debris. Chumming with cut bait or leaving a hooked Mahi in the water can sometimes draw others from the school near the boat, allowing for multiple hookups.

Conquering a bull like this takes some back strength. Reeled in aboard Marlin My Darlin in Ft Lauderdale, FL

Good to eat?




  • Season - always open;
  • Size limit - Gulf state waters - none; Atlantic state waters - 20'' minimum;
  • Bag limit (per angler per day) - 10, not to exceed 60 per boat, except for party boats; California has a 20 finfish bag limit, with no more than 10 fish of a single species allowed;

         Mexico allows up to 2 fish per angler;

  • Season - always open;
  • Western Australia - up to 3 fish within the pelagic limit, minimum 50cm;
  • Queensland - up to 5 fish minimum 50cm;
  • New South Wales - up to 10 fish between 60 and 110cm, with 1 allowed over size limit;


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