Mahi Mahi Fishing Tips: How to Catch Mahi Mahi

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The summer months bring out the inner fisherman in all of us. And due to the availability, beautiful appearance, and delicate taste of Mahi-mahi, it has become a popular target for both newbies and veteran fishers.

It is found in tropical or subtropical waters all over the world. That makes fishing for mahi-mahi a brilliant inshore fishing activity.

So, today, we’re gonna offer you some brilliant Mahi Mahi fishing tips to make your job easier.

Let’s get started.

Mahi-Mahi Species Information

The word “Mahi-mahi” comes from the Hawaiian language and means “very strong.” This only goes on to show that dorado is a species of incredibly strong and aggressive fish. In their warm water ecosystem, they are one of the dominant predator fish.

This handy table below will show us more dorado fish facts.

Scientific NameCoryphaena hippurus  
Known AsMahi fish, Dorado fish, Dolphinfish, Mahi-mahi fish
Physical AppearanceTall and flat. Squarehead. Blue-green scales along the back. Yellow scales along sides and underbelly. Long dorsal fin.  
HabitatSubtropical and tropical waters. Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic coast.
Average sizeThree to six feet
GrowthIncredibly fast. It takes four months to reach sexual maturity.
Life spanFour to five years.
DietCarnivorous. Smaller fish, shrimp, squid, zooplankton, and crustaceans.
TasteSubtle sweet flavor. Very lean.  

Where to Catch Mahi Mahi?

Dolphin fish are blue water, open ocean fishes that travel in schools. Hence, they notoriously swim in the gulf stream and its warm water. Although they are occasionally found fishing offshore, schools of dorado swim closer to the bay in the warm summer months.

Despite the fact that they are not often seen in the Chesapeake Bay, they are prevalent while sailing out of the Indian River, the Ocean City inlet, Virginia Beach, and other Mid-Atlantic seaports located across the area.

Mahi fishing is so widely popular because these fishes like to reside around the top level of the ocean. Typically, you will find them near the surface or midwater around floating debris. If you happen to notice some Sargasso seaweed, your best bet would be to look around the weed lines as dolphin fish hunt for small fish around these places.

Mahi-Mahi Catching Regulations

While they are still one of the fastest-growing fish, authorities always put some regulations to protect the ecosystem and other fish. Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia all have their own rules, and they are as follows:

Maryland and Delaware

No minimum size limit and the season is open year-round. The daily limit per person is 10, the boat limit is 60, and no bag limit unless in federal waters.

Virginia

There is no size limit in Virginia. However, the bag limit is 10 per day.

Equipment Required in Fishing for Mahi

While you do need skills knowledge to catch any strong fish, having the right equipment for the job is very important as it will make your life that much easier to catch fish.

In this section, we will first list a few of the best bait and lures. Later, we will show you complete setups according to your needs.

Baits and Lures

The fact that only live baits can make a great bait is a myth. While small baits are typically used to catch smaller fish, it depends on your preference and goals. While undoubtedly the best chunk bait is ballyhoo, here are a few baits, trolling lures, and topwater lures that seasoned fishermen recommend while catching Mahi-mahi.

  • Cut Ballyhoo, rigged ballyhoo, skirted ballyhoo or ballyhoo rig
  • Any small live baitfish
  • Any cut fish
  • Squid, shrimps, flying fish
  • Flying fish daisy chain
  • Spreader bars
  • Williamson ballyhoo combo
  • Soft plastic jigs like bucktail jigs
  • Bubblers (to stay weed-free)
  • Bullet heads (to stay subsurface)

At the end of the day, whatever your choice is, live bait, dead bait, or fancy lures, you need proper skill, strength, and tactics to catch mahi-mahi.

Setups

While we do recommend having a few of the best trolling lures and pitching live baits to catch more fish, your spinning reel, rod, boat, and proper trolling gear are all necessary.

Here are a few setups that you should accordingly implement while fishing for different sizes of mahi-mahi.

For Light Fish

  • A graphite 7.5-foot inshore rod that is rated for at least 8-17 lbs
  • 4000 spinning reels with 12 lbs load
  • Twitch jigs and baits

For Larger Fish

  • A good spinning rod with a rating of at least 15-30 lbs
  • 8000 spinning reel with 20 lbs load
  • Jig, slammer, staffer, and octopus hook

For Trolling Offshore

  • A good spinning rod with a rating of at least 15-30 lbs
  • An 8000 spinner with 20 pounds load is preferably usable to see multiple rods

Tactics to Catch Mahi Mahi

In the Pacific, there are a variety of techniques for capturing mahi-mahi. According to their preferences, many anglers like to troll for Mahi, while others prefer to be on a boat and conduct a classic line of sight casting for Mahi.

Half the fun of fishing comes from this freedom of choice. So, if you want to fish from a floating structure or glide through the water, we want to equip you with the right tactics.

The following section will disclose helpful tactics straight from professionals on a few different methods:

Trolling

If you are going offshore to hunt for your favorite fish, trolling is the best method.

In trolling, you pull a bait or lure behind the boat as it moves forward, and you wait for a fish to take the bait or lure. This strategy is useful for covering large areas to increase your chances of catching a fish significantly.

Here are a few tips for trolling offshore to catch mahi-mahi:

  1. Swimbaits, spinnerbait, spoon lure, surface lures, and plugs are all very useful white trolling.
  2. A planar board can be used to increase your chances of catching one fish.
  3. Keep your boat moving at 8 to 15 knots or 9 to 18 mph.
  4. Bring multiple setups for the best chances.

Fun Fact you didn’t know: You can even go fishing while trolling on a kayak.

Sight-Fishing

Sight-fishing refers to the practice of seeing a fish and attempting to cajole it into eating your fly, bait, or lure. Despite the fact that it seems to be very simple, it is often not, which makes it so enjoyable.

One of the most satisfying experiences in fishing is tracking down a difficult fish and coaxing it into biting the hook.

The most viable place for you to be while Mahi-Mahi fishing is at the boat side, casting into the water. You basically need to do the same thing you do for other different fish from shore.

Let’s take a look at a few tips while catching mahi-mahi in the sight fishing method:

  1. Look out for objects in the water that float around. For example, float sams or logs.
  2. Reel in fast as Mahi-mahi is very fast and strong.
  3. Use bits of bait or chum to get the fish you sighted used to feeding. After doing that a few times, use the same bait on a hook, and the Mahi Mahi will probably take it.
  4. Let the bait sink until you manage to hook a Mahi-mahi.

Spear-Fishing

We now come to the most adventurous way of fishing for Mahi-mahi. As much fun as trolling and sight fishing is, nothing quite gets your adrenaline going like getting into the water to hunt a fish using a spear.

While following this method, you will need exceptional skills and a very keen eye. At the same time, spearfishing calls for very particular gear, and we highly recommend you not go into the water without the right tools.

Mahi-mahi fishes like to hide in plain sight. That means if you see anything suitably large floating around in the water, a school or at least a pair of mahi-mahi will be near. Always look for kelp that seems like it broke off from a larger forest.

But how else to make your spearfishing venture easier? Let’s see:

  1. Wetsuit, gloves, fins, masks, snorkel, and weight belts are mandatory.
  2. As Mahi-mahi are not huge fishes, you will only need a 90cm or larger spear gun with a float line.
  3. If you do not have a float line or a reel, mahi-mahi is strong enough to swim away with your speargun.
  4. Attach a bar or a lure at the tip of your spear to get the curiosity of the fish and draw them in closer for an easier target.
  5. While making a catch, have your buddy throw around baits and chum in the water to keep the rest of the school around for more chances.
  6. Try to keep the school around you.

Regardless of all the other advantages, spearfishing is beneficial due to the fishermen being able to choose their target. In other methods, you are stuck with whatever fish bites your hook, but if you are calculatingly throwing your spear at bigger fishes, with enough luck, you will get bigger Mahi-mahi.

Other General Tips to Catch Mahi Mahi

While experience is the most important thing when it comes to being an expert, we all have to start somewhere. Catching Mahi Mahi or any fish isn’t really different.

So along with all our other tactics. Here are a few generalized tips that you can keep in your mind while out on a fishing trip to catch Mahi-mahi.

  • Get the Fishing Time Right

Knowing the time of the day to fish is just as important as knowing the season. Mahi fishes are day feeders, and your best bet will be to capture them when they get out to eat. However, it is not uncommon for them to come out at night when there’s a lot of moonlight as well.

  • Look for Birds

Remember that you might not be the only one out to hunt Mahi. Be aware of the skies as predators like frigate birds are going to flock around mahi-mahi nests with the hopes of catching one. Look for the birds to know where the schools of fish are.

  • Be Ready to Fight

As their name suggests, Mahi fishes are incredibly strong, fast, and aggressive, and hence they are not the right target for you to fish if you want a chill day. Be prepared for the fish to put up a fight and bring the right gear to put up a fight yourself.

  • Do Not Drive the School Away

Never be too quick to get a Mahi off the line. Always wait until you have hooked another as if there is too much excitement in the water, the school will go away, leaving you with just one catch.

  • Do Not Get Discouraged

Even if you cannot catch a fish from a large school, it will be in your best interest not to go to a different place. A rookie’s biggest mistake is to troll away from a school to try their luck at a different location. Be patient and keep trying.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to cook Mahi Mahi?

Mahi Mahi, like any other seafood, tastes best fresh. You can try grilling the fish you just caught right on your boat.

It is a white fish and will not take long to cook at all, and you can use a simple lemon, salt, and pepper seasoning and serve it with butter. If you are a bit more adventurous, swap in the lemon for teriyaki sauce and serve with Asian brown rice.

Is eating Mahi fish good for my health?

Mahi-mahi is a high-protein meal rich in essential amino acids and enzymes such as omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, potassium, vitamin B, and iron. So yes, it is excellent for your health.

Can I mount a Mahi Mahi on my wall?

It might be tempting to frame a particularly large catch and put it up as a trophy. The process is called marine taxidermy, and yes, you certainly can do it with Mahi-mahi.

Conclusion

Mahi-mahi is easier to catch than other kinds of pelagic fish due to their abundance in the oceans. However, you must be knowledgeable on how to fish for them and the equipment to utilize. After reading this article, we hope that you have gained a better understanding of how to fish for mahi-mahi and which methods work best.


Photo of author

Russ Egan

Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.