The Dorado, or dolphin, dauphin, lampuga, lampuki, lapuki, maveriko are all names for this surface dwelling fish of many names. The common English name of dolphin causes much confusion as this fish is not related to the marine mammals also known as dolphins (family Delphinidae). We just call them Mahi-Mahi which means "very strong" in Hawaiian.
Mahi Mahi are one of the most widely distributed fish in all waters worldwide. They are literally everywhere. It is an excellent fish to target on the fly because they are incredibly acrobatic, beautifully colored, strong aggressive fighters not to mention plentiful. Mahi are hunted all over the world because they are so tasty and such fine table fare making them a fish of interest for bait chunkers, trollers, fly fisherman and commercial fisherman.
Mahi Mahi have a long dorsal fin extending almost the entire length of their body and are also known for their characteristically dazzling colors of golden yellows on the side and bright blues and greens on their sides and back. They are very fast growing fish and frequent spawners. They breed several times a year (2-4 times annually) in warmer waters worldwide. The species sexually matures by 6 months of age and typically live to ages of 5-6 years.
Mahi are found in waters from South America to the Caribbean, in the Florida coastal waters and as far up the east coast as New Jersey (in the summertime). They can also be located all the way across the world in Hawaii, Australia and Asia. They are essentially everywhere. Most Mahi caught in Florida and the Bahamas will be in the 5-15 lbs (1-7 kg) range however, down in Costa Rica and Panama the sizes begin to increase and you could hook up on a 20-30 lbs (9-14 kg) bull fairly regularly. The west coast seems to produce the largest and healthiest Mahi weighing in around 35-45 lbs (16-20 kg) from Hawaii, Australia and the western Pacific waters near Asia.
Mahi are voracious eaters. They feed on anything they encounter, but target flying fish, squid, crabs and smaller fish including baby Dorado. They can be found anywhere offshore but are most often found in rips or current lines with floating debris. Mahi are attracted to rip lines with floating sargassum weeds because small bait fish will hide from their predators beneath the grass. Sargassum weed lines aren't the only thing that concentrates Mahi. Anything that floats on the surface in blue water will attract small bait fish and eventually Mahi will show up to feed on them.
Fishing for Mahi is not difficult but dose require some knowledge and know-how to get on them successfully. A couple of things to keep in mind when targeting Mahi;
1. Mahi like structure! Find yourself a weed line or floating debris with or without chum or follow it casting your fly to the edge of the weed line and strip parallel to the weeds or debris. If you don't get a chase or a hook up in a few casts then they probably aren't there.
2. Chum works! You can also summon Mahi-Mahi with chum, creating chum slicks to cast your fly into or you can also try trolling.
3. The key to fly selection is matching size and color of the fly to the natural food being eaten.
In most cases that means imitating a sardine or other small baitfish. Mahi are also not shy about eating baby Mahi-Mahi so yellow and green baitfish patterns work as well. Small bait fish or poppers usually two to four inches in length are really the way to go. We also like a small squid pattern or expoxy fly. Clouser minnows work well, various poppers, crease flies and squid patterns.
As far as equipment it really depends on what size fish you're expecting to come accross.
In the Atlantic, there's a good chance that where the Mahi are you may also encounter Bonito, False Albacore and other Tuna Species. For that reason we don't recommend anything less than an 7 weight rod with either floating or intermediate line. We usually start with either a 9 to see what is in the water, you can move up or down accordingly. Usually up to a 10 or 12 for the tuna species or 7 if your catching 5-10 lb (2-4 kg) Mahi-Mahi.
In the Pacific & around Hawaii, the Mahi are much bigger and stronger. You would be foolish to start with anything less than a 12. When fisihing for Billfish, have your 12-15 weight ready for the Marlin or sail set up with a popper. Also have a 12 weight set up with a streamer for Mahi in case they show up.
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Baby Mahi-Mahi Fly
Baby Dorado Fly
EP Flex Calamari
Tuna Tux (Gary Bulla's)