Distinctive Features & Description
Mahi-Mahi (Coryphaena hippurus)
If you're interested in catching super-strong, beautiful, not-too-choosy, leaping fish, here ya go. These are the saltwater equivalents of bluegills, except they jump, and they get big. Like as big as your aging retriever.
The common English name "dolphin" causes much confusion and lots of hand-wringing. Let's be clear: this fish is not related to the marine mammal also known as dolphin (family Delphinidae). This distinction is completely obvious to anyone who's seen the fish (or the mammal) in person, but we just want to be clear that we're not angling for Flipper here.
Dolphin have a couple of regional names. In Mexico they're dorado. In Hawaii, they're mahi-mahi (meaning "very strong," an apt appellation). We're going to stick with that name from now on.
Mahi-mahi are one of the most widely distributed fish in the ocean. They are in just about all tropical and sub-tropical waters. Mahi are an excellent fish to target on the fly because they are incredibly acrobatic, beautifully colored, strong, aggressive fighters – and they're plentiful.
What do Mahi-Mahi eat?
Quick answer: anything and everything.
But for our purposes we need to focus on baitfish. Flying fish, sardines, anchovies, all the standard fare. Squid are also part of the mahi's diet, but we've never been in a situation that absolutely required a good squid imitation. (No doubt that those situations exist, though.)
They feed on anything they encounter, but target flying fish, squid, crabs and smaller fish including baby mahi. They can be found anywhere offshore but are most often found in rips or current lines with floating debris.
Mahi-Mahi Distribution, Habitats, & Habits
Mahi have a long dorsal fin (somewhat sail-like) extending almost the entire length of their body. They are also known for their dazzling colors. It's an amazing thing to see, but a fluorescing blue mahi cruising around the boat will turn an absolutely astounding yellow when he's lit up – eg, excited by your fly, or when hooked. The transformation is incredible. (That's why you don't see pictures of anglers holding mahi in their aquamarine colors; somehow, when they get stressed or excited, they go yellow.)
Mahi are very fast growing fish, and they spawn frequently (2-4 times annually). Mahi sexually mature by 6 months of age and typically live for 5-6 years.
They're found in waters from South America to the Caribbean, in 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.
Fly Fishing For Mahi
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 doesn't have to be difficult but it does require some knowledge and know-how to get on them successfully.
Baby Mahi-Mahi Fly
EP Flex Calamari
Tuna Tux (Gary Bulla's)