December 20, 2019
Mahi Mahi is a special kind of fish. Unlike any other in appearance and it makes great table fare, mahi is often ranked as a top species to target throughout the year.
Also, they are fun to catch.
Sure, you can sight fish floating debris for mahi from an elevated section of your vessel such as a tuna tower, but trolling is really where the fun is at. Whether it’s trolling the Gulf Stream along the Atlantic Coast, along the weed lines of the Keys, or throughout the Gulf of Mexico, trolling for mahi mahi is a great way to spend your day.
Let’s take a closer look:
Also known as dorado or dolphin, mahi mahi are found throughout tropical and subtropical waters. “Mahi mahi” means “very strong” in Hawaiian, and it’s a very accurate name. They are known for putting up one heck-of-a-fight, and will jump and thrash to throw the hook.
Mahi are slender fish with compressed bodies. They have prominent foreheads and a short dorsal fin that runs from head to tail. They are most commonly known for their beautiful colors: bright blues, greens, and yellows across their bodies. Out of the water, they change color from golden yellow to muted gray. Females are smaller than males; an average mahi mahi can grow up to 30 pounds. There are some bull mahis found throughout the world, with the world record landed near Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, coming in at 102 pounds.
Mahi mahi are a schooling fish, swimming in open waters . They like swimming near grass beds and debris, but can be found as deep as 300 feet. Typically, they stay within 100 feet of the surface, as that’s where their food is found. They feed on bait fish such as mackerel, ballyhoo, and squid. They are also quite fond of flying fish – found at the top of the water and perfect for mahi mahi.
As you head out for your day of trolling for mahi mahi, keep an eye on the sky. That’s right: when birds are circling and diving into the water that means some food is there. And you can bet mahi mahi are answering the dinner call.
Trolling is a technique used by anglers across the globe. Simply drive the boat with rods anchored across the stern of the boat dragging bait at different depths and widths. Your desired fish will see something swim by, and want to give in to the chase. The biggest key to success when trolling is boat speed. Drive too fast and your fish won’t see the offering; too slow and they won’t be interested. It takes a lot of practice, trial-and-error to get this technique down. Professional charter captains have put in the time, and will know the best speed for your mahi trolling trip.
Depending on boat size and whether or not you have outriggers available, troll with three rods, with lines spaced out from the wake to as far as sixty yards out. When targeting mahi, one method is to skip the bait along the surface of the water. Remember, they prey heavily on flying fish! Another method is to attach your rods to outriggers which make it much easier to troll multiple rods, usually no more than 6. Or add a dredge; this device creates the illusion of a school of bait fish. The mahi mahi can’t resist a school of bait fish! Reels should have 30 to 50 pound line test tackle with either 5/0 or 7/0 size hook. Once the mahi strikes, the resistance of the drag will set the hook for you… So keep that rod tip up and reel!
Mahi mahi are aggressive, known as acrobatic and fierce fighters. They jump, thrash, and do whatever it takes to toss the hook. Once one mahi hits a trolling bait, it’s very common for 2-3 members of the same school to strike the other lines in the water. It’s hard to beat the thrill of multiple mahi mahi hook ups. It takes teamwork to bob and weave under each other’s lines to prevent a tangle. If you don’t hook up on multiple mahi on the initial strike, there’s still a chance to catch other members of the school. Leave the initially hooked mahi mahi off the stern of the boat, put the boat in neutral, and start to throw pieces of cut bait in its vicinity. This will bring the schoolies closer to the surface, allowing the other anglers on board to use light tackle to cast at, and hook up on the rest of the school! It is quite common for a large number of mahis to be caught at one time using this technique.
As we mentioned, sight fishing the debris and grassbeds is another common way of fishing for mahi mahi. Kite fishing is also used, although most times accidentally. Anglers are typically targeting other pelagic species when a bull mahi will come across a kite spread. Most kite anglers use circle hooks, and it’s very difficult to catch a mahi on a circle hook. “Dolphin don’t bite fish in half. They mash it with the top of their mouth. That mashes the circle hook into the bait, according to Captain Mike Weinhofer in this Sport Fishing article.
However you land your mahi mahi, we know for sure you’re in for some good eating. It’s a lean fish, high in protein and low in saturated fat and sodium. Most people will bake or grill it with simple seasoning. You can also make delicious fish tacos with mahi. Check out All Recipes for more ways to prepare your catch!
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