Compared to many other large game fish, learning how to catch mahi mahi is fairly straightforward. While mahi mahi (also known as dolphinfish or dorado) are known to put up a ferocious fight, they’re not the pickiest or smartest fish in the sea, so you can vary your approach widely and still get great results. That said, there are some tips and techniques that will improve your odds of landing one.
Mahi mahi is Hawaiian for “strong strong.” In other words, what they lack in brains, they make up for in brawn! When it comes to mahi mahi fishing, getting them on the hook is the easy part. The fight is a different story. If you’re lucky enough to pull up one of these beautifully colored trophy fish, you’ll be rewarded with an incredible photo and some good eating.
Here’s what you need to know when targeting mahi mahi.
1. Use Tournament-Grade Tackle
Because of the mahi mahi’s famous strength—it’s in the name, after all—you’ll need to use tough tackle, and you’ll want to have backup tackle on hand too. While anglers tend to be picky about their gear, here are some suggestions for basic mahi mahi fishing setups:
- 7′ heavy-action rod
- 30–50 pound braided or fused line
- 50-pound barrel swivel
- 30–80 pound fluorocarbon leader
- 30 to 50-pound (or higher) rods and reels
- 7/0 to 9/0 hooks
2. Experiment With Bait and Lures
As you learn how to catch mahi mahi, you’ll find that they’re not hard to please. They have big appetites and have been known to eat virtually anything in the water, including trash. Of course, better bait yields better results, so don’t overlook this step. For live or dead bait, ballyhoo and squid are popular choices for mahi mahi fishing, but really any cut or live bait fish should do the job.
As far as lures go, specific mahi mahi lures are always a solid choice. Artificial squid is another excellent option, especially when used with daisy chains and spreader bars. While trolling, always have a pitch bait ready because when you are reeling one to the boat, chances are, his buddies will follow along behind him.
3. Seek Out Floating Objects
Mahi mahi are attracted to floating structures such as boats, weedlines, buoys, driftwood, commercial fishing gear, and pretty much anything else you can imagine. Simply put, if you see anything out of the ordinary, that’s a great place to go.
If you do find a floating structure, casting is a great technique because you can really place your bait in specific, strategic locations. One common mahi mahi fishing technique is to turn off the engine, cast beyond your target area, and pull the bait towards your boat. The splash may attract the fish, enticing them to investigate and follow the bait.
Trolling at a steady 2-9 knots is another fantastic approach. Mahi mahi are quite aggressive, and they eat fast. Setting three or four lines—especially with spreader bars and daisy chains— can cause a feeding frenzy, and because mahi mahi aren’t very picky or bright, there’s a high chance they’ll bite without thinking twice.
4. Seek Out Currents and Temperature Breaks
Part of learning how to catch mahi mahi is recognizing different water conditions. One popular mahi mahi fishing technique is to seek out areas where the depth changes quickly, as this often leads to strong currents with warmer waters—a favorite hangout for mahi mahi.
For example, if you notice that a hump in the ocean floor’s terrain causes the depth to transition from 900 feet to 300 feet in a short distance, that would be a great place to investigate the currents and the fish lurking within.
5. Be Ready to Fight
Getting a mahi mahi (or multiple mahi mahi) on the hook is the easy part. Now the action begins! Put your boat in neutral, and don’t be too eager to pull your catch in immediately. Mahi mahi fishing often leads to multiple catches because they travel in schools. Leaving your catch on the line is a great way to attract more mahi mahi. To help with the fight, consider using fish fishing gear, like a rod cap or a t-bar rod cushion.
When you’re ready to reel your catch in, have your crew members bring in the other lines, so there’s no confusion or tangles. Don’t be surprised if the mahi mahi jumps out of the water and into the air—they can be extremely rambunctious, aerial fighters.
Shop Tournament-Grade Tackle
Now that you know the basics of how to catch mahi mahi, it’s time to get geared up and ready for your next mahi mahi fishing adventure. Shop tournament-grade tackle at Fish Razr to bring more fish to the boat, and check our offshore angling blog for more expert tips and techniques.