How to Catch Mahi-mahi – Tackle for Mahi-mahi

Bull Mahi MahiMahi-mahi, dorado or dolphin fish, are some of the most beautiful fish of the seas. They’re also some of the fastest growing fish, being able to reach their average 15-25 lb. weight in less than two years.

They’re sought by anglers for their size, beauty, and food quality, but mostly because the quality of their fishing. Also, they are the easiest to catch among the game, blue water fish. Once hooked, a mahi-mahi fights strenuously, with acrobatic jumps, similar to blue marlin.

Mahi-mahi fishing has its own particularities. So, here’s everything that you should know about mahi-mahi fishing, baits and tackle.

Mahi-mahi – Habitat and Habits

Mahi-mahi are surface-feeding fish, and can be found in the off-shore tropical, subtropical and temperate waters, but the higher concentrations can be found in the Caribbean Sea, Hawaii (mahi-mahi actually means “very strong” in Hawaiian), Gulf of Mexico, Pacific coast of Costa Rica, west coast of North and South America, Atlantic coast of Florida, South China Sea, West Africa, and various other areas.

They prefer the waters at the edges of reefs, close or in the Gulf Stream. The most common indicators for dolphin fish are sargasso weeds, floating wood, fronds, and other debris, and frigate birds.

Mahi-mahi are constantly on the move, looking for, or following schools of bait fish, but they’re always somewhere along the weedline.

Fishing Methods for Mahi-mahi

Mahi-mahi are off-shore fish, so evidently their fishing requires a boat. Dolphin fish are often caught as bycatch during tuna, swordfish or marlin fishing, when trolling surface baits. They can also be caught with various surface lures and / or flies, or actively fishing with cut bait, dead or live fish. Tossing live chum into the water to stimulate their appetite is also common practice in mahi fishing.

Kite fishing is also a method, typically used in Hawaii for mahi-mahi, and especially when fishing is done from the shore, but it can also be done from a boat.

Bait and Lures for Mahi-mahi

Dolphin fish are predators, and their diet consists of small fish, crustaceans and squid, or whatever small aquatic life forms take shelter in sargasso weeds, or in the weedline. They’re also specialized in hunting flying fish. The most used bait for mahi-mahi are ballyhoo, but once you find a school of mahi-mahi, they’ll basically hit any type of small fish you throw at them. So, get whatever bait fish are available, squid or even crabs and shrimp.

In terms of lures, multicolor squid imitations such as Stubby Bubblers and Bubble Jets are always welcome. Also, flying fish imitation lures from Charkbait can also make quite a killing, especially if you find the dolphins hunting in a school of flying fish.

Many anglers also use different combinations of lures and bait fish, to come up with a more alluring presentation.

Tackle for Mahi-mahi

Rods. Best rod choices when it comes to mahi fishing, are conventional, 7’6″ – 8’6″, 30lb. class, medium heavy or heavy power, and fast action. Shimano Terez or Trevala are great choices, but as a general idea, Trevala are rods for jigging, and might result in less longer casts than rods designed for popping.

An excellent choice can be a St. Croix AIS70HF or AIS76HF. However, if you don’t want to invest too much in a rod for mahi, an Ugly Stik Tiger BWS2201-2, or Tiger Lite Spinning Rod, can do the trick.

Reels. Most anglers would recommend an 8000-10000 size spinning reel. But I’d say that’s too much weight, especially if you don’t target 30lb+ mahi, and you’re not trolling. Therefore, a Shimano Saragosa 6000-8000, or basically any solid spinning reel in this size should fit to the job. For trolling, heavy baitcasters are better.

Line. 20-30lb. braided line, or 40lb. rated monofilament, are the best choices.

Terminal tackle. Terminal tackle should consists of 6 feet, 80lb. test monofilament, or 50-70lb. test wire, as other species, such as barracuda, or even sharks, may hit the bait, so it’s best to be prepared.

Lastly, the best hooks to use, are 7/0 – 8/0, circle hooks for live baiting, or J-hooks for trolling.

Photo courtesy to Jeff Weiss – 28 lb Bull Mahi Mahi caught in Islamorada, 2005 – source: