How to Catch Mahi Mahi: Mahi Mahi Fishing Tips [2022 Update]


Updated on September 18, 2022 by

The best way to catch mahi mahi is to target floating seaweed with a rigged ballyhoo on 20 lb mono fishing line.

The summer months bring out the inner fisherman in all of us. Mahi-mahi has become a popular target for anglers due to its availability, beautiful appearance, and delicate taste.

Mahi Mahi is found in tropical or subtropical waters all over the world. That makes fishing for mahi-mahi a brilliant inshore fishing activity.

So, today, we’ll offer you some brilliant Mahi Mahi fishing tips to make your job easier.

Mahi-Mahi Species Information

mahi mahi dolphinfish

The word “Mahi-mahi” comes from the Hawaiian language and means “very strong.” This shows that dorado is an incredibly strong and aggressive fish species. In their warm water ecosystem, they are one of the dominant predator fish.

This handy table below will show us more dorado fish facts.

Scientific NameCoryphaena hippurus  
Also Known AsMahi fish, Dorado, Dolphinfish
Physical AppearanceTall and flat. Squarehead. Blue-green scales along the back. Yellow scales along the sides and underbelly. Long dorsal fin.  
HabitatSubtropical and tropical waters on the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic coasts.
Size3 to 6 feet long and up to 30 pounds in weight
Life spanFour to five years.
DietCarnivorous – Smaller fish, shrimp, squid, zooplankton, and crustaceans.
TasteSubtle sweet flavor. Very lean.  
This table explains the key features of a Mahi Mahi fish

The largest Mahi Mahi caught in Maryland by Kristi Frashure was in 2019 with a 74.5-pound dolphinfish.

Maryland record mahi mahi

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Dolphin fish are blue water, open ocean fishes that travel in schools. Hence, they notoriously swim in the gulf stream and its warm water. Although they are occasionally found fishing offshore, schools of dorado swim closer to the bay in the warm summer months.

Mahi mahi fishing is so popular because these fish like to reside around the top level of the ocean. Typically, you will find them near the surface or midwater around floating debris. If you notice some Sargassum seaweed, your best bet would be to look around the weed lines as dolphin fish hunt for small fish around these places.

Sargassum seaweed can hide mahi mahi

Mahi-Mahi Regulations

While they are still one of the fastest-growing fish, authorities always put some regulations to protect the ecosystem and other fish. Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia all have their own rules, and they are as follows:

Maryland and Delaware

No minimum size limit, and the season is open year-round. The daily limit per person is 10, the boat limit is 60, and no bag limit unless in federal waters.

Virginia

There is no size limit in Virginia. However, the bag limit is 10 per day.

Equipment Required for Mahi Mahi

While you do need skills and knowledge to catch any strong fish, having the right equipment for the job is very important as it will make your life that much easier to catch fish.

Baits and Lures

While small baits are typically used to catch smaller fish, it depends on your preference and goals. The best chunk bait is ballyhoo. Here are a few baits, trolling lures, and topwater lures that seasoned fishermen recommend while catching Mahi-mahi:

  • Cut Ballyhoo, rigged ballyhoo, skirted ballyhoo or ballyhoo rig
  • Any small live baitfish
  • Any cut fish
  • Squid, shrimps, flying fish
  • Flying fish daisy chain

At the end of the day, whatever your choice is, live bait, dead bait, or fancy lures, you need proper skill, strength, and tactics to catch mahi-mahi.

the best bait for mahi mahi is rigged ballyhoo baitfish

Rod and Reel Setups

While we recommend having a few of the best trolling lures and pitching live baits to catch more fish, your spinning reel, rod, boat, and proper trolling gear are all necessary.

Here are a few setups you should use while fishing for different sizes of mahi-mahi.

For Light Fish

  • A graphite 7.5-foot inshore rod that is rated for at least 8-17 lbs
  • 4000 spinning reels with 12 lbs mono line

For Larger Fish

  • A good spinning rod with a rating of at least 15-30 lbs
  • 8000 spinning reel with 20 lb mono line

For Trolling Offshore

  • A good spinning rod with a rating of at least 15-30 lbs
  • An overhead reel with 20 lb mono line

Tactics to Catch Mahi Mahi

In the Pacific, there are a variety of techniques for capturing mahi-mahi. According to their preferences, many anglers like to troll for Mahi, while others prefer to be on a boat and conduct a classic line of sight casting for Mahi.

Half the fun of fishing comes from this freedom of choice. So, if you want to fish from a floating structure or glide through the water, we want to equip you with the right tactics.

The following section will disclose helpful tactics straight from professionals on a few different methods:

Trolling for Mahi Mahi

Trolling is the best method for going offshore to hunt for your dolphinfish.

In trolling, you pull a bait or lure behind the boat as it moves forward and wait for a fish to take the bait or lure. This strategy is useful for covering large areas to significantly increase your chances of catching a fish.

Here are a few tips for trolling offshore to catch mahi-mahi:

  1. Swimbaits, spinnerbait, spoon lures, surface lures, and plugs are all very effective while trolling.
  2. A planer board can be used to increase your chances of catching one fish.
  3. Keep your boat moving at 8 to 15 knots.
  4. Bring multiple setups for the best chances.

Fun Fact: You can even go fishing while trolling on a kayak.

an example of a mahi mahi lure

Sight-Fishing for Mahi Mahi

Sight-fishing refers to the practice of seeing a fish and attempting to cajole it into eating your fly, bait, or lure.

One of the most satisfying experiences in fishing is tracking down a difficult fish and coaxing it into biting the hook.

The most viable place for you to be while Mahi-Mahi fishing is at the boat side, casting into the water.

Let’s take a look at a few tips while catching mahi-mahi in the sight fishing method:

  1. Look out for objects in the water that float around. For example, flotsam or logs.
  2. Reel in fast as Mahi-mahi is very fast and strong.
  3. Use bits of bait or chum to get the fish you sighted used to feeding. After doing that a few times, use the same bait on a hook, and the Mahi Mahi will probably take it.
  4. Let the bait sink until you manage to hook a Mahi-mahi.
a log floating in the ocean is an ideal mahi mahi hiding place

Spear-Fishing for Mahi Mahi

We have now come to the most adventurous way of fishing for Mahi-mahi. As much fun as trolling and sight fishing is, nothing quite gets your adrenaline going like getting into the water to hunt a fish using a spear.

While following this method, you will need exceptional skills and a very keen eye. At the same time, spearfishing calls for particular gear, and we highly recommend you not go into the water without the right tools.

Mahi-mahi fishes like to hide in plain sight. That means a school or a pair of mahi-mahi will be near if you see anything suitably large floating around in the water. Always look for kelp that seems like it broke off from a larger forest.

But how else to make your spearfishing venture easier?

  1. A wetsuit, gloves, fins, masks, snorkel, and weight belts are mandatory.
  2. As Mahi-mahi are not huge fish, you will only need a 90cm or larger spear gun with a floating line.
  3. If you do not have a floating line or a reel, mahi-mahi is strong enough to swim away with your speargun.
  4. Attach a bar or a lure at the tip of your spear to get the fish’s curiosity and draw them in closer for an easier target.
  5. While making a catch, have your buddy throw around baits and chum in the water to keep the rest of the school around for more chances.
  6. Try to keep the school around you.

Regardless of all the other advantages, spearfishing is beneficial because the fishermen can choose their target. In other methods, you are stuck with whatever fish bites your hook, but if you are calculatingly throwing your spear at bigger fishes, with enough luck, you will get bigger Mahi-mahi.

General Tips to Catch Mahi Mahi

While experience is the most important thing when it comes to being an expert, we all have to start somewhere. Catching Mahi Mahi or any fish isn’t different.

So along with all our other tactics. Here are a few generalized tips you can keep in mind while out on a fishing trip to catch Mahi-mahi.

Get the Time of Day Right

Knowing the time of the day to fish is just as important as knowing the season. Mahi fishes are day feeders, and your best bet will be to capture them when they get out to eat. However, it is not uncommon for them to come out at night when there’s a lot of moonlight.

Look for Birds

Remember that you might not be the only one out to hunt Mahi. Be aware of the skies as predators like frigate birds flock around mahi-mahi nests hoping to catch one. Look for the birds to know where the schools of fish are.

Be Ready to Fight

As their name suggests, Mahi fishes are incredibly strong, fast, and aggressive; hence, they are not the right target to fish if you want a chill day. Be prepared for the fish to fight, and bring the right gear to put up a fight yourself.

Do Not Get Discouraged

Even if you cannot catch a fish from a large school, it will be in your best interest not to go to a different place. A rookie’s biggest mistake is to troll away from a school to try their luck at a different location. Be patient and keep trying.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to cook Mahi Mahi?

Mahi Mahi, like any other seafood, tastes best fresh. You can try grilling the fish you just caught right on your boat.

It is a white fish and will not take long to cook. You can use a simple lemon, salt, and pepper seasoning and serve it with butter. If you are a bit more adventurous, swap the lemon for teriyaki sauce and serve it with Asian brown rice.

Can I mount a Mahi Mahi on my wall?

It might be tempting to frame a particularly large catch and put it up as a trophy. The process is called marine taxidermy, and yes, you can do it with Mahi-mahi.

What is the best fishing line for Mahi Mahi?

The best fishing line for mahi mahi is 20 lb monofilament. This is because the monofilament line has the best abrasion resistance, and mahi mahi are often found hiding around floating logs or weeds that can damage your line as the fish fights.

Conclusion

Mahi-mahi is easier to catch than other kinds of pelagic fish due to their abundance in the oceans. However, you must know how to fish for them and the equipment to utilize. After reading this article, we hope you understand better how to fish for mahi-mahi and which methods work best.


Photo of author

Captain Russ Egan

Captain Russ is an avid fisherman. He has fished all over the world for more than two decades, primarily for saltwater game fish but also for local trophy fish. Russ writes reviews for all of his fishing gear to help others achieve their own fishing goals. His favorite reel is a Shimano Curado Baitcaster. His dream is to catch a Black Marlin.