Mahi Mahi Fishing: All You Need to Know

Mar 28, 2022 | 9 minute read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

If there’s one fish that’s beloved by deep sea anglers all across the globe, it has to be the magnificent Mahi Mahi. Also known as Dolphin and Dorado, we think that “Mahi Mahi,” the Hawaiian name for this fish, is actually the most accurate. It translates to “very strong” in English, after all. This gives a little bit of insight into why anglers go mad for Mahi Mahi fishing!

An angler holding a Mahi Mahi with the ocean in the background.

When you target this brightly-colored fella, you get the full package. Not only does the Mahi put up an incredible fight and grow to impressive sizes, but it also tastes incredible whether you fry it up or serve it as a fresh ceviche. To top things off, it also inhabits waters all around the world. Below, we’ve covered everything you need to know about where, when, and how you can go Mahi Mahi fishing. Let’s dive in…

Where to Find Mahi Mahi

As we mentioned, part of the reason why the Mahi Mahi is such a popular target is because it’s incredibly widespread. Not only do they live in the Gulf, Pacific, and Atlantic waters surrounding the US, but you’ll also find them in more exotic locations. The Caribbean Sea, for example, is a Mahi hotspot, as well are the Indio-Pacific Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.

You’ll even find these fish in the far-flung South China Sea. They show up anywhere from Mexico, to Costa Rica, Louisiana, Hawaii, Australia, Southeast Asia… The list goes on! They’re especially popular in Florida, though. It’s believed that 70% of Mahi targeted across the US originated in the waters around the Sunshine State.

An angler stands while holding a Mahi Mahi freshly caught in the Gulf.

So what types of water do Mahi prefer? They tend to lurk between the surface of the ocean to around 250 feet below. They’re drawn to floating objects such as buoys, seaweed, and logs and can also be found near floating islands of grass and in channels with strong-running flows of water. Mahi Mahi are opportunistic feeders with a preferred diet of small fish and squid. Wherever you spot these guys, chances are your Dolphin’s not far behind.

When to Go Mahi Mahi Fishing

Obviously, the best time to target Mahi depends on where you’re fishing. There’s one thing anglers across the world agree on, though. Cast your line during spawning season, and you’re on to a winner. This often takes place between February and June, when Mahi head to cut banks or drop-offs at night to feed on the small bait fish that gather there. However, multiple spawnings per year are common for both male and female varieties – giving them the nickname “the rabbits of the sea”!

A couple on a boat, smiling and holding a Mahi Mahi.

Another way to predict the best Mahi fishing time is to keep an eye on their migration route. These fish are highly migratory, which means they travel around a lot. For example, in Florida, it’s best to target them between April and June. This is when they begin their journey northward (although they stick around the Florida Keys until September).

In Mexico, peak Mahi fishing times are between May and December. In Australia, the high season begins in December. It’s all about location. You can check out what the fishing near you is looking like to get an idea of when Mahi will be in your area.

How to Go Mahi Mahi Fishing

If you’re going Mahi Mahi fishing, especially for the first time, it’s highly likely that you’ll be casting off alongside an experienced charter captain. This is because you generally need to step foot on a boat to reach Mahi-rich waters, which lie further offshore. Not only will charter fishing cover your journey to the hotspots and back, but you’ll also be treated to your captain’s expert advice. This includes guidance on the best techniques to use.

A group of anglers eaxch hold a Mahi Mahi caught fishing in Puerto Rico

However, if you’re choosing to go it alone, or just want to know a little more about what it takes to reel in this colorful fish, we’ve gone into more detail below. Keep reading to see what kind of bait and lures work best to catch the attention of this species, as well as a brief dive into the most common fishing methods…

Tackle

As we mentioned, Mahi Mahi means “very strong.” It often takes a lot of effort to reel this beast onto the boat. Because of this, anglers in the know recommend using tackle that will last. You should bring along back-up tackle just in case of breakage!

There’s a whole host of angling gear you can opt for when Mahi fishing, and you’ll want to select different gear based on the technique you’ll be using. If you’re casting, a 7′ heavy-action rod paired with a 30–50 lb braided or fused line and lure weighing up to one ounce is a great starter option. You can also pair this with a 50 lb barrel swivel. When it comes to your leader, anything from 30–80 lb fluorocarbon will work.

Two anglers pose either side of a Mahi Mahi caught in Aruba

Trolling for Mahi? It’s pretty similar. A good “all-rounder” set up is a combination of a 6–7′ rod capable of holding a 30–50 lb line. If you’re going after monster species, you can increase this weight to 80 pounds. In fact, most charter boats opt for lines on the heavier end. This is in case they run into a trophy-sized Mahi or other big game fish.

Bait/Lures

We’ll just come out and say it – Mahi Mahi aren’t the brightest fish in the sea. This definitely comes in handy when picking out your bait! These fish have big appetites. When caught in a feeding frenzy, they’ll hook onto anything that gets in their way, including trash. They’re not picky, which is why most anglers keep their bait simple. Ballyhoo is the most popular choice, but you’ll also have luck with squid and pilchards whether trolling or chunking. Dead bait does the trick as well as cut or live bait.

A group of anglers holding four Mahi Mahi fish

If you’d rather keep it artificial on your fishing trip, then your best bet is any Mahi-specific lure. You’ll find a whopping variety of these in bait and tackle shops across the world. One of our favorite options is the chugger head. This lure is concave like a popper and provides plenty of noise and splashing action, as well as great bubble trails. Diving plugs, soft plastic jigs, and artificial squid will get the job done, too.

Top Techniques and Rigs

The two most popular ways of targeting Mahi Mahi are casting and trolling. Mahi Mahi are drawn to floating objects on the water surface, and casting allows anglers to get up close and personal with these spots. Then, they simply toss their bait right next to floating seaweed, grass, and other obstructions on or near the water’s surface.

A big Mahi Mahi caught while fishing in Mauritius.

There’s no fancy method when it comes to targeting Mahi with this technique, either. The majority of successful hookups simply involve casting at weed lines, buoys, floating objects, or even passing schools of fish. Some anglers recommend casting beyond your target area and making the lure or bait cross over it, with your boat engine turned off. The initial splash of the lure or bait is what attracts many Mahi.

Trolling, through, is probably the number one way to battle it out against this hard-fighting fish. Anglers suggest setting up 3 to 4 lines and targeting areas of floating seaweed or even commercial fishing gear floats. Mahi Mahi are attracted to commotion on the water, such as boats. They’re also aggressive fish that eat fast, which is why it’s recommended that you troll for them at a speed between 2–9 knots. Be consistent and make sure you keep the boat moving at a steady pace.

Top Mahi Mahi Fishing Spots

An angler holding a big Mahi Mahi on a boat

You can find Mahi Mahi all over the world, in a whole number of different waters, which means that narrowing down the top spots is a tough job. We can’t cover every special location here, but below we’ve delved into some of the most popular spots for hooking into this fish…

Florida

If there’s a Mahi Mahi capital of the world, it has to be Florida. Many anglers often refer to the Mahi as “Florida’s favorite sport fish.” The state is packed full of excellent spots, but here are some of our favorites:

An aerial view of Islamorada's pier on a bright day.
  • Key West: Or any of the Florida Keys, really, including Islamorada, the “Sport Fishing Capital of the World.” Tropical waters surround this archipelago of islands. Mahi Mahi fishing is hot all through the summer until around September, with species lurking around 20 miles offshore.
  • Stuart: This city is located along Florida’s Treasure Coast and, boy, is it a Mahi fishing gem. The Gulf Stream runs a mere 10 miles from shore, so you’ll have a short journey out to fish-filled waters. The hottest months to target ’em are from April to June.
  • Port Canaveral: It’ll take you longer to reach offshore waters from this spot on the Space Coast (we’re talking 40–50 miles). Once you’ve gone the distance, though, you’ll be able to cast your line in the Gulf Stream’s “sweet spot.” What does this mean? Huge Mahi!
  • Miami: This famous Floridian city is known as party central, but there’s also plenty of action going on underwater too. You can reach Mahi fishing hotspots in just 10 miles or so. There, you’ll be able to explore the productive waters of the Gulf Stream to your heart’s content.

Other US Locations

Of course, Florida’s not the only place in the US where you can cast a line for Mahi Mahi. Here are some other spots that offer up productive angling action:

A sunny beach on Hawaii, with palm trees and yellow sand on the right, blue ocean on the left, and mountains in the distance.
  • Louisiana: The waters around this Gulf State are packed full of oil rigs and other structure, as well as deep canyons. This makes them a real haven for Mahi Mahi. Visit during the spring and summer months and chances are you’ll experience the “Bull Run.” This is when large schools of bull and cow Mahi travel to the north coast of the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Southern California: The warm waters south of San Diego boast plenty of excellent Mahi fishing opportunities. You’ll have to travel a little further to hit the hotspots than you would in Florida, for example. With canyons and islands to explore, it’s well worth the journey.
  • Hawaii: This picture-perfect state not only looks like paradise, but it offers up some pretty heavenly angling action, too. In some areas, the seafloor drops a staggering 1,000 feet just a mile or so from shore. You can target Mahi just a few minutes after departing the dock.

Non-US Locations

Looking to travel beyond the US on your Mahi fishing adventure? Here are a few of the top fishing spots you can try out…

A view of the Costa Rica coastline with green mountains and blue seas
  • Mexico: Providing access to both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, it’s no surprise that Mexico has plenty to offer in the way of Mahi fishing. Head to Cabo San Lucas or Puerto Vallarta for some of the most plentiful angling options in this country.
  • Costa Rica: Costa Rica is the place to go if you want to combine your Mahi fishing with some stunning scenery. The big game fishing here is seriously exciting, with the country’s azure blue waters being home to over 200 different IGFA records.
  • Dominican Republic: The island is known for producing some of the best big game fishing in the entire Caribbean. Thanks to its tropical climate, you can come fishing for Mahi here year-round. You only have to travel a few miles from the beach to get in on the action.

Mahi Mahi Fishing: Test Your Skills Against One of the Best!

An angler holding a Mahi Mahi on a boat in Cancún

As we mentioned earlier, there’s plenty of reasons why Mahi Mahi are one of the world’s most popular game fish. They’re fast, flashy, and provide plenty of incredible angling action at the end of a line. Once you’ve been bitten by the Mahi fishing bug, you’ll never look back. It’s time to go out on the water and discover the magic of battling this majestic fish for yourself!

Have you ever been Mahi Mahi fishing? Any tips, trip suggestions, or advice to share? Let us know in the comments below. We love hearing from you!

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