A comprehensive guide to fishing for Mahi Mahi.
Written by Anthony Coughran from Fishing Fun Gold Coast
Your fish of the month is Mahi mahi………
Mahi mahi ( dolphin fish) Corphaena hippurus
Mahi mahi means very strong in Hawaiian.
We are so lucky to have the dolphin fish fishery we have in Australia. Locally we have all the government implemented FAD’s, pro fisherman trap lines and drum line which hold schools of dollies off our coast each year. As they migrate down our coast and chase the warm water boundaries.
Tips and techniques:
One of the prettiest fish in our oceans. The bright yellow belly, electric blue/ green top and bright electric blue spots all over it are so charged up when first landed. Fishos are often disappointed with the colour as it fades really fast once out of the water and dispatched. So a quick pic as soon as you catch it will show off their amazing colours.
Dollies are one of the best fighting fish off our coasts, as they are aerial acrobats once hooked and are super fast. They are as comfortable in the air as they are in the water. They will fly out of the water after flying fish and will even quite often catch bait mid air. Fast moving speedsters that can reach speeds of up to 50 knots or 92.5kms an hour. Which is faster then most boats. No wonder they go so hard once connected and put up a great fight.
Lifespan and movement:
Dolphinfish are one of the fastest growing and shortest lived fish in our waters. They usually grow about 1kg in the first 6months of their lives and can reach about 10kg after a year. Their estimated growth is up to 25kgs and around 210cm after two to four years. Estimated to only live to 2-4years and are highly fecund. Producing about 58,000 – 1.5 million eggs per spawn. These numbers increases as fish length increases and they spawn very frequently once matured. They prefer to hang in schools with a large bull as head of the pack with his Haram of cows in tow. But can be solitary hunters as well. Normally when you find one they will have mates nearby.
Dollies can be found in most current lines, spawn lines, around floating objects such as drift wood, bread crates, Palm fronds, floats, buoys, markers, FAD’s, drum line and trap lines from close reefs out to the shelf. Summer is the best time to catch dollies off our coast as they migrate south after the warm to cold water buffer zones.
Bag and size limits for mahi mahi:
Qld: 50cm or greater bag of 5
NSW: 60cm – 110cm a bag of 10
110cm or greater a bag of 1 max combined bag of 10
Bait fishing for dollies:
An unweighted half or whole pillie can often get the fussiest of dollies to bite. Once you have found the schooled up fish.
slimmies, yakkas and squid. A whole unweighted dead bait can also be very deadly on these gold bars of goodness.
Livies are still a very effective way to score dollies. Live yakka’s, slimmies, squid, pilchard and scad’s. Again on an unweighted or light weighted set up will often score the bigger dollies out of the pack.
Skipping gar: also works when trolled past the packs or FAD’s. But you really need to find a school for them to work well.
Bait set ups for dollies:
Set up always depends on the size of the fish you are fishing for. A lot of the time the dollies around the FAD’s are only small to medium. So up to a meter. So 15- 30lb braid and 20- 50lb leader is all that is needed. But you may have to pull out the bigger gear when you find the bigger dollies.
Like when using live baits. You want 30- 80lb braid to 40-120lb leader. A 17lb – 40lb 5-7ft rod with a 5000 – 8000 spin reel will work well for dead baits. But you might want to go to a 30lb – 80lb 5ft rod with a 15-25w over head for the big Dollies on live baits.
Artificial’s for dollies: Skirts:
Trolled skirts are still one of the best ways to catch big Dollies. You cover lots of ground while you fish. 5- 9inch skirts work best. Cut face skirts still catching more off our shores then most other skirts. You want to troll your skirts between 6- 12knts depending on your skirts. But you will be able to tell if they are skipping or not.
You want your skirts sitting at the front side of the waves created by your wake of the boat.
Fish will only hit the lures at the bottom of the waves. So set your lures at the right length so ensure you get the best out of them. Teasers help a lot as well. Try and always line you tow up so you are heading away from the sun. As you will always get more hook up towing away from the sun. Fish find it harder to see when trolling into the sun.
Best colours: pink, purple, blacks and lumo.
Set up: 20- 80lb mono. Over head set ups work best but jigging rods with 12000 spin gear works well too.
20- 80g metals work well on dollies once located. FADs, buoys, markers, floats and drifting debris all fish well with metals once have you located the fish sitting on it. Casting in front of these objects and ripping it past them will result in hook ups. If they are not hitting this technique. Cast out in front of the object. Let it sink for about 20- 60 secs. Then rip it in. Speed is essential to hook ups. Faster the better. A slower wobbling rod tip retrieve also works well.
Colours: doesn’t matter as its all about the speed of retrieval.
Set up: 15- 40lb braid 20- 50lb leader. 17- 50lb rod and a 4000- 10000 reels.
Hard bodied lures:
Deep and shallow diving lures also catch dollies. Again best used towed past a FAD’s or floating debris. Ex rap, laser pro and pacemakers are just a few and all work well.
Colour: red head, slimy and purples work well.
Set ups: same as your skirt gear. 20-80lb mono. Over head or heavy spin gear.
Popper/ stick baits:
Once you have found them. You can start to throw stick baits and poppers around them. These lures particularly work best around the FAD’s and floating debris.
Colours: red head, slimy, green and gold and purples.
Set up: you want heavy spin gear. 20- 50lb braid to 30- 80lb leader On a 7ft rod and a 5000- 12000 reel.
Jigs are used in much the same way as metals. Drop to the bottom once you have found the Achilles up fish. Then rip them back up through the water column. Faster the better.
Colours: doesn’t matter it’s about how fast you work them.
Set up: same as metals. 20- 40lb braid 30- 50lb leader. 7ft rod with a 4000- 8000 reel.
Used much the same way as metals. Let them sink and rip them in. Heavy jig heads. 5- 9inch profiles.
Colours: greens, blues, pinks, purples and pearls.
Fish preservation and cleaning:
When caught you want to bleed you fish as it will let all the blood out of the muscles and flesh. A quick slice of the gill lining or the vain in throat, then a brain spike and straight onto ice or in an ice slurry will keep your catch in the best eating condition.
Mahi mahi are great on the chew and straight into an ice slurry or on ice once dispatched. Dollies are also very good raw ( shashimi ) but of soy and wasabi and it’s great. They are very nice crumbed and deep fried, pan fried, steamed, in a salad or on a sandwich, curried, garlic style or even just baked whole or whole on the bbq. Just add a few herbs, spices, lemon and garlic or what ever floats your boat and get into them.
They also freeze quiet well. As the flesh doesn’t form as many ice crystals as lots of other fish and is only one of a few fish I will actually freeze. But fresh is always so much better.
* remember to only take what you need. As it’s not always necessary to keep your bag limit or more fish then you can eat that night.
* caution is advised once fish is landed.
They still have a lot of energy and are very strong and can often result in injury from hooks coming loose and in bedding into your flesh. A wet towel straight over its head and eyes is the best way to calm any fish.
Mahi mahi are also know as:
Dolphin fish, dollies, dorado and golden bars of goodness.
Having a fish ID app, fish ID books like Grants guide to fish or a fish almanac will help you identify the species you have caught. Which mean there will be no confusion when you get back in or with dpi. Or you can ask us. But if you are unsure take a pic and throw it back. You can always ask us when your back in. It’s not worth it if you don’t know what it is.
On behalf of The team at FFGC we wish everybody safe travels and fishing fun. Thanks AntFFGC.
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