How to Catch Mahi-mahi: Fishing Tips for Dorado

Kristian Ole



The Mahi-mahi is a fish species also referred to as a Dorado or a dolphinfish. They are widespread in warm ocean waters and are prized by anglers for their fierce fighting prowess and vivid colors. They have firm white flesh that has a mild, sweet flavor, making them a well-liked game fish as well as a highly prized food fish.

Species overview 

Common namesMahi-mahi, Dorado, Dolphinfish
Latin nameCoryphaena hippurus
SizeFrom 30-55 inches (80-140cm)
WeightFrom 15-40 lb (7-18kg)
Where to findHawaii, Gulf Stream (US & Caribbean), Eastern Pacific (Mexico, Central America), Western Pacific (Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia)
Preferred seasonWarmer months (April – October)
Best weatherSunny days with clear skies
TemperatureBetween 75-85° F

Gear & Setup for Mahi Mahi

Best Place to FishBoat, Shore, Piers, Jets
TechniqueTrolling, Jigging, Casting, Fly fishing
Best baitCrabs, Shrimps, pilchards
Best luresFlies, Jigs, Crankbait, Spoons
Fishing rod length7-9 feet
Fishing rod actionMedium to heavy / Fast Action 
KnotsPalomar Knot, Improved clinch knot
Fishing line20-30 lb Braided or Monofilament line
Reel8000 – Medium/Heavy

Fighting a Mahi-mahi – What can you expect?

Anglers will find fighting a Mahi Mahi to be both difficult and exciting. When hooked, these fish are known for their fierce fighting prowess and acrobatic leaps, which makes for an exciting battle.

Mahi-mahi will pull hard and make several powerful runs while being reeled in, trying to shake the hook with its strong tail and dorsal fins. They are also well known for repeatedly jumping out of the water, which can be quite entertaining.

When tackling a Mahi-mahi, you can expect to use medium to heavy tackle. A strong rod and reel are required because these fish can get quite big, with some individuals reaching weights of up to 80 pounds.

Overall, battling a Mahi-Mahi can be exciting and difficult for anglers, with the possibility of a fierce struggle and a beautiful, powerful, and colorful catch.

Mahi Mahi (Dolphinfish) underwater
Image: ftlaudgirl, depositphotos

Where to catch Mahi-mahi?


Fish during the warmer months: They are typically more active and easier to catch during the warmer months, typically from April through October, when the water is warmest.

Around the world, warm ocean waters are home to mahi-mahi. They frequently occur in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans and are typically found in tropical and subtropical areas.

Some of the best places to catch mahi-mahi include:

  • A good place to go dolphinfish fishing is in the Gulf Stream, which flows from the east coast of the United States into the Caribbean.
  • They are also abundant in the waters off of Hawaii, Mexico, and Central America.
  • The waters off of Mexico, Central America, and South America are also known to produce significant amounts in the Eastern Pacific.
  • The waters off the coasts of the Philippines, Indonesia, and New Zealand are also renowned for having healthy populations of dorado in the Western Pacific.

Mahi-mahi are migratory fish, so their presence can change depending on the time of year and the season because they move with the currents and water temperatures. Fishing is best done in the warmer months, usually from April through October, when the water is at its warmest.

It can be caught from boats as well as from land using casting or trolling techniques, fishing from piers and jetties, or even from shore.

Fishing techniques for Mahi-mahi

There are several fishing techniques that can be used to catch mahi-mahi. Some of the most effective methods include:


This is a popular technique for catching mahi-mahi, which involves towing lures or baits behind a moving boat. This imitates a baitfish’s movement and may draw the interest of passing dorado.


Look for signs of feeding activity: mahi-mahi are known to feed on schools of baitfish, so look for signs of feeding activity such as birds diving into the water, or schools of baitfish breaking the surface.


Jigging is a fishing technique that involves vertically jigging a large lure up and down in the water. Mahi-mahi, as well as other species like tuna, can be caught in deeper waters using this technique.

Live Bait

Additionally, live bait, such as small fish, squid, or even crustaceans, is known to draw mahi-mahi. Mahi-mahi can be caught using this technique, especially if they are feeding in a particular location.

Casting from boat or land

With this technique, a lure or bait is cast and then brought back to the boat, pier, or land. When mahi-mahi are feeding close to the surface or around objects like reefs, weed lines, or floating debris, this can be effective.


Fish around structure: mahi-mahi are known to feed around floating debris, reefs, weed lines and other structure. Look for areas where these structures are present and fish there.

Fly Fishing from boat

Fishingkris holding a Mahi Mahi caugt by fly fishing
Fishingkris holding a Mahi Mahi caugt by fly fishing

Mahi-mahi fly fishing can be a difficult but fruitful technique. Mahi-mahi are known to be drawn to flies like Clouser Minnows or Deceivers that look like baitfish.

It’s important to keep in mind that particular situations, times of year, and techniques might require a different approach. For instance, casting is more effective when mahi-mahi are feeding close to the surface or near structures, whereas trolling can be more effective in open waters.

Along with using the proper tackle for the size and strength of mahi-mahi, it’s important to abide by local fishing laws.

Fishing tackle for Dorado

It’s crucial to use tackle that can handle the size and strength of dorado when fishing for them. Among the essential components of Dorado fishing tackle are:


For mahi mahi fishing, a medium to heavy action rod is advised. Fighting these powerful fish is best done with a rod that has a fast action tip and a strong backbone.

Casting and trolling are best done with a rod that is 7-8 feet long, while jigging and popping are better done with a rod that is 6-7 feet long.


Mahi mahi fishing calls for a conventional reel or spinning reel with a good drag system and a strong gear ratio. The reel should be able to hold 300–500 yards of braided or monofilament line with a 20–30 lb test.


A 20-30 lb test monofilament or braided line is recommended for mahi-mahi fishing.

While braided line is thinner, stronger, and more sensitive, monofilament line is less visible in the water and may be more forgiving when casting.


A minimum of 60 lb test fluorocarbon or wire leader is recommended when fishing for mahi-mahi. These fish have sharp teeth and can easily cut through a weaker leader.


A strong and sharp hook, size 4/0 to 10/0, is recommended for mahi-mahi fishing. A circle hook is a good option as it is more likely to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, minimizing injury.

Lures and Baits

A variety of lures and baits can be used to catch mahi-mahi, such as trolling lures, jigs, plugs, and flies. Some popular options include feathers, ballyhoo, squid, and small fish.

It’s important to keep in mind that different techniques might call for various tackles, and it’s crucial to match the tackle to the circumstances and the anticipated mahi-mahi size. Checking and adhering to local fishing laws regarding the use of tackle, lures, and baits is also important.

Fly fishing tackle for mahi-mahi

Mahi-mahi fly fishing can be a difficult but rewarding technique. Using the right fly fishing equipment is essential for success and includes:

Fly Rod

Fly fishing rods for mahi mahi
Fly fishing rods for mahi mahi

A 9-10 weight fly rod with a fast action tip and a strong backbone is recommended for mahi-mahi fishing. For casting and battling these powerful fish, a longer rod (9–10 ft.) is preferable.

A large-arbor saltwater fly reel with a good drag system and a large capacity for a weight-forward floating line is recommended. The reel should have a capacity of at least 200-300 yards of 30-50 lb test backing.

Fly Line

A weight-forward floating line with a 30-50 lb test backing is recommended for mahi-mahi fishing. While a sink-tip line can be used to fish in deeper waters, a clear or intermediate line will be less noticeable in the water.

Fly Leader

When fly fishing for mahi-mahi, a fluorocarbon leader of at least 60 to 80 lb test is advised. These fish have razor-sharp teeth that can quickly sever a weak leader. Mahi-mahi casting and fighting are best done with a tapered leader of 12–15 feet.


Mahi-mahi can be caught using a variety of flies, including those that imitate baitfish, such as Clouser Minnows, Deceivers, and Lefty’s Deceivers. The flies should have a sturdy hook and be made of long-lasting materials like synthetic fibers or natural materials like bucktail.

Flies for catching mahi mahi
Flies for catching mahi mahi

Other Accessories

A good pair of polarized sunglasses, a fly fishing vest or chest pack, and a landing net are also recommended for fly fishing for mahi-mahi.

It should be noted that fly fishing for mahi-mahi is a difficult technique that necessitates an in-depth knowledge of fly casting and fish behavior.

How to safely handle and avoid hurting mahi-mahi

When catching mahi-mahi it’s important to handle the fish safely in order to avoid hurting them. Here are a few tips for safely handling mahi-mahi:

  • Keep the fish in the water: Keep the fish in the water as much as possible, especially when releasing it. This will help to keep the fish healthy and reduce stress.
  • Use a landing net: Use a landing net to lift the fish out of the water and into the boat. This will reduce the amount of time the fish is out of the water and will make it easier to release the fish safely.
  • Revive the fish: If the fish is to be released, revive it before releasing it. Gently hold the fish in the water and move it forward to help it regain its strength before letting it go.
  • Measure the fish: If you are keeping the fish, measure it to make sure it is legal size, and weigh it using a scale.
  • Use a dehooker: If the fish is to be released, use a dehooker to remove the hook safely and quickly. This will minimize the damage to the fish and the chances of injury.
  • Handle the fish gently: Avoid squeezing the fish too hard or pulling too hard on the line, as this can cause damage to the fish’s internal organs or fins.
  • Follow regulations: Always follow local fishing regulations regarding the size, catch limits, and methods of handling fish.

By following these tips, you can help to ensure that mahi-mahi are handled safely and responsibly, minimizing the chances of injury or harm to the fish.


About Kristian Ole

Kristian Ole Rørbye, a marine biologist and seasoned angler, shares his fishing adventures and expertise on FishingKris. Join him as he explores the world's waters, one cast at a time.

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