Dorado (or Mahi-Mahi as they are called some places or dolphin fish as they are called in other places) are one of the world’s most popular gamefish. This article focuses on the Southern California and Northern Baja Dorado fishery. Dorado or Mahi Mahi are brightly colored, hard fighting, acrobatic fish when hooked. They are one of my favorite big gamefish to eat. Dorado are abundant in most tropical area and because they are a fast-growing, short-lived fish they feed often. They die of old age around 5-6 years and attain a maximum weight of around 90lbs.
Dorado or Mahi Mahi can change the intensity of their colors which usually fades almost immediately after they are brought on board a boat.
Male Dorado or Mahi Mahi, often called “Bulls”, have a large distinctive flat forehead. They grow bigger than the females, which are called “Cows”. Most fish over 25lbs or so will be male. Dorado fishing is like a trip to the rodeo - hang on for the ride and prepare for some wild acrobatics.
Check out this short video of awesome action on Dorado, Marlin, and Tuna in Puerto Vallarta: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXAbGeWEoWo
Late Summer Southern California Dorado Fishing
Around mid-July every year Dorado make their way into the warmer waters off Southern California and the Pacific Ocean comes alive with gamefish action, a seasonal rare treat for local angler's. Local sportfishing vessel's and private skiff's run trips targeting tuna, Yellowtail, Dorado and other big gamefish species. Usually boats "paddy hop", fishing loose kelp paddies or any other floating objects or trash in the water as these typically are holding Dorado. Signs of these areas holding Dorado and other gamefish usually have birds working the area feeding off bait balls (small bait fish that group into a large school in the shape of a ball) caused by bigger gamefish in a feeding frenzy. These are prime conditions for a shot at hooking a Dorado for the focus of this article but other gamefish as well including Yellowtail, Yellowfin Tuna (Ahi), Bluefin Tuna, Big Eye Tuna, Wahoo (Ono) or even a whopper Sun Fish.
Any medium weight conventional set up should work fine. A Shimano Trinidad 16N is a good reel for casting. I like my Daiwa Sealine 20 or 30 or my old Shimano Calcutta 400 on my G-Loomis rod with 20# line I use for light tackle baitcasting and flipping plastics. Sometimes it takes a long cast with small, live anchovy and little to no weight so proper technique is crucial. Bottom line is match the tackle to the conditions and using a lake pole spinning outfit WalMart special is not the best choice for a 40-50lb "Bull" Dorado or Mahi Mahi. I've seen it happen far too much, beautiful trophoy gamefish lost to frayed line, poor knots, or even a broken pole from using that favorite trout pole. On a often crowded open party sportfishing boat this also creates a problem for other anglers because of the likely tangles it potentially causes as well. My point is be prepared for anything when targeting offshore big gamefish. Unfortunately, Dorado are often hooked when trolling with heavy tackle meant for larger fish such as Marlin and so they are totally outmatched and really don't get a chance to show what they are made of. This is one of the great tragedies of sportfishing. If you hook a 30lb+ Dorado on a lighter saltwater baitcasting rod and reel you are in for quite a fight. Click here for tackle recommendations .
Dorado are an open water species that often associates with floating debris such as logs. If you are in an area with Dorado any floating object is worth a look as it may concentrate the fish. If you have anything to chum with that can really get them going. They are considered a pelagic fish but I have seen them caught from shore on rare occasions.
Most Dorado are caught on trolling lures such as rubber skirts meant for Marlin or Sailfish or feathers meant for Tuna. They also hit trolled plugs such as Rapalas.
If Dorado are concentrated in an area, either through chumming or because there is a piece of floating debris, a wide variety of lures may be cast to them. My favorite is a popper, which they will readily eat. If they are fired up they will pretty much eat anything. Whatever you cast to them, make sure you watch out with heavier lures as Dorado jump wildly when hooked and the lure could come flying back at you at a high rate of speed.
Dorado mostly eat fish so traditional baitfish such as sardines and Pacific Mackerel work well. Larger fish will eat larger baits. Dorado have relatively small mouths but it always amazes me how they can somehow still engulf relatively large baits. When they are fired up they will eat almost anything.
Where to get the big Dorado
Any tropical location where there is good fishing for other pelagics such as Marlin or Wahoo should have some Dorado. Some world-record fish have been caught in the Cabo San Lucas area so that would be a good bet. After rain flushes debris in the water is a good time to go Dorado hunting as the debris will concentrate them.
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