Species spotlight: Mahi-Mahi (aka dolphin)

Dolphin, aka Mahi-Mahi, are found throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the south Atlantic Ocean. They are aggressive, fast-growing and fast-swimming predators that are a favorite of anglers.

Colorful, tasty fish are among the fastest swimming and fastest-growing species you’ll ever run into

Mahi-Mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) are some of the most colorful fish in the sea. Their long, slender bodies are brightly colored in blues, greens and yellows. Their vibrant colors are very noticeable when the fish is underwater and immediately upon being caught, but they fade quickly once in the fish box. Death is not kind, leaving them a dull yellowish-brown to olive green color.

These fish have a single dorsal fin that runs almost the entire length of their backs, starting above the eye and ending just in front of the tail. They have extremely forked tails. Their eyes are small and almost in line with their mouths.

Mahi-Mahi are often called dolphinfish or dolphin, and are not related to porpoises, which are also often called dolphins. Anglers call the smaller ones peanuts or bailers. They call adult males bulls, thanks in part to the blunt, aggressive looking forehead on bigger males. Large females are often called cows. They have a much more rounded head than bulls. Big fish are also referred to as “gaffers” because they must be landed with a gaff, instead of “bailed” at the stern like smaller fish

Dolphins are found throughout the open ocean in tropical and subtropical waters. Their population is abundant in the western Atlantic from Nova Scotia to Argentina, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in the Caribbean Sea.

The name Mahi-Mahi is often spelled as Mahi mahi, mahi-mahi, or mahimahi. Other nicknames for the fish include chicken dolphin and green dolphin. In some parts of the world, they are called dorado, which can be confusing because a popular freshwater fish species in some countries is also called dorado.

Selective diet? No!

Mitchell Prokasy caught this nice Mahi-Mahi on baitcasting tackle.

Mahi-Mahi eat a wide variety of food. If it swims and is small enough to fit in its mouth, it’s fair game, and that includes smaller Mahi-Mahi. The variety of their diet is matched by the number of predators that eat them. Especially when small, they are preyed upon by just about every other fish that’s bigger. It’s not uncommon for anglers to catch some with holes pierced through them, presumably by billfish chasing them.

Humans also enjoy eating Mahi-Mahi. Aside from putting up a great fight on rod and reel, they are great eating.

These are fast-growing fish. A 1-year-olds typically weigh about 15 pounds, but some have been known to grow as big at 32 pounds in their first year. A 4-year-old dolphin is usually around 75 pounds. They are also prolific breeders, and they spawn throughout the entire year. Females only 8 inches long will participate in at least one spawning cycle before they are a year old.

Anglers catch a lot of Mahi-Mahi around offshore grass lines and other floating debris, often by casting spoons, jigs or topwater lures. Trolling is another popular way to catch them. Billfish anglers often catch them while trolling big lures for marlin and sailfish.

Mississippi’s state-record involves two fish that weighed 62 pounds each. One was caught in 1981 by D.L. Siegel and the other by Leo Muldoon in 1985.

The world-record Mahi-Mahi was caught off the coast of Costa Rica in September 1976. It weighed 87 pounds.

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