Dolphin Fish – Mahi-mahi or Dorado

Dolphin fish, with their brilliant colours and incredible speed, are among the most captivating denizens of tropical and subtropical waters around the globe. Despite their misleading name, these ray-finned fish are not closely related to dolphins at all. Instead, they belong to the Coryphaenidae family, a group of marine fish known for their impressive swimming abilities and stunning appearance.

The dolphin fish’s body is designed for speed and agility. Its elongated, compressed shape and slender head tapering into a beak-like snout allow it to cut through the water with remarkable ease. One of the most striking features of this fish is its vibrant colouring, which can range from vivid shades of green and yellow on its flanks to a deep blue along its back. This colour pattern serves as camouflage, helping the dolphin fish blend in with the surrounding ocean environment.

What sets the dolphin fish apart from many other species is its astonishing growth rate. Starting from tiny larvae, these fish can reach lengths of over 4 feet and weigh up to 50 pounds within their first year of life. This rapid growth is fueled by their voracious appetites, as they constantly feed on smaller fish, squid, and crustaceans. In fact, their growth is so accelerated that they are among the fastest-growing fish in the world.

Dolphin fish are truly global citizens, found in tropical and subtropical waters across the world’s oceans. They are often spotted near coastal areas, around floating objects such as buoys or debris, and near land masses. Major fisheries for these prized fish exist in the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and the Indian Ocean.

Despite their name, dolphin fish are not closely associated with dolphins, although they may occasionally ride the pressure waves created by pods of these marine mammals. Their name likely stems from their incredible swimming abilities, which allow them to leap out of the water and perform acrobatic maneuvers reminiscent of their mammalian namesakes.

Dolphin fish are voracious predators, feeding on a variety of smaller fish, squid, and crustaceans. They are known to hunt in pairs or small groups, using their speed and agility to pursue and capture their prey.

Dolphin fish hold significant value for both commercial and recreational fisheries. Their firm, white flesh is prized for its mild flavor and versatility in various culinary preparations, making them a highly sought-after food fish.

Additionally, their incredible speed and strength make them a popular target for recreational anglers, who relish the challenge of landing these powerful fish. Dolphin fish are renowned for their spectacular aerial displays and their tenacity when hooked, providing an exhilarating experience for sport fishermen.

While dolphin fish populations are generally considered healthy, there are concerns about overfishing in certain regions. Several management measures have been implemented to ensure the sustainability of these valuable fisheries, including catch limits, size restrictions, and seasonal closures.

Furthermore, efforts are underway to promote responsible fishing practices and reduce bycatch, which can inadvertently impact other marine species. By prioritizing conservation and sustainable management, we can help ensure that future generations can continue to appreciate and enjoy the majestic dolphin fish.

Targeting Dolphin Fish in Australian Waters

While dolphin fish are found throughout tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, they are a highly prized catch for anglers off the coast of Australia, particularly in the northern regions. These powerful fish provide an exhilarating challenge and are renowned for their incredible fighting abilities when hooked.

Prime Locations In Australian waters, some of the best areas to target dolphin fish include:

  • The Great Barrier Reef region off Queensland’s coast
  • The Coral Sea off northeastern Australia
  • The waters around the Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island territories
  • Offshore fishing grounds off the northern coasts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory

Peak Season The prime season for dolphin fish in Australia varies somewhat by region but generally falls between September and May when water temperatures are warmest. The peak months are often October through April.

Tactics and Techniques A variety of fishing methods can be effective for targeting these speedsters, including:

Trolling: This is one of the most popular ways to catch dolphin fish in Australia. Anglers troll multiple lines rigged with lures, rigged ballyhoo, or rigged garfish at speeds of 6-10 knots to cover ground and attract strikes.

Live Baiting: Fishing with live bait like small tuna, mackerel, or pilchards can be very effective, especially when the fish are congregated around floating objects or bait balls.

Chunking: Chumming the water and drifting baits like squid or fish chunks down current can entice dolphin fish up from the depths to feed aggressively.

Fly Fishing: For the ultimate challenge, some experienced anglers will cast large, colorful fly patterns and strip them erratically to induce strikes from these lightning-fast predators.

Regardless of technique, having a quality offshore setup with strong rods, reels filled with 30-50lb braided line, wire or fluorocarbon leaders, and an assortment of rigged natural baits and lures is key when dolphin fish are around.

These spectacular game fish put up an incredible fight once hooked, often leaping repeatedly out of the water in a display of their power and acrobatic abilities. Catching one off Australia is an achievement few anglers will forget!