Your Ultimate Dorado Fish Guide: How to Catch, Clean, and Cook Mahi Mahi

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The mighty dorado fish is a prolific fish found in the temperate, tropical, and subtropical waters across the globe. They are often called mahi-mahi, which is from the Hawaiian language and means “very strong.”

They are indeed a very strong fish and grow fast. Most live no more than five year and many don’t make it past four years of age.

Dorado mahi mahi
Youtuber Darcizzle Offshore hits it out of the park with this massive Dorado caught in the Florida Keys! Source: Darcizzle Offshore

You can catch mahi-mahi using a pole and reel, trolling, and even spearfishing. In this article, we are going to cover each method for how to catch dorado, how to clean it after you catch it, and how to cook them using a tasty recipe.

Note: the golden dorado (river tiger) is not the same fish as a dorado!  It’s actually a freshwater fish that is becoming a popular fish for anglers to catch in Central and South America. 

Now let’s jump in and learn about this magnificent fish.

What is the Dorado Fish?

Common Name Dorado, Dorado Fish, Mahi Mahi, Mahi-mahi, Dolphin Fish, Golden Dorado
Scientific Name (Genus and Species) Coryphaena hippurus
Family Coryphaenidae family
Identifying Characteristics
  • Mature males have a prominent bony crest in the front of their head.
  • Dorado is vibrant in color with golden hues on the sides, metallic blues, and greens on the back and sides, and can have white and yellow underbellies. When excited or younger they can have dark vertical bars on their sides.
Habitat
  • Dorado is found in open waters and near coastal areas.
  • Dorado is found in temperate, tropical, and subtropical waters.
Depth Range They are found up to 85 meters in depth.
Fishing Information
  • The Dorado diet includes smaller fish, zooplankton, crustaceans, and squid.
Size
  • Fast-growing and matures early.
  • Maximum size is 200cm but tend to be found around 100cm.
  • Dorado life expectancy is up to four years but usually two years.
  • Dorado rarely exceeds 15kg (33lbs).
Largest Recorded
  • All tackle game fish record was 39.46kg and caught off the coast of Papagayo Gulf, Costa Rica in 1976. As today this is the world record mahi mahi.
Mercury Risk
  • The Natural Resources Defense Council indicates that Dorado contains “moderate mercury” contamination.
  • Limit your consumption to six servings per month.
Endangered Status Least Concerned

Looking for Dorado: Where Can You Find Them?

Mahi mahi dolphin fish can be found in open waters and near coastal areas. They are found both inshore and offshore.

In the water column, they tend to reside near the surface, mid-water, and in the water column only. You will have lucky spotting them near flotsams as they are hunting for small fish who are taking shelter there.

Dorado Fish Eye
A macro shot of a mahi-mahi eye. Dolphin fish mahi mahi are simply beautiful! Source: JC7001

They are a pelagic species.

Your best bet to find them would be to fish in temperate, subtropical, and tropical waters.

Your best bet to find them would be to fish in temperate, subtropical, and tropical waters. Just type in “dorado Mexico” in Google to see a plethora of dolphin fish in these types of waters! If you need a guide down in Cabo, go visit Pisces Sportfishing and tell them Jon sent you 🙂

They are found in schools and in pairs. When they are on the surface they usually are looking for all forms of fish, zooplankton, crustaceans, and squids.

How to Catch Dorado Using a Pole: Mahi Mahi Fishing

When you’re trying to catch the infamous mahi-mahi fish, it’s important to have the proper mahi tackle for the job.

Mahi Mahi Fishing Poles, Reels, and Ideal Setups

Light Dorado Fishing Setup

Star Rods 7.5-foot graphite inshore rod rated for 8-17 lb test. Daiwa Isla size 4000 spinner loaded with 10lb diamond braid. Twitch baits and jigs. Perfect for small fish.

Heavy Spinner Dorado Fishing Setup

Shakespeare 7 foot Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning Rod matched to a Daiwa Isla size 7000 reel loaded with 20lb Diamond Line. Rigged with a VMC octopus hook, jig, staffer, slammers.

How to Catch Dorado Fish
If you use any of the setups below you are almost guaranteed to catch more fish! Picture of mahi mahi fish. Source: Kim

Dorado Trolling Fishing Setup

Shakespeare 7 foot Ugly Stik Bigwater Spinning Rod matched to a Daiwa Saltist size 50 Black and Gold loaded with 20lb High Vis so you can see the multiple rods in the water.

Mahi Stand Up Fishing Setup

Fiblink 6 foot Saltwater Jigging Rod for 30-50lb line matched to an Alutchnos Albacore, loaded with 30lb Hi-Vis. Great for pulling ballyhoo off the riggers, and molecraft softheads to fish as teasers, gaffers, and slammers.

Dorado Planar Fishing Setup

Pull a Sea Striker Planer to cover the water column. Lots of stress and strain on the rod. Daiwa Sealine 50-100 lb class rod matched to an Alutchnos Albacore wide loaded with 65lb Reaction Tackle High Performance braided line.

Choosing the Best Mahi Mahi Lures, Bait, Rigs, and Line

Are you in the fish killing business or the look pretty business with all of your fancy lures and rigs?

If you want to slay some Dorado, then you’ll need to have the right mahi tackle ready to go for any condition.

The Ripper Team use a 220lb Fluorocarbon Leader for their Ballyhoo rig. If you haven’t had a chance to watch the video above, I highly recommend it. They show you their exact setup for catching large mahi.

They also show an innovative way to use a spring and wire to keep the ballyhoo protected while trolling so you don’t have to switch out baits often. This could literally save you hours on your next fishing trip!

Three Quality Lures Worth A Look

Dolphin Fishing Tactics

There are many methods for catching mahi mahi. Some people like to troll for them, some people would rather be on a boat and do a good old-fashioned line of sight casting for mahi.

Before we get into those methods, one method we don’t prefer here at Cast & Spear is Purse Seine Fishing. This method of fishing is what commercial fisherman use to pull huge schools of fish from the ocean at scale. The problem with this method is the bycatch (sharks, whales, dolphins, and other fish) that are harmed in the process.

Trolling for Mahi Mahi

Trolling is the method of fishing where you drag a lure or bait behind a moving boat and wait for a fish to bite. This method is effective for covering vast amounts of area to give you a high probability of a catch.

Devices such as planer boards are often used to spread fishing lures away from the fishing vessel. This allows for multiple lines to be trolled at once, increasing your odds for a catch.

Types of Trolling Lures

  • Surface lures
  • Plugs
  • Swimbaits
  • Spoon lures
  • Spinnerbait

Trolling is usually done between 9-15 knots depending on the fishing area and the type of fish you’re after. You can even troll using a kayak!

The Line of Sight Method

Mahi is a fast fish and it’s difficult to outrun them while you’re reeling in your line. When you line of sight fish for mahi, you’re typically on a boat and casting into the ocean with your lure or jig as if you were fishing from shore.

Dorado put up a good fight so you shouldn’t be surprised seeing the fish on the end of your line jump out of the water!

This method is helpful if you come up to a flotsam or floating log and want to fish it from a static boat. You should be able to get your bait right next to or under the flotsam and get a mahi’s attention.

5 Tips for Catching Dorado

Dorado Trolling
Trolling and “line of site” fishing for mahi mahi dolphin fish is a must for any angler. Source: WebbShots
  1. Make sure you have multiple rods and setups for a day out on the water. It’s always fun to be able to line of sight and troll fish on the same day.
  2. When looking for mahi mahi, be on the lookout for objects floating in the water like flotsams or logs.
  3. Trolling for Dorado using a ballyhoo might inadvertently catch you a Marlin. Be ready for a fight if that happens.
  4. Dorado is a fast fish so don’t be afraid to reel in fast when you use the line of sight technique.
  5. When you come up to a flotsam, throw in chunks of fish or squid to get them feeding. With the same bait, load up a hook and throw it out in the water with the bait. They will most likely take it. Make sure you leave your bail off so the bait will sink and until you see the line zipping with a mahi on the end.

How to Spearfish Dorado

If you’re feeling adventurous then there is nothing better than getting in the water and hunting the dorado using a speargun or pole spear.

Heck, you could even use a spear and harpoon them from the boat like this guy!

 

Dorado Fishing Tips: Where to Find Dorado

If you’re looking to spearfish dorado, then it’s important to find anything floating in the water such as a flotsam or a log. Thee mahi either travel in schools or in a few pairs and like to hid in the open water under anything that about 5 gallons in size or more.

Many times you’ll find them in a large formation of kelp that has broken away from the kelp forest and is a mini ecosystem in the middle of the ocean.

Once you find the mahi, get all your gear on and dive in. You can even put a little attention-getting lure on the end of your speargun to get the mahi curious and closer to you before you take your shot.

The nice benefit about spearfishing for mahi is that you can take the larger ones instead of hoping a large one bites your lure while fishing.

Best Spearfishing Gear for Dorado

Mahi mahi isn’t a massive fish so you won’t need a tuna blaster type gun to bring them in. Any gun 90cm or larger should do the trick as long as you have a reel or floatline attached to it.

A solid choice would be either a Rob Allen or Riffe speargun. If you want a little more power in a more maneuverable gun, then a roller speargun is a good option.

The standard spearfishing wetsuit, gloves, mask, fins, weight belt, and snorkel are a must. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in warm tropical waters in which you could use a thinner wetsuit or just go in your swimsuit.

If you want to do a deep dive into all the spearfishing gear you’ll need for a dorado, make sure you check out our spearfishing gear guide.

5 Tips for Spearfishing Dorado

  1. Attach a line and lure without a hook to the end of your speargun to get the dorado curious in you so you can take an easier shot.
  2. Make sure you have a reel or floatline otherwise this powerful fish will take your speargun.
  3. Hunt near a flotsam for increased odds.
  4. Look for bird activity. They usually tell you if there is a school of predatory fish out in the water, which could lead to mahi mahi.
  5. If you have a buddy on a boat, make them throw chunks of bait into the water to keep the mahi around, especially after you hit one so you have more to shoot at once it’s off your spear.

How to Clean and Cook the Dorado Fish

Now that you’ve successfully caught and gutted your dorado, it’s important to keep it on ice until you’re ready to fillet it.

Let’s dive into the best way to fillet a dorado. Remember, you don’t have to get messy when filleting a fish if you do it right!

Step by Step Guide to Filleting the Dorado Fish

  1. Use your fillet knife to cut behind the gill plate towards the head.
  2. Follow the head up, then reverse and go down the back following the backbone all the way to the tail.
  3. Reverse and cut deeper back towards the head.
  4. Keep slicing along the backbone. You should hear a ratchet sound as your knife rubs against the bones.
  5. Take your fillet knife and cut right down the center of the side of the dorado where the bloodline starts all the way to the tail.
  6. Remove the first chunk of dorado and lay it skin side down on the cutting board.
  7. Remove the bottom loin from the rest of the fish.
  8. Flip the mahi over and do the same to the other side.
  9. Use your knife to remove the skin from the meat by holding the skin and sliding your knife from tip to tip.
  10. Cut out the dark red bloodline zones of the fish meat. If you leave it in, the fish will have the fishy flavor left behind.
  11. Now you’re ready to cut them into pieces, marinate them, and cook them however you like.

Best Dorado Recipe

If you’re looking for a tasty dorado recipe then you’re in luck. Making a great tasting mahi mahi dish doesn’t have to be complicated.

Here’s our recipe for garlic mahi mahi:

Ingredients

  • 3 tbsp. Grass-fed butter. Cut them into chunks
  • 1 tbsp. Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 4-oz. mahi mahi fillets
  • Pinch of garlic salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp. freshly chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

Directions

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter you cut into pieces and olive oil. Stir them until they are mixed.
  2. On a cutting board, season the mahi mahi using salt and pepper. Cook until golden, which should be about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
  3. In the empty skillet, add remaining 2 tablespoons butter. I hope you can see that we like butter at Cast & Spear. Once melted, add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute, then stir in lemon zest and juice and parsley. Return mahi mahi fillets to skillet and spoon over sauce.
  4. Garnish with more parsley and serve.

Are You Ready To Catch More Dorado?

Dorado Fishing
A fun day out on the water catching some Dorado fish (aka Mahi-Mahi). Source: Kim

Dorado is one of the more plentiful and great tasting fish for you to target. We’ve covered how to catch them using a pole and spear. I highly recommend you try both methods the next time you go fishing.

Remember that the mercury in mahi mahi is not minuscule, so it’s important not to eat the fish more than a few times a month to prevent a build-up of it in your system.

If you have any special mahi mahi recipes that you’d like to share our methods for catching them, be sure to let us know in the comments below!

FAQs

Q: What kind of fish is mahi mahi?

A: Mahi mahi is a surface-dwelling ray-finned fish found off-shore in temperate, subtropical, and tropical waters around the world. They are part of the Coryphaenidae family.

Q: What is mahi mahi fish?

A: Mahi mahi is a pelagic fish, which means they live in the pelagic zone of the ocean.

Q: What is dorado?

A: Dorado is a fish commonly known as mahi-mahi. They are highly sought after by recreational and commercial fisherman/women.

Q: What does mahi mahi look like?

A: Mahi mahi has a unique shape with the males having a large pronounced forehead. They are a bright yellow, white, and have other colors that make them directly noticeable.

Q: What do mahi mahi eat?

A: Mahi mahi eats small fish, crustaceans, squid, and zooplankton.

Q: How to troll for mahi?

A: Make sure you have a strong enough pole to deal with the drag of the bait at the end of you line. Cast out your line into the water and drive your boat between 9 and 15 knots. Wait for a mahi to bite and reel it in.

Q: How to fish for mahi?

A: We covered three methods of fishing for mahi and they include trolling, line of sight, and spearfishing.

Q: Can I mount the fish on my wall?

A: Absolutely. This is called marine taxidermy. I hear the folks over at Marine Creations are great.

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