Fish Facts: Dolphin Fish, Dorado, Mahi Mahi

Dolphin, Dorado, Mahi Mahi (Caryphaena hippurus) not to be confused with its smaller relative the Chicken Dolphin, is a colorful fish caught in the Gulf of Mexico as well as the Atlantic Ocean. Bull dolphin are the larger of the dolphin species. (90 lbs max) that are mostly yellow with green, blue and white spots and a blue top and white belly.

Dolphin are found in the offshore waters only rarely coming near shore. They are surface feeders and stay almost exclusively in the first 0-70 feet of water. They are most often found in the sargasmo rips found offshore where different salinity of water meet. The current often flows in different directions causing grass rips to form. Grass rips are long stretches of sargassum weed and other debris that accumulates at the rips. Sargasmo weed harbors multitudes of shrimp and small fish that the predetors feed on. Dolphin are most often caught by trolling or sight casting around these rips.

Dolphin are excellent table fare as well as a fine gamefish that is known for its spectacular frenzied leaps when hooked. Bull Dolphin and Chicken Dolphin (the smaller of the two) look identical. Until recently they were not recognized as seperate species. The chicken dolphin commonly weight 1 pound and is much more numerous than the bull dolphin.

Key Notes and Tips:

  • If you want to catch chicken dolphin to fillet. Then to keep the school close to the boat remember to always keep the most recently hooked fish in the water. Dolphin get excited when they see one of there kin struggling on a hook. So don’t pull that dolpin in the boat until someone else has hooked up. Then they wait for the next hook up before bring theirs aboard.
  • Dolphin are extremely bloody and don’t calm down until almost dead. So the above technique will also tire the fish out more before bringing it aboard, thereby reducing the amount of struggling it will do when brought aboard.
  • Don’t catch lots of chicken dolphin if you really don’t want blood all over your boat. Their primary goal in life it seems is to spray blood over as much of you boat as possible when landed. Catching chicken dolphin = bloody boat.
  • If you catch a bull dolphin they react just like chicken dolphin except they can be much larger. This can be a dangerous situation. Imagine a 40lb fish with a large treble hook ridden lure hanging from its mouth. Now picture this fish going absolutely nuts on the end of a gaff. If you leave it over the side of the boat you will probably lose it; if you bring it in the boat you might end up with someone seriously injured by the hooks. The best method is to have the someone man the icechest. When the fish is gaffed it should be swung immediately into the ice chest, the lid slammed shut, and then sit on the lid until the fish has calmed down. Only then should you worry about removing the gaff.