As the cool fronts dissipate, the water temperature down here in the Florida Keys begins to rise and the east winds blow. When this happens we all have one thing on our mind, MAHI fishing. In case you aren’t familiar with Mahi they are beautiful fish that range in color, some blue and white, others green, yellow and blue depending on their mood. To complement their many colors they also have many names! Mahi Mahi is actually the Hawaiian name for this fish translating from the Polynesian word for strong. The Spanish name for this fish is Dorado meaning golden. In English, the common name used is Dolphin fish, but we often refer to this fish as Mahi in order to avoid confusion with the Dolphin which is a mammal and not a fish. Whatever you decide to call them, most agree, they are fun to catch and delicious to eat! In order for a Mahi to be legal for harvest, it must measure 20” to the fork of the tail. Each angler is allowed to keep 10 but no more than 60 per vessel per day at the time of writing this article.
Mahi are voracious eaters that can eat up to 20% of their body weight in one single day! They reproduce as frequently as 180 times a year starting at an early age of 3-4 months. They are one of the fastest growing fish in the ocean growing as much as 2.5 inches in a single week and gaining 3 pounds of body weight per month. Because of these factors, Mahi are able to survive tremendous pressure on their species as a food source. Mahi truly live fast and die young as roughly 85% of Mahi do not live past their first year. Besides being a popular fish for humans to consume, Mahi are an important part of the oceans food chain. Sharks, Billfish and other large predators hunt Mahi frequently. Mahi being predators themselves, absolutely love to chase and eat flying fish. When flying fish take to the air in a desperate attempt to flee the jaws of a hungry Mahi there is often a bird nearby ready to swoop down and grab the flying fish out of the sky for a tasty treat.
Because Mahi are such aggressive feeders and often travel in large schools, this presents some exciting fast-paced action for Florida Keys fishing charter trips in the Spring and Summer. The month of May is a great time to fish in the Florida Keys as almost every weekend there is a Mahi tournament and you will often find the Main Attraction signed up and ready to fish with our clients.
Our boats are equipped with fresh brined ballyhoo, live bait, and tall towers, which may it easier to spot a Mahi near the surface. Often customers inquiring about a charter ask, “just how far do you have to go to catch a Mahi?” and honestly it all depends on the weather conditions and the fish. Sometimes the Mahi can be 8-10 miles out, and other days it might take 30+ miles to find them. They are always on the move so every day is different.
When our Captains are heading offshore, they look for floating debris, a nice weed line full of sargassum, or birds working in the area. Floating debris or a large weed line will hold small bait fish that Mahi love to eat. Once they come up to the debris or weed line, if fish are not visible, the Captain usually trolls two naked ballyhoo anywhere from 5-8 knots. Just because fish aren’t visible at first, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. But if the Captain doesn’t see fish or get a bite within the first few minutes, it’s often best to move on.
When Mahi fishing, our Captains and Mates look for small groups of birds working together to follow fish as they wait for opportunities to feed. The Speed of the birds is also something they watch. If the birds are working in a very large group and/or are moving very quickly, they are most likely on Skipjack Tuna, and not Mahi. In this scenario, our Captains usually move on and look for something better.
Once you hook one or more Mahi the entire school will typically follow and settle in right at the back of the boat ready to eat the bait you pitch to them! Mahi are an acrobatic fish and put on a great show as they jump in and out of the water. We refer to large Mahi over 35lbs as slammers and If you are lucky enough to hook one you are in for a fun fight. Anglers not only enjoy Mahi because they are fun to catch but also because they are wonderful to eat. Mahi is considered a great tasting fish because it is very mild and not “fishy” or oily. Once you get back to the dock from your trip our crew will hang your catch for photos. Once you have taken your photos our crew will fillet your fish and bag it for you to take it home or to a restaurant to enjoy it. If you’d like to experience the excitement of catching Mahi this spring or summer, give us a ring and book your charter with the Main Attraction team!