MAHI TACTICS: Secrets to saving the day.

Dolphin Fish, Mahi Mahi, Dorado, Dorito whatever you call them there is no denying that they are absolute staples of the offshore fishing world. The most seasoned fishermen still get giddy when they encounter this species. Beautifully colored, acrobatic, hard fighters with a ferocious appetite, and most importantly they provide great table fare, Mahi what’s not to love about them.

Today most anglers know the basics of locating and catching Mahi and if not, a quick search will bring a plethora of good, detailed information. The basics come down to temperature and forage. On the East Coast of Florida, where I run my charters, anything around the 80-degree mark is ideal. Mahi must constantly feed as they have tremendous metabolism, if there is no bait you’ll be hard-pressed to find Mahi in the area. Locating signals on the ocean is a necessary component to finding Mahi, by locating color changes on the ocean, weed lines, birds picking on the surface, finding floating debris, or schools of flying fish fleeing, these are all relevant signals of potential Mahi in the area. 


Being a charter captain all my life I have had countless days where my entire trip (catch wise) was made within a small window of time. When it’s time to focus on Mahi trolling we use what we call dink rigs about 95% of the time. A dink rig consists of about a 6ft. section of 60-pound mono tied to a 6/0 or 7/0 Gamakatsu O’SHAUGHNESSY style hook rigged with ballyhoo and a 1/4 ounce egg sinker for a chin weight. 

It is recommended to pre-rig all your ballyhoo ahead of time. I brine my ballyhoo first and usually have 3 dozen ready to go and with a little care, you will be able to freeze them an additional time in the case that you do not use them all. The reason I like to use the dink rig is that it’s effective and gets bit, it is also ideal for when things get fast and furious. Once your fish is boat side you simply toss it in your kill bag or cooler and cut the leader and re-tie a new one on. All you need to do after that is tie a single knot to the swivel attaching one of your pre-rigged baits and you are back to fishing. There is just something about a trolled ballyhoo a Mahi can not resist.


There are so many ways to target Mahi’s from live bait, using lures, skipping dead baits, and more, when the bite gets tough though you’ll want to have a box of what we in Port Canaveral call poof minnows. This is the cheap box of sardines that most tackle shops in this area tend to have. They are good for chumming a few pieces out to keep the Mahi around the boat. They are also good for when you thin down the school and the Mahi start to get line shy. When the remaining fish get line shy or if you pull up to some flotsam that has already been hit it’s time to deploy the poof minnow. When resorting to the poof minnow I have a couple of light spinning rods hidden away with a 20lb fluorocarbon top shot rigged with a 3/0 Gamakatsu live bait hook. The Mahi will reluctantly eat the minnow pieces without hooks but shy away from the pieces with hooks. Just like using a dough ball, you smash that poof minnow around the hook completely hiding the hook, and place it in the water letting it drift down without putting any tension on it that will expose the hook. This trick will usually pick off the remaining fish.

Hopefully, these tips will help make it happen on those days where your entire catch depends on your success in a short amount of time. I know applying these tricks has saved a few for me throughout the years.

These are just two of the many techniques we use to entice a bite from our favorite gamefish, the Mahi Mahi.

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