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Mahi mahi are one of the world’s great sports fishes

By Staff | May 14, 2020

Dolphin fish, mahi mahi, dorado. These are all names for one of the world’s great sports fishes – not only in terms of its sporting and eating qualities, but also its breathtaking color displays.

Of all the fishes of the open ocean, the dolphin fish has been known to humans for the longest time. It is a relatively common inhabitant of the Mediterranean Sea, and the ancient Greeks and Romans were therefore quite familiar with it, writing about its habitat with obvious knowledge.

Surprisingly accurate depictions of dolphin fish appear in Cretean frescos and on Greek urns, so it is reasonable to assume it was held in high regard. Mediterranean fishermen also knew about the attraction of dolphin fish to floating objects and used this to advantage, not only by fishing near floating debris, but also by constructing the first Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) to make fishing for dolphin fish easy.

Roman writer Oppian, in 200 AD, wrote: “And for the Hippurus (dolphin fish) Men may contrive, other devices and without the wreck of ships pursue their prey. The fishermen gather reeds and tie them together in bundles which they let down into the waves and underneath they tie a heavy stone by way of ballast. All this they let sway gently in the water, and straight away the shade loving tribes of the Hippurus gather in shoalsThen the fishers row to them to find a ready prey”

A remarkable account, and one which could easily have been written today about sportfishing for dolphin fish around modern FADs – the only real differences being the materials used to construct the buoys and the use of rowing boats to reach them!

The dolphin fish takes its rightful place among the great marine gamefish not only because it grows to a respectable size, but also because it is so aggressive, putting up a spectacular display when hooked. And the icing on the cake, fresh dolphin fish fillets are second to none as far as eating qualities are concerned.

The dolphin fish is so distinctive that it can’t really be confused with any other species. Apart from its characteristic shape, with its blunt head, single, long dorsal fin and deeply forked tail, its amazing coloration is unique among all of the pelagic fishes of the open ocean. Its vibrant colors flash from bright yellow to gold to silver to iridescent blue, always speckled with royal blue spots over most of its body.

When caught, dolphin fish usually show the yellow color scheme with lime green fins, but can quickly change to brilliant purple and deep blue or even exhibit a mirror-like surface depending on the angle of the light.

It is widely accepted the dolphin fish is one of the fastest growing of all fishes. In captivity, male dolphin fish have grown from a pinhead-sized egg to over ten pounds in only eight months. Four years old is the presumed maximum longevity of the species at a weight of around 70-80 pounds.

Dolphin fish are prolific, spawning every eight months, and are abundant throughout their geographic range, especially around tropical and sub-tropical islands in all oceans.

It goes without saying there is no connection between dolphin fish and the marine mammal dolphins.

The name of the fish apparently refers to its surface swimming habit of bursts of speed interspersed with arching leaps, or “dolphining.”

The Hawaiian name mahi mahi is often used for dolphin fish. The other widely used name for the species is dorado, an early Spanish name that refers to the intense golden hues of the dolphin fish.

The name dorado was even used in the species’ early Latin name, Coryphaena doradon, but for some reason “dolphin fish” has become firmly entrenched.