how to fish mahi mahi dorado dolphinfish

How to Catch Mahi Mahi in Hawaii: Ultimate Fishing Guide

Mahi Mahi, also known as Dolphin fish or Dorado, is closely associated with Hawaiian cuisine and can be found in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide.

Known for their bright colors, including golden bodies and blue-green sides, Mahi Mahi is considered one of the best eating fish with a light, sweet flavor.

Fishing for Mahi Mahi in Hawaii is popular among recreational fishermen, big game anglers, and spear fishermen, and is often found around floating objects, grass islands, and channels with strong water flow.

In this informative guide, we will discuss the best time to fish Mahi Mahi in Hawaii, essential equipment and bait, prime fishing locations, techniques for hooking Mahi Mahi, and more.

Best Time to Fish Mahi Mahi in Hawaii

Peak Seasons in Oahu

Mahi Mahi is available year-round in Oahu’s waters, with an abundance between March and September.

Fishing seasons may vary across different Hawaiian islands. In Oahu, the high season for Mahi Mahi fishing is from March to June and September to October.

The low season is in January and December, but there is no closed season.

SeasonMonthsMahi Mahi Fishing
High SeasonMarch – June, September – OctoberExcellent
Low SeasonJanuary, DecemberFair
Closed SeasonNoneN/A

Seasonal Patterns and Behavior

Mahi Mahi is most plentiful during the spring and summer months in Hawaii.

They follow ocean currents and temperature breaks and are attracted to floating debris and weed lines. These opportunistic feeders prey on a range of baitfish, squid, and crustaceans.

Essential Equipment and Bait for Mahi Mahi Fishing

Fishing Gear

To successfully catch Mahi Mahi in Hawaii, you’ll need the following fishing gear:

  1. Medium to heavy-action spinning or conventional reel with a 30-pound test monofilament line
  2. 7- to 8-foot rod with a fast action tip

Bait and Lures

When it comes to bait and lures for Mahi Mahi fishing, you have a few options:

  1. Live bait: ballyhoo, squid, or small mackerel
  2. Artificial lures: bright colors like green, yellow, or blue
  3. Rigging a skirt or a trolling lure with a ballyhoo
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Prime Fishing Locations for Mahi Mahi in Hawaii

Identifying Ideal Areas

To find the best spots for Mahi Mahi fishing in Hawaii, look for areas with:

  1. Strong ocean currents and temperature breaks
  2. Floating debris and weed lines

Popular Fishing Spots in Hawaii

Some of the most popular areas for Mahi Mahi fishing in Hawaii include:

  1. Kona coast on the Big Island
  2. South shore of Oahu
  3. Channels between Maui, Molokai, and Lanai

Keep an eye out for birds diving into the water or floating debris as these can be indicators of Mahi Mahi presence.

Techniques for Hooking Mahi Mahi in Hawaii

Choosing the Right Fishing Technique

There are several fishing techniques you can use to catch Mahi Mahi, including:

  1. Trolling
  2. Jigging
  3. Spinning
  4. Fly-casting

Bait-and-switch techniques, such as using frigate birds or teaser lures, can also be effective in attracting Mahi Mahi.


Trolling is a popular technique for Mahi Mahi fishing where a baited line or an artificial lure is dragged through the water behind a moving boat.

The speed of the boat, typically 7-10 knots, imitates the movement of live bait, attracting the Mahi Mahi to bite.

Trolling covers a large area, increasing the chances of finding a school of Mahi Mahi. It is essential to use the right lures and maintain an appropriate trolling speed to make this technique successful.


Jigging is a technique that involves moving a weighted lure, known as a jig, vertically in the water column.

To jig for Mahi Mahi, you’ll need to locate a good fishing spot, drop the jig to the desired depth, and jerk the rod up and down to create a lifelike movement that attracts the fish.

This method can be effective when Mahi Mahi are feeding at various depths, and it allows the angler to target specific areas where the fish may be holding.

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Spinning is a versatile fishing technique that uses a spinning reel and rod to cast lures or bait.

The spinning reel allows for a smooth and long casting distance, making it ideal for covering a lot of water in search of Mahi Mahi. The angler retrieves the lure or bait at various speeds, imitating the movement of prey to entice the fish to strike.

Spinning can be done from a boat or shore and is an excellent option for anglers of all skill levels.


Fly-casting is a specialized technique that uses a fly rod, reel, and weighted line to cast an artificial fly. The fly is designed to imitate the Mahi Mahi’s prey, such as small baitfish or squid.

Fly-casting for Mahi Mahi involves locating the fish, presenting the fly at the right depth and position, and using various retrieval techniques to make the fly act like natural prey.

This method is particularly enjoyable due to the challenge it presents and the exciting fight Mahi Mahi provide on a fly rod.

Tips for Successful Hooking

To increase your chances of hooking Mahi Mahi, follow these tips:

  1. Use bright, flashy lures that mimic their prey.
  2. Maintain a trolling speed between 7-10 knots.
  3. Allow the fish to take the bait before setting the hook with a firm pull.

Mahi Mahi Fishing Charters in Oahu

Benefits of Booking a Fishing Charter

Booking a Mahi Mahi fishing charter in Oahu offers several advantages:

  1. Exciting and productive sport fishing adventures
  2. Experienced captains provide guidance and information for a successful trip

Types of Charters Available

There are two types of Mahi Mahi fishing charters available in Oahu:

  1. Private charters: These charters are reserved exclusively for your group, allowing for a more personalized experience.
  2. Shared charters: In shared charters, you’ll be fishing alongside other anglers, which can be a more affordable option if you’re on a budget.

Both private and shared charters can provide a memorable and successful Mahi Mahi fishing experience in Hawaii.

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Handling and Preparing Your Mahi Mahi Catch

Filleting the Fish

To properly fillet your Mahi Mahi, follow these steps:

  1. Use a sharp, flexible knife designed for filleting fish.
  2. Make an incision behind the head and down to the backbone.
  3. Guide the knife along the backbone, cutting towards the tail while keeping the blade close to the bones.
  4. Remove the fillet from the fish and repeat on the other side.

Storing and Preserving Your Catch

To ensure the best taste and quality of your Mahi Mahi, follow these storage guidelines:

  1. Rinse fillets in cold, saltwater to remove any debris or scales.
  2. Place the fillets in airtight plastic bags or wrap them in plastic wrap.
  3. Keep the fish in a cooler filled with ice, maintaining a temperature below 40°F (4.4°C).

Consuming and Enjoying Your Mahi Mahi

For optimal freshness, consume your Mahi Mahi within two days of catching it.

If you need to store it for a longer period, vacuum seal the fillets and freeze them.

When you’re ready to enjoy your catch, Mahi Mahi can be prepared in various ways, such as grilling, baking, or pan-searing.

Conclusion: Prepare for your fishing trip

So, you’ve got the right gear, found the perfect spot, and learned the best techniques for catching Mahi Mahi in Hawaii. Now, it’s time to put it all together and reel in that prized catch.

Fishing for Mahi Mahi in Hawaii is an exciting and rewarding experience that combines the thrill of the catch with the delectable taste of one of the most delicious fish to eat, the dorado.

By following the tips and guidelines provided in this comprehensive guide, you’ll be well-prepared for a successful Mahi Mahi fishing adventure in Hawaii.

So, stay patient, trust your instincts, and with a little luck, you’ll soon be hooking those dolphinfish.

Tight lines and happy fishing in paradise!