Summer Dolphin

    By Terry Tomalin

    All it takes is patch of weeds or a piece of wood to attract dolphin in the deep water. These open-ocean swimmers flock to these floating islands like bees to honey.

    Florida Keys fishing has a variety of blue-water species, but few provide as much non-stop action and around the clock excitement as the dolphin, also known as the mahi-mahi. But one of the most common questions asked of Florida Keys fishing charters is what is mahi-mahi?

    Mahi-mahi is the Hawaiian name for the species Coryphaena hippurus, also known in Spanish as the dorado or in English, the dolphin fish. Now don’t worry. We are not talking about Flipper, the bottlenose dolphin, an air-breathing mammal.

    The dolphin fish is just that, a fish, and for those fishing in the Keys who’ve hunted these line rippers each spring and summer, the fun is fast and furious. So hook up, hang on and hold tight. You’re in for the fight of your life.

    Blackfin tuna and dolphin often swim together and both can be the bi-product of any big game fishing trip in the Florida Keys, since both species are the favorite prey of big, blue marlin.

    The dolphin is a favorite of many anglers because you won’t find a prettier fish the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico. These fish, with their electric hues of blue, yellow and green, have been liked to free-swimming neon signs.

    Their sense of camaraderie is even more intriguing. A social fish that travels in large schools, dolphin often refuse to leave a hooked companion. So a tried and proven trick is to leave a hooked dolphin in the water then toss baits to the other fish in the school.

    The dolphin also has the distinction of being one of the fastest-growing fish. It is not uncommon for light-tackle anglers to catch dozens of the smaller, “chicken” dolphin, making mahi-mahi fishing a prime sport for large parties.

    Common to 30 pounds, the dolphin is also good table fare. Occasionally, anglers will come across a real brute, a.k.a. bull dolphin, like the 87 pounder caught off Costa Rica in 1976.