"Dorado" means "gold" in Spanish and the fish bearing the same name certainly lives up to that. A Dorado caught casting on lightweight tackle is one of the most exciting experiences in all of sports-fishing. Dorado are one of the world’s most popular game-fish and it’s no mystery why that is. Words and pictures cannot adequately describe the magnificence of a fully lit up Dorado in the water. They are spectacularly coloured, fight hard, jump high when hooked and taste delicious. A Dorado or "Dolphin" as the US-americans call them (which caused quite a bit of confusion) is iridescent gold, green, silver, and blue and so dazzling, that it is hard to believe that more than one of such a marvellous creature exists. But in fact there are many of them all over the worlds tropical and subtropical oceans.
Coryphaena hippurus has a long, slender, tapered body, specialized in swimming at high speeds. Its Polynesian name "Mahi-Mahi" meaning "very strong" is quite popular around the world too. Dorado are fast swimmers with an estimated top swimming speed of 90 km/h. Their high metabolic rate has been attributed to physiological adaptations that conform to the lifestyle of a fast-moving pelagic predator. There are no really heavy duty tackle requirements, and they are usually quite eager to eat your bait, cooperate and make you look good!
Sexual dimorphism is evident within the species. Males are physically larger and heavier than females of the same age and males have prominent foreheads. Mature males protruding well above the body proper. Females have a rounded head. Females are also usually smaller than males. Males, often called “Bulls”, have a large distinctive flat forehead. They grow bigger than the females, which are called “Cows”. Dorado commonly reach one meter in length, but can reach up to two meters. Catches average seven to nine kilogram. Weights over 18 kg are exceptional, but they can reach 1,6 meter and weigh more than 30 kg. Dorado spend the majority of its time in water temperatures between 23 and 25C°, but ventured into waters reaching temperatures from 20 to 29 C°," says Hammond. "This data may help anglers get a better handle on dolphin and provide answers to catching them."
Sport fishermen seek Dorado due to their beauty, size, food quality, and healthy population. They are fast swimmers and extremely fast growers reaching 90 cm in length in their first year of life. Dorado is a pelagic, off-shore species which prefers warm waters and greater water depths. As the sea temperature exceeds 21 C° in Summer they enter the northern part of Red Sea. Large, solitary Dorado are commonly caught while trolling natural surface baits, but they can also be caught on live bait, cut bait, artificial lures, jigs or spoons. Trolling speed is between 4 ad 7 knots, just fast enough to make the bait work properly. A properly working bait will be skipping along just under and on the surface.
These pelagic works of art thrive in the warm waters off the Indo-Pacific Ocean archipelagos, from the coasts of America to Africa. In the Red Sea where they are named "Anfalous". Sometimes Dorado is even found in the Eastern Mediterranean. Dorado comes to the tables of the world from commercial, sport and artisan-al fishing fleets where it is taken by baited single hooks or long-lines either intentionally or as by-catch in fisheries for marlin, tuna, sharks and swordfish. Between 30.000 and 40.000 tons of the delicious fish are delivered into the global market each year.
Successful fishing methods include trolling, jigging, casting, chunking as well as live bait fishing. Smaller sized fish are likely to school together and can be found around any little bit of floating debris. Look for gulls and frigate birds, they follow schools of dolphin waiting for them to find a school of bait-fish. You can spot a school of feeding fish by watching out for a flock of diving birds. As you move to the birds, you may find that the feeding fish are not Mahi. Never mind that – just get some baits out. If you spot a cruising frigate bird, make an effort to stay with it for at least a while. They will find and lock onto a big bull or cow Mahi and follow them high overhead for miles, waiting for them to feed. This is where most of the really big Mahi are caught. Larger Mahi will follow schools of other fish. Flying fish are perhaps the all time favourite food for dolphin-fish. So never ever pass up a school of flying fish. May be you are lucky enough to get them jumping into your vessel at night-time. Like sardines flying fish are attracted to light. if near the edge of the reef at depth of about 40 m of water. Once you locate them, they are going to accept just about any kind of bait presented to them. Research has shown that Mahi eat primarily during the day, but have been know to feed at night when the moon can provide the needed light to see.
These scenes from an episode of the BBC’s “The Hunt” features footage of Dorado hunting fast and furious. In fact flying fish may be Dorado all time favourite, which may explain why poppers are so successful with them. Fly-casters may especially seek frigate birds to find big Mahi-Mahis, and then use a bait-and-switch technique. Dorado mostly eat fish so traditional bait-fish such as Sardines and Mackerel work well. Larger fish will eat larger baits. Dorado have relatively small mouths, but can somehow still engulf relatively large baits. When they are fired up they will eat almost anything, alive or dead. My favourite is a popper, which they will readily eat. If they are fired up they will pretty much eat anything. A net full of live sardines tossed into the water can excite the Mahi-Mahi into a feeding frenzy. Hook-less teaser lures can have the same effect. If Dorado are concentrated in an area, either through chumming or because there is a piece of floating debris, a wide variety of lures may be cast to them.
Dorado has the best best-known worldwide IUCN Red List of Threatened Species conservation status: Least Concern (LC)
Dorado are prolific spawner’s, grow quickly, and have short life spans. These pelagic works of art thrive in the warm waters off the Indo-Pacific Ocean archipelagos, the coasts of Central and South America, and the Red Sea where they are called "Anfalous". Sometimes Dorado is even found in the Eastern Mediterranean. They come to the tables of the world from commercial, sport and artisan-al fishing fleets where it is taken by baited single hooks or long-lines either intentionally or as by-catch in fisheries for marlin, tuna, sharks and swordfish. Between 30.000 and 40.000 tons of Dorado are delivered into the global market each year.
There is a square supraorbital region, and the dorsal fin runs nearly to the bright yellow caudal fin. Mahi Mahi means Strong Strong in Polynesian. They are a fast-growing, short-lived fish they are hungry more often than not. They die of old age around 5-6 years and attain a maximum weight of around 40kg. The species is reported to live only about 5 year.
Max speed citings for Dorado are highly diverse. According to some sources they can reach a maximum of 80km/h, according to others they can only make 30km/h. Citings of suffer from considerable lack of definition concerning sustained or maximum speed, in, on or above the water-surface, measurement instruments, involvement of currents etc.. However, they are fast and fierce fighters, which is the very reason why we love them. Especially the males!
Dorado sex is discernible by the time they are 4-5 months old by examining the slope of their forehead. The ratio between the sexes is 2:1 (females : males) for the juvenile samples, while the sex ratio for the adults is different in the various areas. For eastern Africa this ratio reaches the value of 4:1. For the waters of North Carolina, workers separated their samples by age groups, confirming a sex ratio of 2:1. Dorado are “high performance” with regard to their rates of somatic and gonadal growth, rates of digestion, and rates of recovery from exhaustive exercise as well as predation.
During development, Coryphaena spp. have the basic perciform caudal skeleton. Greatest body depth in adults less than 25% of standard length. Its single dorsal fin extends from above eye almost to the caudal fin with 48-66 rays. The anal fin has a convex edge and the pectoral fins measure about 1/2 of the head length. The tail is deeply forked. In fact the variable number of dorsal fin rays positively relates to length of the fish. With bigger fish the dorsal fin growth more than proportionally "longer". The dorsal fin of Coryphaena spp. may represent an evolutionary advance and specialization because of its anterior extension and the loss or reoccupation by fin rays of the pre-dorsal bones.More
"The Hippurus (Dorado), when they behold anything floating in the waves, all follow it, closely in a swarm, but especially when a ship is wrecked by the stormy winds.
And for the Hippurus 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."
Oppian of Cilicia,
"Bulls" posses a prominently protruded forehead where the cranial cavity is relatively small in comparison to the amount of bone and cartilage in the head. Teeth are in bands on jaws and front and sides of roof of mouth as well as a small and oval patch of teeth on tongue. The body is elongated, wide, compressed, and at maximum height approx. 25% of standard length.
From a classical hydrodynamics point of view the body of adult Coryphaena seems to be non-laminarising. It is strongly displaced forward and the highest point of the body occurs already at the first section of the gill slits, leaving less space to the anterior end of the body to generate propulsion.
But also less space to impede boundary layer separation! Furthermore the head of a Coryphaena "Bull" approximates a drop shape. Consider the form of a modern submarine or a supertanker underwater hull which have been designed towards the fluidly optimum.
Also - in contrast to Flying Fish and Tuna - they do not possess a branchial filter and the character of the boundary layer is influenced to a considerable degree by the turbulence of the oncoming flow. Hence the Coryphaena "Bull's" head characteristics, in conjunction with this species accelerated metabolic turnover rate (consumption rate estimate averages 6-7% of body weight per day) may substantially contribute to Dorado's extraordinary performance.
Shrimp, Squid, Sardines, Flying Fish and Mackerels make up the majority of the Dorado’s diet
Dorado are generalists and their feeding strategy is more opportunistic than selective. Stomach contents of Dorado vary greatly with location. Its prey is varying according to season and size of the individual. They feed during the day on small oceanic fishes, juveniles of large pelagic fish, pelagic larvae of benthic fish, and invertebrates.
Crustaceans, Cephalopoda, Clupeidae, Exocoetidae and Scombrinae make up the majority of the Dorado’s diet. Within their live-cycle young Dorado start off feeding on Larvae and juveniles, primarily upon crustaceans, especially copepods. Adults feed mostly upon bony fishes, types of pelagic fish larvae and juvenile fish, shrimp, squid and sardines. Grown up they favour flying fish and mackerel and other fish. Adults eat flying fish (constituting approximately 25% of the food by weight) and crabs and just about anything else. If you have anything to chum with that can get them going. A net full of live sardines tossed into the water can be used to excite Dorado's into a feeding frenzy. A fly is is effective too, in this situation. Dorado prefer baits which are neither too slow nor too fast.
They feed primarily during the day, as they rely upon the vision (as well as their lateral line system) to detect prey. Light change as everywhere favours predators, when they can make use of their generally superior senses. Due to vertical migration the Red Sea shows a clear peak of zooplancton density between 25 and 50 m at sunrise and another one at sunset. Hence Dorado often rise and up from depth at sun set, when they prey on the rising Copepods, Gastropod and Chaetognatha. There is some evidence that they may also feed at night, when the moon provides ample light. But sunrise may also finish a prolonged period of low food intake for these predators, who run at high metabolic rate.
Apparently males are more active feeders than females, evidenced by the larger amounts of food found in their stomachs. Males tend to be larger than females of the same age, and thus probably need more energy to support their metabolism. Dorado often hunt in pairs or small packs. The spawning season for dolphin-fish is long, and multiple spawning per year are common in both males and females. Dolphin-fish spawn in pairs, rather than communally, with spawning occurring year-round in the tropics. In the northern and southern extremes of the range, they apparently spawn only in the warmer months. Recently Dorado-Larvae were discovered in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time. They hatch at approximately 4 mm total length, and reach a length of 5.7 mm within four days. At 15 days, the larvae are approximately 15 mm long.Learn More
Dorado love dead Sardines and Mackerel, these can be used in several ways. You can also use sardines to add some flavour to you Kona's, and troll them slowly behind the boat. On the drift you can fish live or dead baits, use balloons to keep the baits close to the surface and even kites the same way they do in Florida. Drifting dead sardines and live mackerel alike work well when the North West wind is blowing.
Dorado mostly eat fish so traditional bait-fish such as Sardines and Mackerel work well. Typically they are being taken by trolling baitfish on the surface with 15 to 20 kg line tackle. However, They roam the open sea down to a depth of may be 100 meter. Therefore you should consider the use of dipsy divers. Fishing lures deeper, perhaps with down-riggers, may be an overlooked tactic. And it is also wise to seek their preferred water temperature of 23 to 24 C°. Hooks for dead or live bait – usually in the 6/0 to 7/0 range in standard hooks for trolling and 7/0 circle hooks for live baiting. Circle hooks are excellent as they improve hook-ups and additionally are more beneficial for the fish if you intend to releasing what you can't eat. Tie your 4/0-7/0 hook to the leader, about 1,5m of 15 to 20 kg mono or fluorocarbon line and affix to your primary line.
You can utilize a Spider Hitch to produce a loop in the other end of the rig to affix to the main line by the use of a snap swivel. Size of hook and leader depend on the size of fish behind your boat. It beneficial to have several rigs made up in advance in varying sizes. Larger fish will eat larger baits. When they are fired up they will eat almost anything.Learn More
Any tropical location where there is good fishing for other pelagics such as Sailfish or Tuna should have some Dorado. You may find them hunting near shallow submarine islands, coral stocks and ledges, colour lines, current lines and floating debris which will concentrate them. Therefore you may like to forget about poppers, unless the fish are sight. Lipped lures like Rapalla X-Rap splash baits are first choice. Colours they seem to prefer are Pink, Red heads and Blue Silver. Heavy feathers too work extremely well - just change the tuna hook to a single one. Kona's from 8 to 15 cm produce formidable results too. Avoid extremely elongated lures: Dorado favour to bite the head!
The line should be fixed with on meter length of 15 to 20 kg fluorocarbon leader utilizing a 20 kg barrel swivel.
The small body of the swivel practically eliminates any chance of picking up debris and offers a quick connection place between the line and leader. The angler should be cautious to not reel the swivel into the rod because it can damage the guides. Many anglers use an Albright or uni-knot in place of a swivel. This knot is generally challenging to tie properly with braided and fused lines.
The tackle used to catch Dorado ranges from light spinning tackle for smaller schooling Dorado, to heavy trolling equipment. Any medium weight conventional set up should work fine. Therefore a two meter rod rated for 10-15 kg and lure weights of up to 30 grams should be basic. Spinning rods and matching reels in the same line class, Lighter spinning or casting rods and reels for schools near the boat. A good s Spinning reel rated for 10 to 15 kg braided liner which is good for casting is worth its money. Unfortunately, Dorado are often hooked when trolling with heavy tackle meant for larger fish such as Marlin and so they are totally outmatched and really don't get a chance to show what they are made of. This is one of the great tragedies of sport-fishing.Most Dorado are caught on trolling lures such as rubber skirts meant for Marlin or Sailfish or feathers meant for Tuna. All off these lures can be trolled from 4 knots right through to around 9 knots. They also hit trolled plugs such as Rapallas. Halco Laser Pro 160's as well as Small- and Medium size Kona's are recommended. Trolling rods in the 15-20 kg class with matching conventional reels spooled with matching mono-filament line.
Without drift-socks you may also like to place rods in a rod holder and let line back behind the boat. These are flat lines – ones that are not attached to an outrigger. I put one on each side of the boat back thirty to fifty meter. Run the trolling speed of the boat up until the bait is one the surface and “skipping” with the front of the bait just out of the water. Sometimes I will troll four rods, two way back fifty to sixty meter, one half way back and one bait right up close to the boat in the prop wash.More
Once you have the fish on, do not boat him until you get the second hook up. This method makes your boat into a FAD (Fish Aggregating Device) all by itself and you will often find the Dorado feeding right at the boat. Keep a spinning rod handy for pitch baits and once you get your first fish close to the boat hold him there about 10m away, rig up a dead sardine on the spinning rod and cast it out and let this drift because if it was a shoal all the other Dorado’s will be following that fish, only once this baited line goes on with a fish do you bring in the initial fish, and you repeat this procedure until there is no more action. Often you can get another 5 or 6 Dorado once you have the initial hook up, but almost always you will at least catch the mate.
If you hook a 15 kg+ Dorado on a lighter salt-water bait-casting rod and reel you are in for quite a fight. Whatever you cast to them, make sure you watch out with heavier lures as Dorado jump wildly when hooked and the lure could come flying back at you at a high rate of speed. Once you have a hook up and you are fighting the fish, do not clear all your lines and never ever stop the boat. Keep one of the rigger lines and the shot gun out as many times you will get the mate screaming off with one of these whilst you are fighting the initial hook up. The best thing to do is before you gaff the fish, have a crew member open the fish hatch so when you gaff the fish, you gaff and bring over board directly into the iced fish hatch in one move and shut the door. Dorado are bad tempered fish, and when hooked up fight like mad and jump like crazy, once on board they go even crazier and if not dealt with correctly can cause injury to those on the boat, especially when chain gangs are involved.
Bleeding the Dorado is a good idea, even if you can keep it cold. Its is always at least some hours, before he reaches the kitchen. Otherwise the meat might get soft and mushie.More
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