Not to be confused with the saltwater marine mammal of the same name, the dolphin fish is absolutely delicious. More correctly referred to as mahi mahi and dorado, but also nicknamed flip-flops, blockheads, and greenies; these offshore fighters are great fun to catch. One of the most distinctive fish in the sea, the dolphin is a good fighter, a colorful trophy, and a great dinner.
The dolphin is found in waters just offshore, frequently hiding under floating marine debris and structure such as oilrigs. Typically they occur in Mississippi waters from summer through fall, or from about June to October. They are usually found close to the surface. Their long torpedo like shape with a characteristically sloped forehead on male dolphin is readily identifiable. Their face, rounded and unique looks closest to the pompano, which is in fact a relative of the dolphin fish.
Dolphin, like most pelagic offshore fish, school up and migrate following warm water baitfish colonies. This leads to good hits on rigged live pogey, mullet, cigar minnows, and other baitfish. Squid is like crack to these guys and many Mississippi anglers have found a hungry on the end of their line to prove it. When using artificial lures, a good bet is large silver Clark spoons. With their tendency to stick close to the surface, working a good strong spinning reel can produce results.
An old trick used by many experienced anglers, is to let the first dolphin of the day swim lazily on a good stringer from the bow. This takes advantage of the schooling nature of the species and will almost surely draw in more. By using this technique, it is rare to come home with just one dolphin.
Leaders with 30-50 pound test are recommended as they are fierce fighters that often break the surface and leap or hop. The fight that a large dolphin will give has been likened to that of wahoo and sailfish and is well worth the price of admission. In fact, the popular name mahi mahi means very strong in Hawaiian
Mississippi dolphin come in usually small at about five pounds but can often be much larger. They are very popular in late summer fishing tournaments with more than a dozen large (over 25-pound) entries landed in most of your larger events like the Billfish Classic. The current all-state Mississippi Official Saltwater Conventional Tackle Record for dolphin is shared by two anglers who both caught fish that came in at 62-pounds flat. The fish were caught in 1981 by D.L. Siegel and in 1985 by Leo Muldoon. The IGFA world record of 87-pounds for a fish caught in Costa Rica has stood for 36-years.
Dolphins are one of the most photogenic fish in the Gulf of Mexico. Their bright colors of blue to green to bright canary yellow are eye-catching and a favorite for maritime artists like Guy Harvey and Marty Wilson. The best way to get good pictures of dolphin is fresh after the catch in natural sunlight with the fish still wet. The longer a fish sits in the cooler the more the colors fade and wash out. Avoid shadows and try to take a fish-forward perspective with the lucky angler behind the dolphin. It may turn out to be the best fish picture you have ever taken.
Easily filleted with nice fresh tasting meat, dolphin fish are superb table fare. I like mine grilled with lemon and butter.