Known as mahi-mahi, lampuga, lampuka, rakingo, calitos, maverikos, and dorado, Coryphaena hippurus is a surface-dwelling ray-finned fish found in off-shore temperate, tropical, and subtropical waters worldwide. Mahi-mahi means very strong in Hawaiian.
The mahi-mahi is one (1) of only two (2) members of the Coryphaenidae family, the other being the pompano dolphinfish.
Species: C. hippurus
The mahi-mahi is in no way related to the Delphinidae family of mammals (also called dolphin or porpose). The English language adopted the Hawaiian word mahi-mahi without formalizing its spelling, but the American Heritage Dictionary, fourth edition, cites the preferred spelling as the hyphenated mahi-mahi. Another common spelling is mahimahi.
Carl Linnaeus is credited for naming the genus, derived from the Greek word, koryphe, meaning top or apex, in 1758. Synonyms for the species include Coryphaena argyrurus, Coryphaena chrysurus and Coryphaena dolfyn.
Mahi-mahi live 4 to 5 years, and catches average from 7 to 13 kilograms (kg), or 15 to 29 pounds (lbs). Not often do they exceed 15kg (33lb), and any catch over 18kg (40lb) is considered exceptional and rare.
Mahi-mahi have compressed bodies and long dorsal fins extending nearly the entire length of their bodies. They are distinguished by dazzling colors: golden on the sides, and bright blues and greens on the sides and back. Mature males have prominent foreheads protruding well about the body proper. Females have a rounded head. Females are also usually smaller than males.
Out of the water, the fish often change color among several hues, finally fading to a muted yellow-grey upon death.
Mahi-mahi are among the fastest-growing fish. They spawn in warm ocean currents throughout the year, and their young are commonly found in seaweed. Mahi-mahi are carnivorous, feeding on flying fish, squid, mackerel, and other forage fish. They have also been known to eat zooplankton and crustaceans.
The mahi-mahi’s taste resembles other whitefish, such as flounder, and tilapia.
Mahi-mahi are highly sought for sport fishing and commercial purposes. Sport fishermen seek mahi-mahi due to their beauty, size, food quality, and healthy population. Mahi-mahi are popular in many restaurants.
Mahi-mahi can be found in the Caribbean Sea, on the west coast of North and South America, the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic coast of Florida, Southeast Asia, Hawaii and many other places worldwide.
Fishing charters most often look for floating debris and frigate birds near the edge of the reef in about 120 feet (37m) of water. Mahi-mahi (and many other fish) often swim near debris such as floating wood, palm trees and fronds, or sargasso weed lines and around fish buoys. Sargasso is floating seaweed that sometimes holds a complete ecosystem from microscopic creatures to seahorses and baitfish. Frigate birds dive for food accompanying the debris or sargasso. Experienced fishing guides can tell what species are likely around the debris by the birds’ behavior.
30- to 50-pound gear is more than adequate for trolling for mahi-mahi. Fly-casters may especially seek frigate birds to find big mahi-mahis, and then use a bait-and-switch technique. Ballyhoo or a net full of live sardines tossed into the water can excite the mahi-mahis into a feeding frenzy. Hookless teaser lures can have the same effect. After tossing the teasers or live chum, fishermen throw the fly to the feeding mahi-mahi. Once on a line, mahi-mahi are fast, flashy and acrobatic, with beautiful blue, yellow, green and even red dots of color.
The United States and the Caribbean countries are the primary consumers of this fish, but many European countries are increasing their consumption every year. It is a popular eating fish in Australia, usually caught and sold as a by-product by tuna and swordfish commercial fishing operators. Japan and Hawaii are significant consumers. The Arabian Sea, particularly the coast of Oman, also has mahi-mahi. At first, mahi-mahi were mostly bycatch (incidental catch) in the tuna and swordfish longline fishery. Now they are sought by commercial fishermen on their own merits.
In French Polynesia, fishermen use harpoons, using a specifically designed boat, the poti marara, to pursue it, because mahi-mahi do not dive. The poti marara is a powerful motorized V-shaped boat, optimized for high agility and speed, and driven with a stick so the pilot can hold his harpoon with his right hand.