The mahi-mahi (in Hawaiian) (Coryphaena hippurus). In other languages it is known as lampuga, lampuka, rakingo, calitos, maverikos, dorado. These are surface-dwelling ray-finned fish found in off-shore temperate, tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. They are one of only two members of the Coryphaenidae family, the other being the pompano dolphinfish. Mahi-mahi means very strong in Hawaiian.
The mahi-mahi is not related to the Delphinidae family of mammals (whose common name is simply dolphin). The English language adopted the Hawaiian word mahi-mahi without formalizing its spelling. The American Heritage Dictionary, fourth edition, cites the preferred spelling (occurring “more frequently”) as the hyphenated mahi-mahi. The secondary spelling is the single word mahimahi, with the identical Hawaiian word given as the derivative source. But Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, second edition, reverses this preference order, preferring the single word to the hyphenated version, as does the Oxford English Dictionary (2000 draft entry).
Linnaeus named 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. Catches average 7 to 13 kilograms (15 to 29 lb). They seldom exceed 15 kilograms (33Â lb), and any mahi-mahi over 18 kilograms (40Â lb) is exceptional.
Mahi-mahi have compressed bodies and long dorsal fins extending nearly the entire length of their bodies. Their caudal fins and anal fins are sharply concave. 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 above 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 (giving rise to their Spanish name, dorado maverikos, "golden maverick"), finally fading to a muted yellow-grey upon death.
Mahi-mahi are among the fastest-growing fish. They spawn in warm ocean currents throughout much of the year, and their young are commonly found in seaweed. Mahi-mahi are carnivorous, feeding on flying fish, crabs, squid, mackerel, and other forage fish. They have also been known to eat zooplankton and crustaceans.
Female mahi-mahi caught in Mauritius
Female mahi-mahi dolphin fish caught off coast of Bahamas
Bull (male) mahi-mahi caught in Costa Rica
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 frigatebirds near the edge of the reef in about 120 feet (37Â m) 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. Frigatebirds dive for food accompanying the debris or sargasso. Experienced fishing guides can tell what species are likely around the debris by the birds' behavior.
Thirty- to fifty-pound gear is more than adequate when trolling for mahi-mahi. Fly-casters may especially seek frigatebirds 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.