Coryphaena Hippurus




15 - 30 pounds

40" - 83"

Common Dolphinfish

Also Known As: Dolphin, Dolphinfish, Common Dolphin, Mahi-Mahi, Dorado, Dourade  

Guides Who Fish This Species

Common Dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) Fish Description

The common dolphinfish, also known as the mahi-mahi or dorado, are distinctive because of the play of colors on their bodies. Their sides are golden, with splotches of bright blue and green on the back and sides, and pectoral fins a shimmering blue, and underwater they can boast a myriad of other colors depending on where the light hits. However, once taken out of the water, they change colors drastically like a light show, before finally fading to a silver or muted yellow-grey upon demise.

The head of this fish species is also quite distinct. It is characterized by a single dorsal fin that extends from the head to the tail or caudal fin. Male common dolphinfish have a protruding head, while the female head looks a little more rounded.

The common dolphinfish belong to the family Coryphaenidae, with the other one being the pompano dolphinfish. The juvenile common dolphinfish are often mistaken for the pompano as the latter are quite small. One way to distinguish them is to look at the pectoral fins. The pectoral fins of the common dolphinfish are longer compared to that of the pompano. They also differ in color once out of the water. The common dolphinfish will look a little more yellow, while the pompano will sport a more prominent silver.


Size and Diet

The common dolphinfish do not live long, with some reaching five years but rarely exceeding four. They, however, spawn all year long and mature quite quickly, making their population quite strong and stable. The average size for the common dolphinfish is 39 inches, weighing from 15 to 29 pounds. The world record for the common dolphinfish is 87 pounds.

The common dolphinfish are carnivorous and are known as great swimmers, making them fantastic predators. They are not very particular with what they eat, though they do adapt as they mature. The juveniles of this fish species feed on crustaceans, while the adults focus on bony fishes. They are quite partial to the flying fish. They feed mostly during the day.


Interesting Facts About the Common Dolphinfish

  • The common dolphinfish is also called mahi-mahi. This name comes from the Hawaiian term for “very strong”. Its other more common name, dorado, is from the Spanish language, and it means “golden”.
  • This fish species mature quickly at three to four months. They practice broadcast spawning, a reproductive behavior wherein both females and males release their respective eggs and sperms into the same water column. This practice apparently guarantees a better chance of fertilization.
  • Female common dolphinfish spawn two to three times annually. In their lifetime, they can produce millions of eggs.
  • Big consumers of this fish species: the United States and the Caribbean. The Japanese, Hawaiian, and Australian markets are also significant.
  • If you're catching a common dolphinfish to eat, make sure to store it with lots of ice before you clean it. This serves two purposes: it keeps your fish fresh, and it makes cleaning much easier.
  • The flesh of the common dolphinfish is similar to that of the swordfish. It tastes best pan-fried, grilled, roasted, or simmered in sauce. Because its flesh is firm, it is also good to cook it over wood or coal.
  • The common dolphinfish is also a known vector for ciguatera poisoning, which is caused when the toxins from Gambierdiscus toxicus are consumed by the fish accidentally and grow in their bodies through time.


Fishing Technique: How to Catch Common Dolphinfish 

The common dolphinfish are prized both as game fish and as commercial species. Anglers love fishing for them because they are quite stunning to look at and can also make great food.

When fishing for the common dolphinfish, one should look for an area that has a lot of floating debris by the edge of the reef, as this fish species are attracted to such. Also, anglers should keep a look out for frigate birds trolling any floating debris as they can take you to some big catch.

This fish species can be caught with trolling near weedlines, floating debris, and currents. If you choose to do so, make sure you employ the use of 30- to 50-pound class rods and reels. With trolling, you can use live bait (ballyhoo or squid are most recommended) or artificial lures. Make the bait skip on the surface of the water to excite the common dolphinfish (they love a good flying fish for their meal, after all).

The common dolphinfish are quite strong swimmers and are quite hard to reel in, so anglers will do well with an equally strong tackle, and perhaps another one for back-up just in case the one you're using breaks off while you're reeling this strong fish in.


Habitat and Distribution

This surface-dwelling fish species are typically found under floating objects. Sometimes those floating objects are floating sargassum, and sometimes they can even be ships.

The common dolphinfish are found worldwide in warm and temperate waters, distributed along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They occur in both the western parts (particularly the Sea of Japan, around the Philippine Islands, and Taiwan) and eastern parts (from the Oregon and Californian coasts to Peru) of the Pacific Ocean. In the warmer waters of Southern California, their population is quite abundant, particularly in Newport Beach San Diego, Long Beach, and Dana Point. In the Atlantic coast, they are found in Florida, particularly Miami, West Palm Beach, and the Keys.