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Love Them Dorado



By Gene Kira, June 10, 2002, as published in Western Outdoor News:

With Baja's annual dorado fishing season hot upon us, it's time for some notes about my all-time favorite game fish, Coryphaena hippurus, dolphinfish, mahi-mahi--call it whatever you want.

Why is this vicious but beautiful demon--disguised in sapphires, emeralds, and gold--such a royal blast to catch?

In addition to being one of the most stunningly beautiful creations of nature, the greatest thing about dorado (also mahi-mahi or dolphinfish) is that they are almost always hungry-out-of-their-minds. You will never hear someone say, "Crap! We were surrounded by jumping dorado! But they wouldn't hit!"

No way! When you see a dorado anywhere in Baja waters, amigo--almost any dorado--that fish is probably feeling super-hungry, and it will probably hit anything you throw at it. Use a live bait if you must, but a dead bait, strip bait, chunk bait, or any kind of lure or feather will do just fine. It's unusual not to get hit when sight casting properly to dorado. You don't even need a "real" lure. I have caught dorado on such things as ballpoint pen bodies, toy dinosaurs, and pieces of plastic bag. They have been caught with conch shells in their stomachs. These guys don't care.

Another wonderful thing about dorado is that they always hit near the surface and fight you fair-and-square. No dirty tricks. You never hear someone say, "Crap! Rocked by another @#!$%* dorado!" Unlike, say, those dirty rotten yellowtail, which require lots of luck and heavy string to pull from shallow water, even reef-caught dorado will rarely cut you off. This makes them total fun on bass rods, spinning reels, fly rods, and all forms of light tackle.

Dorado have incredible eyesight, both underwater and in the air. In clear water, they will turn right angles to snatch a lure at least 25 feet away, and in the air, they will come bounding in a series of long leaps to score a bullseye on your lure. The dorado is everybody's game fish, from raw beginners to experienced connoisseurs.

Even though dorado are arguably the easiest of all fish to hook, there are admittedly times when it's just plain lousy out there, the chips are down, and you're competing with your trolling mates for just a couple of fish--or maybe just one fish--for the whole day.

At those times, it's worthwhile to keep in mind that dorado prefer a six-inch bait or lure over all other sizes. This specific length preference was documented as far back as the 1960s when Western Outdoor News Baja Editor, Ray Cannon, studied and helped introduce live bait to the early sport fishing fleets of the Sea of Cortez.

The lure should be a simple, relatively slim vinyl squid--or "hoochie"--about three-fourths of an inch in diameter, and it should be weighted and trolled at such a speed that it rises to the surface of the water every 30 seconds or so. The lure should be positioned in the clear water right at the edge of the prop wash, about 40 feet behind the boat. Finally, best color is almost always a medium lime-green, with small pink highlights. To get this effect, rig a small fluorescent pink hoochie inside a six-inch green one.

Granted, this lure--as described in "The Baja Catch"--sounds suspiciously simple and, well, dumb. But, I have had it outfish "sophisticated" lure and bait spreads more times than I can count, on tuna, billfish, and especially, dorado. When things are super-tough, and there's maybe only one fish to be caught, you will be amazed (and your companions completely disgusted) by how regularly this hot little "Hula Skirt & Pink Panties" snags the prize.

When the dorado action is as it "should" be, you can fish any which way you want. You're gonna hook 'em with your eyes closed.

But when you're scratching and clawing on a slow day, troll the Baja Catch-style "Hula Skirt & Pink Panties," keep a six-inch chrome Krocodile handy on a second rod for casting around hooked fish, and like the dorado itself, you're nothin' but gold.

(Related Baja California, Mexico, articles and reports may be found at's main Baja California information page. See weekly fishing news, photos, and reports from the major sportfishing vacation areas of Mexico including the Baja California area in "Mexico Fishing News.")