The warm blue currents of summer have already begun to grace our coastline and that can only mean one thing - pelagic season has begun and there's no time to waste. The pelagics temporarily visit our coastline on their annual run south along the east coast feeding up before the water temperatures drop and they have to retreat north to warmer waters in winter. By far one of the most acrobatic, stunningly good looking and tastiest of the summer time pelagics has to be the mahimahi.
Luckily for us in Qld, mahimahi can be a year-round capture as long as water temperatures stay above 23°C. Mahimahi are an open water pelagic and can be found from the shoreline at times all the way out to the blue abyss past the continental shelf. As they are an open water pelagic, they rely on the right water temperatures and currents to survive and find their next meal. The rule of thumb I've found with dollies is if it swims or flies and can fit in their mouth, they'll eat it.
Since mahimahi have very short life spans and grow incredibly fast, they need to eat as much as they can as quick as they can. By far one of the best times of the year to target mahimahi is late spring and summer as the summer currents force masses of bait and nutrients down the coastline; the pelagics, including large numbers of mahimahi, are in tow for the free buffet.
There are a couple of ways to catch mahimahi: either trolling open water where they are commonly caught targeting billfish or fishing around floating debris, structure and FADs (Fish Attracting Devices). Before chasing mahimahi you'll need the right gear. Mahimahi go aerial during the fight, so they are very good at throwing hooks. Billfish are also a likely capture while chasing mahimahi and they are very good at emptying a reel.
GEAR AND LURES
There's no need to go out and buy a full set of gamefishing setups if you are going to target mahimahi on the troll. Reels that can hold 300m of 30-40lb braid and 6-7ft rods rated from 30-50lb with a relatively soft tip action (spin or overhead) are ideal.
If you're running spin, I recommend a size 4000-4500 Daiwa or 6000-8000 Shimano. Run a full spool of braid to get the line capacity and run a 20-30m length of 15 or 24kg mono top-shot for shock absorption and stretch to improve hook-ups; the line pressure of the mono through the water can keep the fish hooked as they go aerial.
If you go for an overhead option, a size 15-20 reel is more than adequate. You can get away with using less or no braid backing and running a spool of 15 or 24kg mono, but if you decide you want a full spool of braid so you can use the same setup for bottom fishing, just add a top-shot like you would on a spinning reel. Having 2-3 rods is more than adequate if you want to troll, as its common to have all rods go off at the same time - even if you run five - when you find a school of mahimahi.
When fishing FADs I recommend using a spin rod as it's important to be able to cast if you use baits or artificial lures. When using live baits or dead bait you can use the exact same spin setup as you would for trolling but instead of the top-shot, run a rod length and a bit of 40-60lb leader and circle hooks. The benefit of a circle hook is that it stops the mahimahi's small pin-like teeth chafing you off mid-fight, as you'll hook them in the corner of the jaw; then once it's in, it's near impossible for them to shake the hook.
Casting artificial lures is by far one of the most visually exciting ways to target mahimahi and you are able to selectively target larger fish with the lures you use and the way you work them. If you want to cast for them, it's very important to have the right setup to work the lure and fight the fish. I recommend running a 7-8ft PE2-4 (20-40lb) stickbait rod with a 4000 or 6000 reel running 30-40lb braid and 60lb leader.
The lures I use when casting for dollies are predominately stickbaits from 110-160mm and generally floating, as I like them to skip across the top with ease. Smaller stickbaits that sink relatively fast are great too, as you can sink them down and work them fast to entice a reaction bite.
When rigging stickbaits, it's single hooks-only - trebles and dollies are a bad idea. Once a mahimahi hits the deck it can become very dangerous with two sets of trebles, as they can go ballistic. Occasionally I'll use 5-7" plastics and 60-80g jigs, but I prefer the visual aspect of surface lures. There's nothing better than watching a big bull mahimahi mow down your lure and proceed to go bananas.
When trolling for mahimahi, the best lures you can use are 6-8" skirted lures in a variety of different colours like natural baitfish patterns, oranges, reds, pinks, greens and darker purple and black colours. When rigging skirts, run two arm-lengths of 100lb mono leader attached to a wire hook rig inside the skirt with either a two-hook rig or single hook rig using light gauge and strong 8/0 or 9/0 J hooks. While a two-hook rig is best for mahimahi hook-ups, a single is much safer. To the other end of your 100lb leader crimp a loop and attach a snap swivel to your main line so you can clip your lure on and off with ease.