What are Dolphinfish?

In this post, we will learn about dolphinfish biology. We will also outline some tips for Dolphinfish fishing, such as the best fishing season, types of baits and where to fish this species.

What are Dolphinfish?

The species’ scientific name is Coryphaena hippurus. It is famous for its peculiar body shape and bright colours. This attractive beauty makes fishing for the Sea Dorado even more interesting. The Dolphinfish are considered one of the prettiest and most skittish fish, the Sea Dorado is a coveted species that delights many fishermen when referring to saltwater sport fishing.


With a flat elongated body, the Dolphinfish can measure up to 2 meters and weigh up to 40 kilograms. Their forehead is protruded its dorsal fin goes from the head to the tail and has about 60 rays. For this reason, the dorsal fin is a highlight of this species.

The light blue and blue-greenish colours of its back also distinguish it. The golden colouration and light-dark contrasting spots with a silver belly complete the colour show. This fish is very fast and can make incredible jumps, which is a plus to its capture during sport fishing.

They are most prevalent in tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. As fast swimmers, Dolphinfish are one of the main predatory fish in the Atlantic. Fishermen look for these fish for commercial sale because consumers like the firm flesh of dolphinfish.

Cycloid scales cover the entire body of the mahi-mahi, as the dolphinfish is also known. Cycloid scales have smooth outer edges and overlap from head to tail. The shape and arrangement of the scales reduce friction so the fish swim faster.


Dolphinfish have a total of seven fins: one dorsal fin, that runs the entire length of the body; one anal fin that sits on the underside of the fish; two pectoral fins; two pelvic fins; and one bifurcated tail fin.

Life cycle and mating

The Dolphinfish can live up to five years, though it rarely exceeds four. Females are generally smaller than males. Catches are typically between 7 to 13 kilograms (15 to 29 lb) and one metre long. They rarely exceed 15 kg (33 lb), and Dolphinfish over 18 kilograms (40 lb) are extremely rare. 

Dolphinfish are among the fastest-growing fish. They spawn in warm ocean currents during most parts of the year. Their young are commonly found on Sargassum weed rafts. Dolphinfish are carnivores and feed on flying fish, crabs, squid, mackerel, and other fish. They are also known to eat zooplankton when young.

Males and females are sexually mature during their first year, usually 4 to 5 months old. Females can spawn two to three times a year and produce between 80,000 and 1,000,000 eggs per spawning event. In waters temperature ranging 28 to 30°C, Dolphinfish larvae can be found year-round, with larger numbers detected during northern hemisphere spring and autumn. 


The Dolphinfish are distributed worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas. It is a highly migratory species. They are mainly found in surface waters.

The United States and Caribbean countries are the main consumers of this fish, but many European countries are increasing their consumption each year. Their meat is very oily, similar to sardines.

It is a very popular fish in Australia, often caught and sold as a by-product of tuna and swordfish fishing. Japan and Hawaii are important consumers. The Arabian Sea, particularly the coast of Oman, also has dolphinfish. In the beginning, dolphinfish were mainly caught in longline fishing for tuna and swordfish. Nowadays, they are sought after by commercial fishermen on their own merits. In French Polynesia, fishermen use harpoons in a specifically designed fishing boat.

Conservation status

Both, the common dolphinfish and the pompano dolphinfish, are classified as “least of concern” on the IUCN Red List. Their populations are stable. However, dolphinfish face threats due to declining habitat conditions and fragmentation. These species have a high commercial value and are widely exploited. Many countries have imposed baggage limits and size limits to support sustainable fishing.

Dolphinfish fishing

Fishing for dolphinfish is a very popular sport around the world. A fish of this species can reach up to 2 metres in length and reach up to 40 kilograms. Even the smallest specimens, which measures about 1.5 metres and weigh around 10 kilograms, are one of the greatest pride for those who manage to capture them.

The best fishing techniques

It is important to follow suggestions and use the best techniques for fishing the Sea Dorado. Most fishermen use the long-throw technique with artificial surface lures. In warm and close to the mainland waters, you can find the perfect place to catch fish.

But what does this technique consist of?

Well, it is necessary to do long throws and do the work of reeling in the reel or reel with little rod-tip touches to get the dolphinfish attention.

Carrying out the process patiently is essential, especially because the Sea Dorado is very unapproachable. The catch work is very irritating to the fish through the movement of the bait. Sea Dorado is a surface fish and usually follows large objects adrift.

Where to find dolphinfish

Fish like clear, warm water, preferring the open sea. However, the younger ones usually swim close to the coast, the dolphinfish breeding site.

Sea Dorado is a pelagic fish, so there is no specific place to find it. All year long it is always migrating from one place to another.

Bait Preparation

To be able to capture the “Golden from the sea”, remember that a very important strategy is to invest in an attractive bait. Thus, you can attract the fish closer to your boat.

There are several models, but we suggest that you get a PVC pipe that has small holes in the base. Fill the barrel with pieces of fresh groundfish, such as sardines and shrimp. Then tie a rope to the pipe and boat, leaving the lure suspended in the water. That way you will be able to locate and attract fish easily.

Finally, it should be noted that the Sea Dorado is not an easy species to fish. As you can see throughout the content, you need to consider many characteristics for the fishing to be good.

So remember that you have to invest a lot of your time, probably a few hours in the sun, to get this fish.

Curiosities about the Golden of the sea

In Japan, dolphinfish is known as Shira (シイラ) and fishing is a little different. There, the Sea Dourado can be caught in fisheries landed near the rocky shores.

Because they are sexually dimorphic, Sea dolphinfish can have their sex easily identified when they reach 4-5 months old by examining the slope of their forehead. Females have a more rounded, slanted head shape, while males have a square-cut head.


In this post, we learnt a little about dolphinfish biology, tips for fishing this species, such as the best fishing season, types of baits, and where to fish.

If you have any thoughts or doubts, feel free to drop us in a comment below!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Dolphinfish

What do Dolphinfish eat?

The Dolphinfish inhabit rapid waters and waterfalls, as well as the banks of ravines, stream mouths and antlers in the middle of rivers. They usually swim in shoals. They are carnivorous fish, feeding on any kind of smaller fish, also considering small birds. Although, they prefer lambaris and sardines.

What is the better bait for dolphinfish?

Elongated body jumping jig lures are very good lures. Pink, silver or blue colours are the most suitable, as they shine well in the sunlight. The slimmer artificial baits work very well to catch Dolphinfish.

Is dolphinfish good to eat?

Some people say they are distinctly sweet and mild flavoured meat. With a firm texture and resembling a mild swordfish.

How fast is a Dolphinfish?

A dolphinfish can swim at more than 90 km/h speed. They form small shoals that enjoy swimming around and forage.

When is the best time to catch dolphinfish?

The best daytime for Sea Dorado fishing is in the early morning and late afternoon. In addition, sometimes it is also possible to capture them during the night.

What is the best bait to catch dolphinfish?

As they are carnivores, the best baits are the natural smaller fish. However, it is also possible to consider ballyhoo baits.

Is dolphinfish sport fishing permitted throughout the world?

Dolphinfish fishing is authorized, indeed, it is one of the most appreciated species in the world for sport fishing.


Oxenford, H. A., & Hunte, W. (1999). Feeding habits of the dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) in the eastern Caribbean. Scientia Marina, 63(3-4), 303-315.

Oxenford, H. A. (1999). Biology of the dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus) in the western central Atlantic: a review. Scientia Marina, 63(3-4), 277-301.

Brodie, S., Hobday, A. J., Smith, J. A., Spillman, C. M., Hartog, J. R., Everett, J. D., … & Suthers, I. M. (2017). Seasonal forecasting of dolphinfish distribution in eastern Australia to aid recreational fishers and managers. Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, 140, 222-229.

Mahon, R. (1999). Dolphinfish fisheries in the Caribbean region. Scientia Marina, 63(3-4), 411-420.