South Jersey Fishing: Mahi Mania
Mahi mania has hit the Jersey coast. Perfect timing, too, as the tuna bite in the canyons is in a brief late summer slump, and mid-range tuna action is scarce, at best.
Enter the dolphin, a.k.a. mahi-mahi and dorado but most often referred to simply as mahi. This brilliantly colored migrant from the southern waters generally shows around mid-July, with numbers increasing to where it is abundant. Like right about now, but experience had showed that September is usually the period of the highest numbers and the biggest fish.
To be sure, at this stage of the game, mahi have proven a trip saver when the tuna prove uncooperative.
Suffice it to say, Mahi Mania is taking hold. A fun malady, if you will. These are a blast to pursue, and most of the time, they are cooperative to a fatal fault. There are loads of fish being caught, and sizes are ranging from “chickens (1-3 lbs.) to big males, known as “bulls” to 30-plus pounds. The winning mahi in the recently completed mega-money MidAtlantic tournament tipped the scale at 43 lbs. That’s a lotta bull...$78,231 worth!
They are encountered as close as 2-3 miles, or as far as 70-80 miles, and just about everywhere in between.
Mahi are caught by trolling and also casting jigs, plastics like the Tsunami Split Tail Minnow, and live (killies, peanut bunker, finger mullet) and whole or cut (spearing, squid, butterfish, sardine) bait. The common denominator is that the species is surface cover crazy, i.e. it hangs around any type of floating structure, be it natural, such as mats of weeds, or artificial in the form of buoys, hi-flier pot indicators...just about anything on top will hold mahi underneath. We once witnessed a 14-lb. mahi caught on a two-ounce S&S bucktail armed with a four-inch Mr. Twister Exude Grub from underneath a floating wooden ladder that, for whatever reason, was floating six miles off Absecon Inlet. Go figure. Trolling small daisy chains, Clark Spoons, feathers, cedar plugs or small ballyhoo around such flotsam will elicit strikes from the
bigger fish. Otherwise, pitching cut or live baits, or bucktails and jigs on light spinning tackle around said the topwater structure will draw strikes from the smaller inhabitants. Still, be prepared for mahi of any size.
Mahi make superlative eating. Grilled, baked, broiled, or fried, the flesh is sweet and delectable.
There are no length or bag limits.