When the captain saw two dorado busting the surface and turned toward them, I suspected that we might just have found what we had been looking for. As we slowed to approach the spot where the dorado had jumped, the three of us (the captain, mate and I) saw the school at the same time. Then we saw the small log floating on the surface. Yes, this was looking promising.
Gawking into the water beneath the log, any remaining doubt vanished. The deep blue waters of the Pacific beneath that little piece of wood were swarming with triggerfish, yellowfin tuna, and bonito, plus a few tripletail and maybe 50 dorado. Oh, and below all these was a huge marlin. Only two species interested me at that moment: the tripletail and dorado.
Seeing that the tripletail all were fairly small, I opted to go after the dorado, which has always been one of my favorite game fish since I first encountered them off the coast of Ft. Lauderdale back in the 1960s. It didn't take but a few moments to get the action going. A few smaller dorado came first, as is usually the case, but then some better fish started appearing, so I dropped the 8-weight I had been using and grabbed my Fly Logic FLO+ 10-weight, a 9-foot 3-inch rod with the power of a 10-weight but which casts more like a fast 7-weight. Equipped with an outstanding Ross Gunnison 5 reel, which packs a good drag and is very light, I sent the fly out toward where a nice bull dorado had just dashed. One strip was all it took.
I did a fast and hard strip strike and twisted to my right as the dorado exploded from the water and went screaming off to my left. Every couple of seconds it erupted from the water and crashed back in, then ran madly for another 15 or 20 yards before jumping again and again and again, spinning and shaking its blunt head. All lit up in glowing gold, green, yellow and bits of blue, the dorado struck me as it always does -- one of the most beautiful game fish in the ocean. I held on as the Gunnison's drag got serious and began to slow the fish and the huge bend in the rod took its toll. A few minutes later, after a final wild leap at the side of the boat, the dorado gave it up and came to the gaff.
That was off the coast of Costa Rica, which is Spanish for "rich coast." Fishing out of the new Crocodile Bay Resort (www.crocodilebay.com) on the Golfo Dulce in the spring of 2000, I again understood why so many anglers love to fish for dorado, which are called mahi mahi in Hawaii (the name frequently seen on restaurant menus) and dolphinfish in reference books. Their popularity goes beyond their beauty and fighting style to encompass their range (warm and many temperate seas around the world), willingness to eat a variety of lures and flies, habit of schooling and following a hooked dorado right to the boat (thus making themselves targets), and delicious taste (tempura mahi mahi is fabulous).
Dorado Tactics & Techniques
Many schools of dorado, if not most, are discovered when a dorado hits a trolled lure or bait. They can show up in the middle of nowhere where there's no surface structure like sargassum, logs or debris, and they can show up right in the middle of such stuff. Regardless of where they're found, the first dorado hooked should be kept on the hook to entice the rest of the school to stay nearby. The moment one is hooked, the other anglers should get ready with their spinning or fly rods and begin casting as soon as the hooked dorado is within range.
Dorado like chum slicks. In an area that looks good (deep blue water with surface structure and baitfish in the area), anchor the boat and run a slick preferably made of an oily fish such as menhaden or mackerel, but mullet can also work. Watch for the dorado as they come into the slick and be ready to cast to them.
A third technique is "running & gunning," which involves checking likely looking spots for baitfish that might attract dorado, such as sargassum patches. If you see no baitfish under or around the sargassum, there probably isn't any dorado around either.
Tackle for dorado runs the gamut from 30-pound-test trolling tackle (spinning and level-wind reels) to light spinning gear (line as light as you dare). When trolling, it is a good idea to use line from 20- to 30-pound-test because of the possibility of wahoo, tuna, king mackerel and even billfish hitting your lure. In a chum slick or when running & gunning, however, 12- to 17-pound line often is all you'll need. Always keep a heavier rig ready in case something big shows up.
Fly tackle should consist of a fast-action 8- to 10-weight rod in the 9-foot range, such as a St. Croix Legend Ultra, Fly Logic FLO+, Scott Eclipse, Orvis Trident TL or John Christlieb Trophy. Three of the finest reel manufacturers are Ross Reels, maker of the Canyon and Gunnison Series (two of the best and most affordable fly reels made today), Abel (they make the excellent Super 8), and Orvis (try their new large-arbor Battenkill). Intermediate lines usually are most effective. Clousers, Deceivers, Sar-Mul-Macs, Bend-Backs, and other baitfish imitations in chartreuse, white and yellow produce the most dorado.
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