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Fresh catch: Mahi-mahi


Story by Bailey Gilliam + photos by Collins Doughtie

Mahi-mahi, also known as dolphin and dorado, are one of the most coveted pelagic gamefish due to their delicious taste, enormous size and beautiful appearance. Their vibrant scales house a bright mix of deep green or blue and bright yellow. Their colors and markings can change based on their mood or activity. Striking dark vertical stripes and spots may appear in certain situations. Adult mahi-mahi usually grow to be between 50 and 80 pounds. The males, also known as bulls, are larger. One was recorded at 88 pounds. Along with their sizes, the gender of this fish can be determined by the shape of their heads. According to Grant Kaple of The Boathouse, “the girl dolphin’s head is rounded and male is square, or bull-headed.”

Gone fishing

According to Jason Bullock of Bubba’s Cabin, “Mahi is a much prettier fish than most,” and is also “fun to catch.” He says that these fish are typically 80-100 miles offshore.

As with any pelagic, mahi-mahi can be found up and down the Gulfstream. Kaple of The Boathouse says that you can find them consistently at the Delhi ledge, which is about 72 miles, or two hours, away. You can get a map at The Boathouse that shows where to go for these fish; all you have to do is punch in the GPS coordinates.

When attempting to catch this prized fish, Kaple recommends attaching a chum bag to the back of your boat to attract bait. The mahi-mahi will come to feed and, due to their serious “FOMO,” if one is caught, their friends don’t want to miss out on that bait either. Catching an entire school isn’t that difficult. Just be sure to have the right equipment. Choose the right rod, reel and ballyhoo rigs. Frozen bait isn’t a bad idea either.

Protein powerhouse

Mahi-mahi is one of the top 10 healthiest finfish in the United States. This low-calorie fish is an obvious source of protein, with 20.2 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving, which is roughly one-third of the recommended daily intake of protein. The lean protein in mahi-mahi helps maintain tissue and contains essential amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids. Additionally, this fish contains several B vitamins, such as thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-3, vitamin B-5 and
vitamin B-6. These vitamins support metabolism, cell function, nourish the skin and liver and are beneficial to brain function and mood by helping to produce neurotransmitters and hormones.
Another essential nutrient in mahi-mahi, iron, helps red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body and supports the day-to-day functioning of your organs. Selenium and potassium are just two of the minerals found in mahi-mahi that help to fight disease, support the immune system, help balance fluids and promote a healthy heart. It is one of the least likely fish to contain mercury.

Fish out of water

When in season, you can find the freshest mahi-mahi at South End Seafood, Barnacle Bill’s Fresh Seafood, Benny Hudson Seafood, Sea Eagle in Beaufort, and pretty much any local grocery store. When purchasing mahi-mahi, look for a fish that does not feel mushy or smell fishy. Choose moist, resilient fillets or steaks that have a fresh and neutral scent. Whether it is fresh or frozen, the flesh should be pink with red stripes or spots and occasionally light brown or bluish tinge. The skin should be shiny and moist-looking. The skin can range from silver to dark gray.


Store fresh mahi-mahi tightly wrapped in the coldest part of the refrigerator for 3-4 days. When freezing this fish, vacuum package each cut individually with as little moisture as possible. It should keep for several months when packaged correctly.

Order up

You don’t have to own a boat to enjoy this tasty fish. Let the experts do all the catching, cleaning and cooking by ordering these amazing dishes at local restaurants.

The Black Marlin: You can order it literally however you want, but our favorite preparation is the sweet heat tacos, which have blackened mahi-mahi and tropical fruit salsa.

Charlie’s L’etoile Verte: Local mahi-mahi grilled with a mango vinaigrette is often part of its hand-written dinner menu.

Skull Creek Boathouse: The pecan ginger crusted mahi-mahi is just one of its dishes with mahi-mahi and has a delicious creole honey mustard drizzle, Savannah red rice and seasonal vegetables.

Holy Tequila: This Mexican kitchen has multiple dishes that feature mahi-mahi. One excellent choice is the Acapulco mahi-mahi, which consists of blackened mahi-mahi, Spanish rice, pineapple salsa, citrus adobo sauce, crispy tortilla strips and fresh lime.

Many local restaurants will serve mahi-mahi when it is in season and readily available to purchase. Consider checking with other seafood eateries, such as Skull Creek Dockside, Hudson’s Seafood House on the Docks and Poseidon.

Wine and dine

Since the flavor of mahi-mahi is delicate, you shouldn’t choose a wine that will overwhelm the flavor of the fish. Choose a light, aromatic white wine such as sauvignon blanc, Gewürztraminer or oaked chardonnay for a grilled or baked mahi-mahi. For mahi-mahi in a cream sauce, add a bit of acidity to cut through the heaviness of the sauce. Choose a Vouvray, champagne or pinot gris. For mahi-mahi prepared in a tomato-based sauce of salsa, pair the wine to the sauce instead of the fish. Pairs could include German riesling, rosé or grenache.

Fish to fry

Mahi-mahi can be prepared in many ways. Its firm texture stands up well to baking and grilling. Here are the most common and easiest ways to enjoy this finfish. You’ll know it’s done when it flakes easily.

Bake: Place in a baking dish in a 400-degree oven. It isn’t necessary to turn this fish during cooking. Brush with butter or sprinkle with herbs, if desired.

Grill: Place fish on a well-greased grill a few inches above hot coals. Turn once halfway through cooking time. Brush with oil, butter, margarine or marinade several times during the cooking process.

Sauté: Sauté fish in oil or butter over medium-high heat. Turn for even browning halfway through cooking.

Poach: Cover with boiling, salted water. Add flavorings such as lemon slices, white wine or herbs to the poaching liquid.

Broil: Broil 4 inches from heat. Brush with oil, butter, margarine or marinade several times during cooking. LL

Grilled mahi-mahi tacos


3 mahi-mahi filets

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 six-inch corn or flour tortillas

1 lime, wedged

Toppings to taste

Ingredients (seasoning)

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

Directions [1] Heat grill to medium-high heat or heat oven to 425 degrees. Combine the seasoning mix in a small bowl. Dab mahi-mahi filets with a paper towel and brush the filets with olive oil. Sprinkle with seasoning. [2] To grill: Grill the fillets for about 3-4 minutes, skin side down. Flip the fish and cook an additional 3-4 minutes, or until the fish reaches 140 degrees. To bake: Place the fillets on a baking sheet and bake 12-17 minutes or until the fish reaches 140 degrees. [3] While fish is cooking, heat tortillas to package instructions and prepare toppings such as grilled bell peppers, sliced avocado, tomato, lettuce, salsa verde or whatever you wish. [4] Remove fish from the grill or oven and squeeze lime on top. Break fish into chunks and assemble serve in tortillas with toppings.

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