The Dorado is a very popular fish in the Sea of Cortez. In other waters it is known as the Dolphin fish or Mahi Mahi. Dorado is an aggressive feeder, taking flies and poppers readily when in the mood to eat. They are strong fighters on fly tackle, usually displaying numerous jumps followed by strong runs. Typical school sized fish run 8 to 12 pounds and may number into the hundreds of fish. The Bulls (mature males) run large in the East Cape, often weighing over 70 lbs. Fish over 50 lbs have been caught by fly fishermen.
- Rods: A nine weight is the minimum recommended sized rod and is adequate for smaller school size Dorado when casting small flies on calm days. The ten through twelve-weight rods are better suited to fishing off shore considering the strong possibility of larger fish mixed in with feeding schools.
- Reels: A good quality salt-water reel that holds 300 yards of 30 lb backing is recommended. Large arbor reels have a decided advantage in the rate of retrieve of line as well as maintaining consistent drag pressure. As a note for all species, we normally set the drag between four and six pounds of pull, then palm the rim during the fight to vary the pressure on the fish.
- Fly Lines: A full-length intermediate line is a good all purpose line for Dorado, being easy to cast and easy to handle. Shooting heads or full length integrated sink tip lines in class IV to class VI sink rates are an ideal all species off shore species selection. These lines offer maximum capacity for backing, with minimal belly forming in the line while playing fish. The high density sinking lines are a must for most tuna fishing situations, knowing that both species are often available at the same time and place.
Leaders: Keep it simple. A six-foot leader built from two pieces of mono looped together is all that is often needed. We usually build our butt sections with two feet of forty lb soft mono with perfection loops at both ends. To the butt section we join, via a loop to loop connection, the class tippet of eight kg (17 lb) test for ten weight rods and ten kg (22 lb test) for the twelve weight rods. Several knot work well to connect the class tippet to the loop in the butt section. We have had very good luck forming a large loop with either a Spider hitch, or the bimini twist. The large loop is doubled back on itself and a smaller double looped is then formed using a king sling or double surgeons knot. A non loop connection can be used to join the butt section to the class tippet using a double surgeons knot. This connection is fast to build, but gives up some knot strength. We have not found a bite tippet necessary while fishing for Dorado. However we often add 24 inches of forty or 60 lb. test soft mono to the class tippet to facilitate landing fish we intend to release. We grab the sturdy bite tippet and the tail of the fish or use a Boga grip. Several knots work to connect the tippet to bite section including the Hufnagle, Albright, double blood knot, double surgeons or our favorite the Yucatan knot. The final connection to the fly depends on whether a bite tippet is added or not. We use a loop knot, such as a Lefty’s loop to connect to the bite tippet. This allows the fly to swing better on the stiff mono. If the fly is attached directly to the class tippet a knot that breaks close to 100% should be used such as a double clinch, Eugene bend, San Diego knot (tuna knot) or a five turn Lefty’s loop knot.
Flies: The key to fly selection is matching size and color of the fly to the natural food being eaten. In most cases that means imitating the sardine. This small baitfish is usually two to four inches in length and white under olive, or white under tan in color. The tan or olive backs will often have a grayish cast to them. We have caught a lot of Dorado over the years on olive/white Clouser minnows tied on 1/0 to 3/0 hooks. In recent years the Mosca Magic has become a dominate pattern creating a whole family of variations, including the Clouser Magic, Crease Magic, Rasta Magic and Billfish Magic. Other patterns that are effective include variations on the Sardina, such as, Sea Habits, Bucktail Deceivers, and various poppers and crease flies. All of these patterns work well in olive/white, tan/white, chartreuse/white or blue/white, tied on 1/0 to 3/0 hooks. Squid also make up a good part of the Dorado’s diet and a few squid patterns such as the Tres Generation squid in white or pearl can save the day.When natural bait is absent we often try large attractor patterns in Red/white, purple/black, chartreuse/white and yellow/green. The Mosca Magic excels as an attractor pattern as does large Clouser Magic’s, the Rasta Magic and Large Bucktail Deceivers. These flies are often trolled in order to locate schools of fish. Large flies and poppers work best early and late in the day, while smaller and sparsely dressed flies seem to be more effective during the middle of the day.
Tactics: A number of tactical approaches are available to the angler when in pursuit of Dorado. We are always on the look out for bird activity as an indication of feeding fish. Casting into fish boils is an exciting way to catch Dorado, Tuna, Billfish, Skipjack and a host of other tropical species. The approach is simple, quietly move in on the feeding action and start to cast flies into the churning waters. We often throw a hookless top water teaser to bring fish closer to the boat and stoke the feeding fire so to speak.
A second popular method is to look for floating debris as Dorado quite often orientate and school underneath Sargasso, buoys, logs and other trash. We approach quietly and throw a fly close to the floating object to see if any one is home. A teaser thrown at a floater is a good way to wake up a school and announce that it is feeding time. It is not unusual to find Tuna, Skipjack, Wahoo or even Billfish around debris.
When the water is flat calm in the morning hours, we often cruise at a relatively high speed and look for Dorado heads pushing water. The boat is maneuvered in front of the school and the fly is presented to the cruising fish. A teaser plug is often used to pull fish with in fly casting range.
When fish are not visually apparent we turn to trolling to cover more water and locate the schools. Our favorite approach is to slow troll a single rigged ballyhoo with a short skirt, called a Bruja. The two fly fishers are poised in the corners of the stern, lines coiled and ready to cast. When a Dorado head is seen racing towards the baits, the teaser is pulled and the fishers let fly. It is not uncommon to pick up a billfish while looking for Dorado, an exciting bonus.
The last method used is to straight up troll flies to cover more water and locate the schools. When a fish is hooked we throw a teaser to pull the rest of the school to the boat, giving the fly fishermen the opportunity to sight cast to fish. When live sardina is available, we chum to keep the school in play. Otherwise plastic swim baits on an A rig is occasionally thrown to keep the school’s interest up.