The traditional way to fish for mahi-mahi is to head out to deep water to troll, pulling bait around weed lines, rifts, debris and looking for birds. This is time consuming and costly in fuel and bait. You can actually catch mahi without trolling, while you are anchored bottom fishing or drift fishing.
If mahi are in the area, they are attracted by the cover of the boat and the fish you are pulling up from the bottom. They will show up under your boat checking out the hooked fish and hoping for an easy meal. The fish in trouble triggers a feeding response in the mahi. You can actually leave a hooked fish in the water to attract them.
We always keep several spinning rods on board and set up for mahi just in case they show up. We use a 5/0 to 7/0 hook on a leader about 3 feet long. Always wear your polarized sunglasses so you can see the blue flashes when the mahi arrive. Grab a rod, hook on a squid or live bait, drop it in the water, let it sink and free spool out until the mahi grabs the bait. Let the fish take the bait for a while to make sure he has had time to swallow the bait and get hooked.
Another way to find mahi is to look for floating objects, such as logs, buckets, or any kind of floating debris and of course weeds and rifts. Bait tends to collect under all of this debris. Where there is bait, there are usually mahi. You may not see them because they are usually swimming deep under the bait.
To catch these mahi, put a whole squid or live bait on your spinning rod, pull up to the debris, drop the bait in, and just let it sink on its own and drift with the debris. If you catch a jack or another fish, just leave it hooked up in the water. If there are mahi in the area, they will be attracted to the fish in trouble. If the mahi show up, toss some bait into the water to keep them around your boat until you hook up. When a mahi takes the bait, let it run for a while to give him time to swallow the hook. Then set your hook and enjoy the fight.
Always leave at least one hooked-up mahi in the water until someone else hooks up, then land your fish and keep the next one in the water until another is caught. Sometimes we will throw a chum bag in the water to attract more mahi. If the mahi are not keepers, move elsewhere and look for larger ones. Driving up and down weed lines and visually looking for mahi before casting bait to them is a great way to pick up larger ones. Some people call this running and gunning.
Occasionally, we have had mahi swimming around the boat that just would not bite anything. When this happens, try using jigs about 30 to 40 feet down. Sometimes this triggers the fish to bite. If this doesn’t work, just move on and try finding some that will bite.
If you cannot find any debris or weeds and have to troll, troll over the ledges. Mahi feed on the fish that are on these ledges.
Whether you use the traditional trolling methods or try your hand at bottom fishing to catch stray mahi, remember to eat your catch, catch only what you need and keep the ocean clean.