Captain Hook’s Gallery: Baja’s Golden Gamefish
The dorado (Coryphaena hippurus) is truly one of the golden treasures of saltwater sportfishing. It’s also one of the most pursued fish by anglers off the coasts of Baja California. Known as mahi-mahi in Hawaii and dolphinfish in the southeastern United States, it is perhaps the fastest growing fish species in the ocean, packing on well over 10 additional pounds every year that it is alive. Depending upon the time of year, these acrobatic and tasty fish can be caught off both coasts of the peninsula.
Those who are familiar with the fishing off Cabo San Lucas and the East Cape know that dorado are an important staple of the region’s sportfishing industry during the warmer months. They are prolific, colorful …and are absolutely delectable as table fare. Most of the larger bulls weighing over 40 pounds are taken from just north of Los Cabos on the Pacific side to Loreto in the Sea of Cortez. Through October and part of November, many East Cape resorts even offer good fishing for smaller dorado in the 8 to 10 pound class just a few hundred yards off the beach at the color break, making them available to those in kayaks and small skiffs.
Dorado often congregate under floating debris like flotsam, Sargasso grass, and, in the waters of northern Baja, beneath selected kelp paddies found drifting offshore during late summer. Anglers fishing the more northerly Pacific waters between San Quintin and the border generally enjoy solid dorado action between late summer and fall, with many fish tipping the scales at over 30 pounds. When brought aboard, the dorado flashes brilliantly with vibrant hues of gold, green, and blue. Unfortunately, these beautiful colors are short lived after the fish expires.
Dorado are not particularly picky eaters, and will generally take just about any kind of offering when they are hungry. Large bulls, sometimes over 40 pounds, can also be incidentally hooked later in the season by anglers trolling for marlin. Dorado have a reputation for making a series of spectacular leaps after the initial hook up. If your fish decides to jump, it is extremely important to remember to keep your rod tip high and take up any slack in the line, since this is when most dorado are lost.
Want to catch more dorado? One of the best tricks is to leave a hooked fish that has become tired in the water, and then have fellow anglers toss baits or lures nearby. Dorado are very curious, and other fish in the school will often move in close to see what is going on. This is when multiple hookups are likely to take place. After awhile, the fish may spook and go deep, but if you mark your GPS waypoint, you can always return to the same spot later in the day when there may be more dorado waiting to be caught.
Fresh dorado is delicious prepared a number of ways. One of the quickest and most popular methods is to simply grill it over glowing, mesquite coals. When using this technique, try marinating the boneless fillets in a mixture of one small can of frozen orange juice concentrate and a ½ cup of brown sugar. This will create a toothsome,”sweet & sour” style glaze that pairs perfectly with the delicate flavor and texture of the fish.
There is also the “Hawaiian method,” which involves lightly dredging the fillets in seasoned flour, beaten egg, and crushed macadamia nuts. After quickly pan searing on both sides, and finishing in a 450 degree oven for about 7 to 10 minutes, you can enjoy a sumptuous repast that was once considered a treat fit for Hawaiian royalty.
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Photos courtesy of Tailhunter International and K & M Sportfishing in San Quintin.