Anglers Catch "Mahi Madness" as Dorado Invade Southern California Ocean Waters

With warm water and tons of bait under kelp paddies, dorado fishing explodes off the Southern California coast

Dorado Fishing Kicks into High Gear
Dorado Fishing Kicks into High Gear
Dorado fishing has turned epic off the coast of Southern California this summer.Jim Hendricks

Ocean water temperatures off the coast of Southern California have skyrocketed in the last two weeks, and that has ushered in a wave of exotic gamefish, including the ultra-popular dorado. On a recent offshore trip aboard my boat, Split Decision, with my son Josh and good friend Mark Wisch we found water temperatures as high as 75 degrees F -- an indicator of El Nino conditions.

We found dorado -- also known as mahi or dodos -- under floating kelp paddies as close as nine miles from Dana Point Harbor. These fish ranged from 10 to 15 pounds and offered excellent light-tackle action. We were casting and slow-trolling live sardines on 20- t0 25-pound-test fluorocarbon leaders.

Dorado are relatively scarce off Southern California during most of the year, only coming up this far north when the water warms into the high 60s or low 70s. So when they do come into range, anglers go into a frenzy I like to call "mahi madness" in which they race their boats from kelp paddy to kelp paddy looking for fish. Sometimes several boat close in on a single paddy at once, but usually they work together taking turns drifting by the floating kelp, allowing everyone a shot at the fish, often exchanging information and even sharing live bait with other boats.

And when it works out that way, it makes me proud to be a sportfisherman.