This is a repost from Eli’s antiguaisland.blogspot.com blog published in March 2007. Hope it clears up a few things and you enjoy the read.
“Oh my goodness!!!!!!!!!!!” “Eating dolphin….? You savages!!”
Dolphin fish is one of the most delicious fishes that you will find in the ocean, and it is extremely important not to confuse them with Bottled Nosed Dolphins, Spinner Dolphins, Atlantic Spotted Dolphins or any of the other species of mammals with “dolphin” in their name. For some reason Dolphin fish (Coryphaena hippurus ) have very different names depending on where you are in the world. In the French islands they are called dorade, in the Spanish speaking areas they are called dorado, in the English speaking areas they are mostly called dolphin fish, and in Hawaii they are called mahi mahi.
This pic shows a large bull or male dolphin that we caught off Barbuda while fishing with my dad. Alan, who is holding it, is one of the best butchers and cooks of wild meat that I have ever known. His fish is the best bar none!
Anyway, dolphin are very interesting fish with a fascinating way of life. Without dolphin frigate birds wouldn’t survive, and I will explain why later. Dolphin get their start in the Sargasso Sea or around other floating debris which drifts slowly across the Atlantic in the ocean currents. The mother dolphin fish deposits her eggs on the Sargasso or on any other floating objects which look like they will be a safe place for small fish. Very quickly the little guys hatch out and immediately start feeding. Dolphin fish are some of the fastest growing fish in the sea because of their incredible appetite and fishing skills. Often they travel in huge schools looking for food and they will almost eat anything. Flying fish are their favorite food but they will eat all variety of fish, shrimps, squid, and crabs. Much of their prey lives among floating Sargasso Sea weed or other floating debris, and whenever we are out fishing and see something floating we prepare to hook up with a few dolphin fish. They grow very quickly after they are born and are considered one of the fastest growing fish in the sea reaching weights of up to 80 lbs. Their lifespan is a rapid story of eating, bulking up and reproduction which usually only lasts about as much as 6 years. Within a year from hatching out the hungry buggers can be 3 feet long.
Since they do such a fantastic job of reproducing and grow at such rapid rates, they are one of the few fish sought commercially that doesn’t appear to be threatened by international fishing. It’s a good thing because they are regarded as one of the most delicious and sought after fish too. With new techniques and modern equipment it is common for commercial fishermen to catch up to a thousand pounds of dolphin fish on a good day.
The meat is firm and white and quite easy to cook. The bones are large as well so it makes for a perfect fish to serve. When we catch them we skin the fish before we fillet it, as the skin is pretty tough.
Fighting them on a rod and reel is a load of fun if you like fishing as they are strong and swim very quickly. Actually the words Mahi Mahi translate to strong strong, and they have been recorded at speeds of up to 55 mph while chasing flying fish.
A good giveaway of their whereabouts are frigate birds, and whenever we go deep sea fishing we are always on the lookout for frigates. Once you see them low down you can be fairly sure that there will be dolphin around. Dolphin have the most amazing colours of all pelagic deep sea fishes and for good reason. Frigates are able to spot them feeding from a thousands meters. This is the part I love….:
Frigate birds are unable to get wet and feed only on fish. Their feathers are not waterproof and their long wingspan and tiny feet make it impossible to get out of the water if they accidentally end up in the sea. Sooo they die if they get in the water. 20% of their food is stolen from other birds in mid air usually after a good acrobatic chase in the sky. 1% they find dead floating and manage to use their long beaks to scoop it up as they hover or fly by. 79% involves fish like the dolphin, and what happens is that frigates spot the big colourful dolphin fish cruising on the surface looking for food. They keep an eye on the dolphins following them waiting patiently for the dolphin to start feeding. When the dolphin find a school of flying fish, they accelerate up to 55 mph into the school. The frigate sees this unfolding and begins to dive down close to the water’s surface. As the flying fish leap out of the water gliding away to perceived safety, the frigates grab them in mid air. It is such a fantastic thing to see unless you are the poor flying fish. The frigates which usually are so graceful, gliding up high with their slender bodies…become incredibly maneuverable fighting machines almost like tom cruise was in Top Gun. Anyway, at the end of the day, dolphin fish are a great fish and you shouldn’t feel too bad about eating these beautiful fish. Their populations seem to be doing way better than most of the other species harvested commercially in the Atlantic. Try some when you are here in Antigua. Yum Dolphins are yummy.
The first and second photos were taken by me and the last was taken by roddy from acquafilms.com and the last of the hard core fisherman was taken by Captain J-Dog. hope you enjoyed.