The Mahi Mahi are coming, so get ready. It’s that time of year again when these beautiful, brightly colored, migratory fish make their long journey from the already hot waters of South America to the cooler, more comfortable climes off the coast of our southern and mid-Atlantic states. The fishermen are gearing up and for a few weeks we will see some of the freshest, tastiest Mahi Mahi available.
I understand it’s easy to get lost in the shadows of popular, seasonal powerhouses such as wild salmon and halibut, but this East Coast specialty should not be overlooked, especially considering the savings it gives at the register. Right now the bite is on, specifically off the coast of North Carolina in areas such as Cape Hatteras and Oregon Inlet. Fishermen there are landing Mahi caught with rod and reel, day-boat operations, ensuring that fish make it to market not only fresh, but also well handled. We all benefit from fishing operations such as these. The fish come to market just hours out of the water and are sustainably managed to boot.
Mahi means “strong” in Hawaiian, which is very appropriate since they are incredible swimmers with the ability to make trips that are thousands of miles long. Each summer for a short window they migrate to our East Coast waters to spawn. Mahi are a very fecund species, reaching sexual maturity after only a few months and then spawn several times every few weeks after that. This enables the species to thrive even under intense fishing pressure.
Mahi meat is firm with large flakes, having a texture similar to that of chicken thighs. Bite in and you’ll experience a succulent mouth feel, moist, with citrus notes like that of clementine, but starchy. With the fish coming in this fresh, you can use the fillets for ceviche or crudo. The meatiness of the fillets make Mahi perfect for these applications. It also performs great on the grill and can hold up to savory or sweet marinades.
Don’t wait too long to get your Mahi on, though, as the season usually ends abruptly, most often so quickly that it feels like the fish headed for deeper water overnight. Expect the fish to be around for a couple more weeks, but after that it’s over until the fall. One more thing: Mahi have also gone by the name “dolphin fish.” Have no worry though, you can eat in good conscience: they’re all fish and not a bit dolphin.