On his last cast of the day, fishing from a boat called Salty Intentions 80 miles east of St. Catherines Island, Georgia angler James Roberts hooked into one of the ocean’s most prized fish, a mahi mahi—a.k.a. dolphin, a.k.a. dolphin fish, a.k.a. dorado. Thirty minutes later, exhausted, he landed a new state record.
According to Georgia DNR’s Coastal Resources Division, which administers the Georgia Saltwater Game Fish Records Program, Roberts’s certified catch weighed in at 68 pounds, 1.6 ounces. Roberts told DNR by phone, “The last fish we caught that day was that mahi mahi. It wore me out. I couldn’t hardly breathe… It was a blast, the best time of my life. I haven’t hardly been able to sleep since.”
The previous record holders, Will Owens and Michael Sheppard Jr., whose fish were close enough in weight to be considered tied, caught 67-pound, 9.6-ounce and 67-pound, 6-ounce mahi dolphin in 2019 and 1997, respectively. Because Roberts’s fish cleared both of those by 8 ounces, it is officially considered a new record.
Mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) are one of the world’s most sought-after—and striking—gamefish. Sporting spectacular patterns of vibrant blue, green, yellow and silver, dolphins, like chameleons, have special color-changing cells called chromatophores that are connected to the fish’s nervous system, allowing them to change colors when excited. (Dolphin are also delicious fish, and ones that are kept quickly loose their brilliant color, which explains why many look so gray in grip-and-grin photos.) Anglers seek out mahi for the other thing they do when excited: fight. They are well known for putting on a lively display of aerial acrobatics once hooked.
Mahi are the fastest growing fish in the ocean. They can reach 4 feet in their first year of life and 6 feet after four years. They live in tropical and subtropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, but are highly migratory and can be found up and down the east coast on the U.S.
The world record for mahi mahi is an 87-pound fish caught off the coast of Costa Rica in 1976. Roberts caught his record using a 6-foot Star stand-up rod with a Penn Squall 16VS reel spooled with 60-pound line rigged with ballyhoo.
Doug Haymans, director of DNR’s Coastal Resources Division, said, “This achievement recognizes not only the size of the catch, but Mr. Roberts’ skill as an angler and the sportsmanship he displayed in landing a record-setting game fish.” DNR staff weighed Roberts’s fish on the day it was caught using a state-certified scale at the Georgia DNR Richmond Hill Fish Hatchery.