- Magic of the Mahi-Mahi
- by Steve Hicks
- Spectacular color patterns are a given on many saltwater gamefish,
but most pale in comparison to the rainbow effect of a hooked dolphin as
it leaps and spins, spraying a shower of iridescent green, gold, blue,
silver, and yellow. Beautiful as they are when "lit up" during
the fight, the rainbow effect quickly fades after you land the fish-and
it disappears altogether once the fish is dead. How do dolphin make this
neon-like display, and why does it end so abruptly?
- Some fish, like grouper and flounder, change colors because pigments
in their skin are triggered when the fish are stressed, excited, or in
need of some quick camouflage. But this phenomenon does not apply to dolphin,
which have a dull silver skin pigment. The dolphin owes its multi color
splendor to its three-dimensional scales, which reflect light yet are not
themselves pigmented. The scales react to signals from the fish's nervous
system, actually moving in response to the dolphin's surroundings and level
of excitement. These tiny movements allow the scales to catch and reflect
light at different angles like a prism. During the mating season, for example,
the scales "light up" to attract the opposite sex. When excited
by a pack of baitfish or scared by a large predator (or a hook in the jaw),
dolphin become agiated-and those scales move. Once the dolphin is removed
from the water, its nervous system overloads, the scales stop moving, and
the colors fade to a silver-gray.
- How can understanding this effect help you catch more fish? When you
see a dolphin in your chum line or eyeballing bait, pay attention to its
colors. If they,lre dull, the fish probably isn't turned on by your enticements.
Try casting something different or ripping one along the surface.
- On the other hand, if the fish is already lit up when you see it -