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Are dorado being overfished?

Yellowtail numbers drop but bluefin are biting better

A 3,000-year-old Minoan fresco of a young fisherman with a load of small dorado is an indication of the popularity of the fish for food, and their sustainability through the years.
A 3,000-year-old Minoan fresco of a young fisherman with a load of small dorado is an indication of the popularity of the fish for food, and their sustainability through the years.

Dock Totals 8/21 – 9/3: 10,377 anglers aboard 444 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past two weeks caught 9 barracuda, 2 black seabass (released), 5663 bluefin tuna (to 270 pounds), 6 bocaccio, 753 bonito, 1570 calico bass, 18,774 dorado, 1 halibut, 5 lingcod, 752 rockfish, 2 rock sole, 554 sand bass, 4 sanddab, 93 sculpin, 155 sheephead, 1 striped marlin (released), 1 swordfish, 168 whitefish, 4432 yellowfin tuna, and 2615 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Many longtime west coast offshore anglers cannot remember a season where so many dorado have come into US waters. I’m not sure any can, though there have been good seasons during El Niño years. There has been some talk about limits and why they are set. In Mexico, the limit is two dorado per angler per day. In California waters, the limit is ten per angler per day. As dorado, aka mahi mahi in Polynesia and dolphinfish on the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico, are one of the fastest growing fish and listed as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN, it would seem ten-fish limits are reasonable. That they are more consistently caught south of the border and are seldom in US waters (Pacific) in large numbers, the ten fish per day limit rarely applies in California. Until this past month.

There were 30,056 dorado reported caught by the San Diego ½-day to 3-day fleet this past month. That is not including longer range trips or any other landings outside of those operating from San Diego County. Dorado are being caught in good numbers by boats working out of landings as far north as San Pedro. Many boats have been getting US limits or near limits as the surge of mostly small 5- to 15-pound dorado keeps filling into local waters from the border to Catalina Island. Given the limit, that count is way higher than it would be if most of the dorado caught were in Mexican waters. If this becomes a "new normal" due to our changing marine environment (remember albacore?), is a ten fish recreational limit on dorado sustainable?

Dorado, when young, tend to gather into larger schools, though when adults they travel in ‘packs’ of 8 to 20 fish, with several females to each male, or ‘bull." Their growth rate is extraordinarily fast: they can live up to 5 years and get to over 75 pounds. They can reach sexual maturity and spawn as young as a few months old and less than a foot in length, but in general, sexual maturity of dorado begins at an average of 5 months of age and 8 pounds in weight. Though young and not very large, most of the dorado being caught in US waters have reached spawning age.

Dorado can spawn year-round, with each female producing between 80,000 and 1,000,000 eggs per spawning event up to three times per year. Add that the Environmental Defense Fund classifies mahi-mahi caught recreationally in the US as "Eco-Best" in its three-category system, and you can start to get the picture that taking a US limit of ten these smallish fish is probably sustainable, even with the massive amount being caught now. They are not only fast in growing; dorado can reach speeds up to 57 miles per hour. In time, research may provide better clues about how much of a dent this season of many US limits caught will put in populations going forward, but all indications are favorable for the speedy, colorful, and acrobatic dorado.

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As the dorado counts rose through the month, yellowtail numbers dropped from 17,541 during the first two weeks of August to just 2,615 in the second half of the month. Much of that is due to the focus being primarily on dorado within reach of even extended half-day runs. Dorado are great table fare, acrobatic, and are very exciting to catch, and with the reports of limit-style fishing in US waters, anglers are flocking to the landings or getting out on private boats while they are here. Yellowtail have a limit of ten fish per angler per day, with five of those 24 inches or more in fork length. They are slower growing than dorado, and so, at least in a sense, the dorado are providing some respite for the usually hard-targeted yellowtail.

Bluefin tuna have been biting better as well, and though the average is still around 50 pounds or so, there have been several fish caught over 200 pounds. Bluefin have been moving more towards cooler water of the outer banks, and though some of the fleet has been continuing to target the areas off Ensenada, much of the fleet is fishing in the area from the border to the channel between Catalina and San Clemente islands for dorado and bluefin as the 2022 season continues with amazing catches. They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches:

8/21 – The Producer Overnight trip with 28 anglers aboard called in with 125 dorado caught in US waters.

8/23 – 27 anglers aboard the Islander 3-Day run hauled 162 dorado, 72 bluefin tuna, 55 yellowtail, and 53 yellowfin tuna over the rail.

8/26 – Great fishing just across the border for 20 anglers aboard the Liberty Overnight trip, with limits of 40 dorado caught, along with 68 yellowfin tuna and 9 bluefin tuna to round out the day.

8/28 – The Premier Full Day run with 42 anglers returned to the dock with 212 dorado and 1 yellowtail in the hold.

8/31 – 17 anglers aboard the Pegasus 1.5 Day run caught 170 dorado (US limits) and 10 bluefin tuna.

9/3 – 28 anglers aboard the Ranger 85 for a 3-Day trip boated an astounding 527 dorado, 69 bluefin tuna, and 38 yellowfin tuna.

Fish Plants: 9/9 – Santee Lakes, catfish (1500), 9/19 - Lake Jennings, catfish (1500)

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A 3,000-year-old Minoan fresco of a young fisherman with a load of small dorado is an indication of the popularity of the fish for food, and their sustainability through the years.
A 3,000-year-old Minoan fresco of a young fisherman with a load of small dorado is an indication of the popularity of the fish for food, and their sustainability through the years.

Dock Totals 8/21 – 9/3: 10,377 anglers aboard 444 half-day to 3-day trips out of San Diego landings over the past two weeks caught 9 barracuda, 2 black seabass (released), 5663 bluefin tuna (to 270 pounds), 6 bocaccio, 753 bonito, 1570 calico bass, 18,774 dorado, 1 halibut, 5 lingcod, 752 rockfish, 2 rock sole, 554 sand bass, 4 sanddab, 93 sculpin, 155 sheephead, 1 striped marlin (released), 1 swordfish, 168 whitefish, 4432 yellowfin tuna, and 2615 yellowtail.

Saltwater: Many longtime west coast offshore anglers cannot remember a season where so many dorado have come into US waters. I’m not sure any can, though there have been good seasons during El Niño years. There has been some talk about limits and why they are set. In Mexico, the limit is two dorado per angler per day. In California waters, the limit is ten per angler per day. As dorado, aka mahi mahi in Polynesia and dolphinfish on the Atlantic coast and Gulf of Mexico, are one of the fastest growing fish and listed as ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN, it would seem ten-fish limits are reasonable. That they are more consistently caught south of the border and are seldom in US waters (Pacific) in large numbers, the ten fish per day limit rarely applies in California. Until this past month.

There were 30,056 dorado reported caught by the San Diego ½-day to 3-day fleet this past month. That is not including longer range trips or any other landings outside of those operating from San Diego County. Dorado are being caught in good numbers by boats working out of landings as far north as San Pedro. Many boats have been getting US limits or near limits as the surge of mostly small 5- to 15-pound dorado keeps filling into local waters from the border to Catalina Island. Given the limit, that count is way higher than it would be if most of the dorado caught were in Mexican waters. If this becomes a "new normal" due to our changing marine environment (remember albacore?), is a ten fish recreational limit on dorado sustainable?

Dorado, when young, tend to gather into larger schools, though when adults they travel in ‘packs’ of 8 to 20 fish, with several females to each male, or ‘bull." Their growth rate is extraordinarily fast: they can live up to 5 years and get to over 75 pounds. They can reach sexual maturity and spawn as young as a few months old and less than a foot in length, but in general, sexual maturity of dorado begins at an average of 5 months of age and 8 pounds in weight. Though young and not very large, most of the dorado being caught in US waters have reached spawning age.

Dorado can spawn year-round, with each female producing between 80,000 and 1,000,000 eggs per spawning event up to three times per year. Add that the Environmental Defense Fund classifies mahi-mahi caught recreationally in the US as "Eco-Best" in its three-category system, and you can start to get the picture that taking a US limit of ten these smallish fish is probably sustainable, even with the massive amount being caught now. They are not only fast in growing; dorado can reach speeds up to 57 miles per hour. In time, research may provide better clues about how much of a dent this season of many US limits caught will put in populations going forward, but all indications are favorable for the speedy, colorful, and acrobatic dorado.

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As the dorado counts rose through the month, yellowtail numbers dropped from 17,541 during the first two weeks of August to just 2,615 in the second half of the month. Much of that is due to the focus being primarily on dorado within reach of even extended half-day runs. Dorado are great table fare, acrobatic, and are very exciting to catch, and with the reports of limit-style fishing in US waters, anglers are flocking to the landings or getting out on private boats while they are here. Yellowtail have a limit of ten fish per angler per day, with five of those 24 inches or more in fork length. They are slower growing than dorado, and so, at least in a sense, the dorado are providing some respite for the usually hard-targeted yellowtail.

Bluefin tuna have been biting better as well, and though the average is still around 50 pounds or so, there have been several fish caught over 200 pounds. Bluefin have been moving more towards cooler water of the outer banks, and though some of the fleet has been continuing to target the areas off Ensenada, much of the fleet is fishing in the area from the border to the channel between Catalina and San Clemente islands for dorado and bluefin as the 2022 season continues with amazing catches. They’re out there, so go get ‘em!

Notable catches:

8/21 – The Producer Overnight trip with 28 anglers aboard called in with 125 dorado caught in US waters.

8/23 – 27 anglers aboard the Islander 3-Day run hauled 162 dorado, 72 bluefin tuna, 55 yellowtail, and 53 yellowfin tuna over the rail.

8/26 – Great fishing just across the border for 20 anglers aboard the Liberty Overnight trip, with limits of 40 dorado caught, along with 68 yellowfin tuna and 9 bluefin tuna to round out the day.

8/28 – The Premier Full Day run with 42 anglers returned to the dock with 212 dorado and 1 yellowtail in the hold.

8/31 – 17 anglers aboard the Pegasus 1.5 Day run caught 170 dorado (US limits) and 10 bluefin tuna.

9/3 – 28 anglers aboard the Ranger 85 for a 3-Day trip boated an astounding 527 dorado, 69 bluefin tuna, and 38 yellowfin tuna.

Fish Plants: 9/9 – Santee Lakes, catfish (1500), 9/19 - Lake Jennings, catfish (1500)

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Here and worldwide the oceans are being raped and polluted. Very sad. And, very toxic.

Sept. 7, 2022

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