The mahi mahi FAD
  |  First Published: May 2008

FADs (fish aggregation devices) are small buoys anchored to the bottom in water where it is likely they will attract baitfish and pelagic predators.

Structure is what FADs are all about and the amount of life that gathers around them is quite amazing, from the smallest fish up to larger predators. The longer these FADs are in the water, the better they seem to be because more marine life will grow on them and more life will hang around.

Over the past few months we have spent quite a few days fishing around the FADs with good action most trips.

The FADs are placed by DPI Fisheries and are paid for through our licence money. I would like to see more of them to help spread out the fishing pressure because around each FAD on some weekends it is like a car park.

The prime fishing attraction around FADs is the acrobatic mahi mahi or dolphin fish, which respond to many types of techniques.

Many anglers just troll past on their way looking for marlin or tuna and take the odd hook up as an extra on the day. Others may wave the fly rod with large streamer flies in the hope of fooling a fish.

Soft plastics and metal slices work well cast and retrieved at high speed but I just love setting up with live baits and drifting past the FAD and I have found this method very productive.

First, work out your drift. I like starting around 100m from the buoy and drifting towards it and around 100m past, so a drift of about 200m is about right. You don’t need to be right on top of the FAD, just around it. This way many boats can fish the same area.

I use two types of rigs.

One is the same as I use for targeting kingies in Botany Bay. I start with a large lead above a swivel, to which I tie a trace of about a body length with a 3/0 hook at the end.

The large sinker helps hold the live bait down deep, allowing me to also fish a few floating live baits.

The floater rig is much the same as I would use if targeting trevally back in the Bay but I up the line class to, say, 10kg just in case I hook a monster dolly. I use a small sinker and sit it straight on top of the 3/0 hook.

Start your drift by setting your two deep baits first and then cast away with your two floating rigs to help avoid tangles – the live baits just love finding each other and you know what will happen then.

While drifting the livies, try casting around the area with metal slices or soft plastics. These might bring results at times but be ready because the live bait will go off in a blast and often more than one of them, keeping everyone on their toes.

I find having four baits out more than enough to handle.

IF you are keen on keeping a few mahi mahi for the table, you will need ice because these fish need to be bled and iced down to stop them to becoming soft – a bit like tailor.

I normally spend around two hours drifting these FADs before heading in to look for other action, The mahi mahi around Sydney normally hang around until the water temperature starts to fall and it’s time for them to head north again and leave us for another year.

But I think we might have a few more hits this year through May.

June is the start of the snapper season and kingies out in the deeper water and this year we are planning on spending a lot of days hunting big reds in deep water and live-baiting and jigging for kings. Details are on www.fishingsydney.com.au.

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