Mahi Belly Strips

How to make belly-strip baits out of mahimahi.
Charlie Levine
Each spring mahimahi push up the east coast of Florida and the bite starts to pick up off of Cape Canaveral by mid-April. The trick to cashing in on this bite is finding weed lines and color breaks on the edge of the Gulf Stream. Once you find the fish, trolling a bait that won't get filled up with weeds and wash out helps you put more fish in the boat. A Sea Witch rigged with a strip of mahi belly is a standby for the crew with Sea Wrangler Charters. This is how they rig it.
To make your own mahi belly strips is easy and cost effective. Start by filleting a mahimahi as you normally would, but don't throw out that belly.
Remove the section of belly meat behind the gills and trim off any bones or fins.
You want the belly meat to be a uniform thickness, between one-quarter to one-half inch, before you begin cutting strips. Take your time to trim the meat down and work with the grain.
Trim off any cartilage, bones or organs still attached to the meat.
Once you have the meat trimmed neatly and at the ideal thickness, you can start making your strips. You want to cut them so they are long and tapered.
Using a sharp knife is a big help as you will have to cut through the meat and the skin. You want a clean cut that won't shred the meat.
The size of the strips will vary a bit depending on the section of the belly they come from, but you can trim them down to any shape you like. The Sea Wrangler crew prefers strips that are about six inches long. At this size, they can run the strips with a double-hook setup.
You want a narrow strip that will run straight when trolled behind the Sea Witch.
You should be able to get at least three strips per side.
The basic shape should be squared off on the top where the hooks will go, tapered back to a narrow point and almost bullet-shaped.
Capt. Kyle Larson says he prefers to fish Sea Witches with mahi strips when running along weed lines because they do not get hung up in the weeds as much as dink ballyhoo and they last much longer. "We'll catch three or four fish on a strip before it needs to be changed out," he says.
You can freeze the mahi belly strips for future use. Salt them down and vacuum seal them or place them in a Ziploc bag before freezing.
Larson uses a double-hook Sea Witch for trolling mahi bellies. He places one hook through the top of the belly strip and the second hook about halfway down.
Mahimahi can't resist a colorful Sea Witch with a piece of meat on it.

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