Known for vicious strikes and acrobatic leaps when hooked, the dorado or “golden dorado” is a large, freshwater river fish native to South America. Despite sometimes being called a “golden salmon,” the dorado is not related to true salmon, nor is it related to the saltwater fish of the same name.
Dorado have a vaguely salmon-like shape and are characterized by large heads, with powerful jaws and sharp teeth. The dorado is distinguished by brilliant yellow-gold scales that cover its thick body and give it its name. The dorado’s fins are orange red. The dorado’s primary food source is a mullet-like fish known as the sabalo, which are widespread throughout warm South American rivers. Dorado also feed opportunistically on small baitfish and even on small birds and mammals that may have fallen into the water during floods. They are are known for savage takes, hard fights and spectacular leaps.
The dorado tends to prefer the fast moving water of rivers, although the fish have been known to move into slower tributary waters and backwater swamps during spawning. In January and February, when the rivers are at full-flood, massive schools of dorado migrate toward the river headwaters, leaping rapids and falls much in the same manner as salmon.
Dorado are found exclusively in South America in the rivers of Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. They have been reported in the Amazon and Orinoco watersheds but in small numbers. For the most part, these brilliant fish should be targeted in their native rivers—particularly the Plate River basin, including the Prana and Paraguay rivers and their many tributaries.