March 3, 2020
Dolphin fishing can be one of the most productive days on the water. To start with, the dolphin fish (mahi mahi, or dorado) can be found in large numbers from March to October in the southern Atlantic waters. The dolphin tend to move in packs or schools. Dolphin live to an average age of four years old, are one of the fastest growing of the pelagic species, and can weigh anywhere from four to fifty pounds. Anglers can find schools of dolphin travelling along the Gulf Stream current as they forage for food. They are aggressive feeders and will eat anything they can get in their mouths. Saying all that, they can still be tricky to find.
On an average dolphin fishing charter I would encourage some live bait on board. For trolling, have baits rigged with ballyhoo, along with lures that leave bubble trails that mimic a flying fish in the water. Dolphin are not a near shore species, they like warmer waters, typically 80 degrees or warmer. In my area the Gulf Stream current is a good place to begin looking for them. The current edge moves, but typically is found between 5 to 15 miles from the beach.
Dolphin as a rule don’t just bite out of the blue. There are a few key things to look for that will make your day a success. A good pair of binoculars is a must! In the age of technology, the simplest thing to look for is a pack of four or five birds flying about ten feet above the water, above the school of fish. This is where things can get a little complicated, as you will find lots of birds flying above the oceans currents. The Gulf Stream current begins in Mexico and flows to the northeast on its path along the United States. The dolphin live in the warm waters of the stream and spend their entire lives there. The ocean birds have learned to follow the schools of fish and feed on the left overs as the fish feed. The right “set” of birds will almost always be on a hungry school of fish! Again, anything a dolphin can get in its mouth they will eat: flying fish, offshore jacks, squid, baby sea turtles, or any ocean life that they can swallow. This is an important point as the bait fish in the open ocean are attracted to anything that they can hide from predators. This includes floating sargassum weed, trash or debris, or anything that floats on the currents. Sargassum weed patches or sargassum weed attached on a current edge will line up forming a weed line. The fish will travel on the current edge foraging as they migrate.
Getting back to how to find the fish and the birds and binoculars, the best weed line that holds no bait fish will not have dolphin in any great abundance. I suggest finding the current’s edge and set a trolling spread of lures. The captain will scan the horizon for the right set of working birds. As stated earlier, four to six birds flying in a tight circle about ten to twenty foot about the water is the ticket. How one approaches the birds is key! No, you do not want to race your boat directly into the birds!!!!! As a rule if you watch the birds, the direction of the school of fish can be established. Trolling your baits just in front of the school’s movement almost always results in multiple hook ups. As the fish are migratory and moving, keeping one hooked fish in the water will hold the school near your boat. Having a tower on your vessel will let the captain observe the direction and speed of the migratory fish. This also allows the captain to drive the boat to move with the school of moving fish, and will allow the anglers to catch fish after fish. At times the fish can be very finicky, live bait should fire up the most finicky dolphin to bite. Casting a live bait in front of a twenty pound migrating dolphin and watching him rush in and eat the bait is one of the most exciting forms of angling there is! Please feel free to charter us and I’ll be glad to share information to help you.
Blog Author: Captain Larry Wren
Fishing Charter Service: First Choice Islamorada Fishing Charter
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