Dolphin, also known as Mahi Mahi or Dorado, is a favorite target species in the Florida Keys and anywhere else they can be found. These fish are beautiful, tasty and acrobatic battlers. While they will eat almost any bait, on calm summer days they can get very finicky, especially around the full moon. Here are a few tips for those days when the dolphin seems to have lock jaw.
Tip one: When trolling for dolphin have a mixed spread of lures. Smaller lures, less than five inches close to the boat and one or two lures over ten inches long further back. Be flexible, if you know fish are in the area, but not biting change your trolling speed. Faster is normally better in a slow bite, slower more effective in a good bite. Swap the larger lures close and the smaller lures back. Change things if they aren’t working, but don’t fix something that is not broke.
Tip two: Live bait is often the ticket on a calm day. If you find yourself surrounded by good size school dolphin that just won’t eat, welcome to my world. Here is a big tip to get them to bite, live shrimp or small live pilchards. If you are lucky enough to have a bait well full of live pilchards, live chum with them. That is release a few dozen around the boat when you find fish. The pilchards will run right back to the boat if you are in clean deep water and bring the fish to you. Live shrimp work as well, give the fish a few freebies and then put a hook in one of the shrimp. Once you have one hooked, leave that one in the water and try chunk baits. Once you have one on the others will normally start feeding.
Tip three: Feed the bait to attract the fish. Take a block or two of chum and a large mesh chum bag or box. If you drift and chum a large weed patch or line you can attract the bait from the line to your boat. Take that opportunity to catch a few of the weed line livies and use them for bait. This trick has saved my butt more than once! It is a last resort technique most of the time, but I am using it more often around huge weed patches on calm days.
Tip four: Dolphin love dolphin! Rig one of the school dolphins on a stout outfit and do some big game fishing. Some of the biggest dolphins caught are trade ups from smaller dolphin along with a big blue marlin on occasion wanting to butt in on the fun. That’s the reason for the stout rod and reel big fish eat big baits.
These are calm day dolphin tips, but not bad tips for any day of dolphin fishing. Having a variety of baits and bait sizes is always a good thing. The chum bag and/or some fish oil are a good tip for windy days. If you find a floater (any floating debris holding fish) chum it or chunk it and spray some fish oil. The slick will make it much easier to find and easier to see the fish.
Last note, while big fish eat big baits, don’t forget that elephants eat peanuts. Those small lures and baits often match the hatch for an area. Have a well-planned arsenal of baits with a good battle plan and you can catch dolphin in any situation.