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Also called Mahi Mahi or Dorado, the Dolphin is one of the most colorful fish in the sea. They can reach speeds of over 40 mph and when hooked will put on quite a show from leaps, tail walks, and darting from one side of the boat to the other. They are found in open water around weed lines, buoys, seaweed, pieces of wood, and anything else that is floating. Fishing methods include trolling, live bait, and casting for fish around floating structure.
Below are 10 tips that will help you put more Dolphin in your boat.
1. Anything that floats
Watch for ANYTHING that floats when you are looking for Dolphin. This could be a 10 mile long grass / weed line or a plastic cup. It does not have to be large to hold Dolphin. Remember that the Dolphin are not using this for cover, the small baitfish that the Dolphin are eating are using it for cover.
2. Make some noise
Dolphin are very curious are will come up to the boat to investigate any strange noise they hear. You can’t scare them away by jumping or yelling so have fun when they are around. If your motor is running, vary the idle speed a little sometimes this is all it takes to get their attention. You can also splash your rod tip in the water to get their attention.
If you have a saltwater wash down system onboard, turn it on and hang the hose over so the water splashes into the ocean. The Dolphin will approach the boat to investigate the sound. When they do throw some very small pieces of cut bait or chum over to give them a taste and get a hook in one of the pieces.
3. Vary your trolling speed
If you are not having any luck trolling, try speeding up a little or even slowing down some. Dolphin are very fast swimmers and they can catch your bait if they want to. Anywhere from 4 to 12 knots should put you in the game.
4. Look for flying fish
Dolphin feed extensively on flying fish. I guess you could say that it is prime rib for them. When you are running to your favorite fishing grounds watch the wake of water made by the moving boat and look for flying fish to be jumping out and flying next to the boat. If you see them, there is a pretty good chance you will find some dolphin in the area.
5. Watch for slow Frigates
If you see a large frigate bird cruising very slowly over an area chances are pretty good that something else is down there. Head for that area and take a look around or put out some lines and troll through it.
6. Rig up and try different baits
Dolphin are famous for just sitting there and staring at your perfect bait and not touching it. If this happens throw something else at them like a curly tail grub or buck tail. Try different techniques like quick reeling then pause for a second or two then let it sink…etc. If that dosen’t work, try something else. Once they do bite they will probably get smart to your new bait and the process starts all over again.
7. Leave a chum trail or drop a chum bomb
Weather you are trolling or still fishing pitch a small piece of chum or cut bait over every few minutes. This will get the smell in the water and the Dolphin will follow it to the boat. If you think the Dolphin are holding down deep in the water column you can make a chum bomb out of wet sand and chum or cut bait and drop it down. Just mix some water with sand and some chum into a ball. Drop it over the side and as it falls to the bottom it will break up leaving a nice scent leading to your lines.
8. Use lighter rigs and tackle
If you are not having any luck with the above tips try using some lighter gear. Go down to 8 to 10 lb line with no leader if you have to and use a 1/0 to a 4/0 hook. You will probably loose a few fish on the lighter line but it is better to have loved and lost….
9. Use local bait
When nothing else seems to work you might need some help from the locals, the local bait that is. The small baitfish that you see under the floating objects can be caught on very small gold hooks tipped with squid or feathers like a Sabaki rig. Throw them in the live well and have ready when the Mahi show up.
10. Let you’re trolling baits sink
If you are not having any luck trolling and varying your trolling speed try putting the boat in neutral for a minute or two and let the baits sink slowly down. The flash of color the bait gives off as it is sinking will get the attention of any nearby Dolphin. To avoid getting your lines tangled, don’t let them sit too long. Go back into gear for a minute or two and try it again.
11. Bonus Tip – Leave one in the water
If everything goes well and you find your self with a dolphin on the end of your rod try to avoid all your instincts of pulling the fish directly into the boat. Instead, leave the fish in the water and put some more lines in next to the hooked fish. Many times the rest of the school will follow a hooked Dolphin up to the boat and this is a great opportunity to get 3 or 4 of them very easily. When someone else gets one on the hook pull yours in and keep rotating till they bite is done.
If you would like to take part in a Dolphin tagging project you can get more information at http://dolphintagging.com
Thanks for reading!
Please practice catch and release whenever possible and remember the large fish don’t taste any better than smaller ones. Take a picture and let the big ones go back to catch again later.