It was 7am as we headed out of Boynton Beach Inlet in South Florida for a crack at the schools of Mahi (dolphin) that were reported to be prowling the weed lines that had blown in with the mild easterly winds. It was pretty calm despite a few passing rainsqualls that moved by along with a small waterspout that just couldn’t seem to touchdown. It was the beginning of another wonderful day fishing on “The Wet Spot” along with my close Captain Mitch Dinnerman and our friend Bob Crapo. Bob and I began preparing the rigs while we all kept an eye out for Patches of Sargasso weed and diving birds. Our initial plan, as usual was to troll rigged baits until we had fish around the boat and then begin to through chunked baits at them. Our rigs were the basic for trolling for Mahi (Dolphin), ballyhoo rigged to swim without spinning, with or without a colored skirt such as an Ilander. A rigged ballyhoo is probably the most often used bait for trolling, as this is due to the fact that it’s easy to rig and easy to use and most importantly very effective for a variety of species such as Mahi (Dolphin), King Mackerel, Sailfish and Tuna among others.
We found a weed line only a few miles offshore with only one other boat working the area and began to troll, this was not at all a joyous experience as there were many tiny patches of weed that kept fouling our rigs and it became a never ending battle of clearing one line then putting it back out, only to have to bring in another to repeat the process. This quickly became tiresome, quite boring actually when the sound every offshore angler longs to hear, the sound of the clicker indicating line leaving the spool quickly, Fish On! I’d love to say that battle was epic, one for the ages, but unfortunately a 3 lb dolphin is not quite the stuff legends are made from. We released this undersized fish unharmed and decided to go further offshore in hopes of getting away from the vast amounts of patchy weed in order to troll up something bigger.
After Trolling around some current lines and smaller patches of weeds for time we noticed several birds searching the surface and then diving, we then noticed fish breaking the surface. After a few minutes it was determined they were Skipjack Tuna and although lots of fun on light tackle we decided not to re-rig with feathers and try for some. About 20 minutes later and about 15 miles offshore we saw a floating lobster pot buoy with a lot of rope hanging down from it near a relatively large carpet of Sargasso weed. We immediately hooked up! Again not an overly impressive battle but a nice Dolphin (Mahi) came over the side in just a few minutes, this time a bit bigger but still only about 9 lbs. We were hoping for those in the 20-40 lb range. As it was a beautiful flat calm day and we had plenty of bait on board, we decided to chum using some chunks of pilchard and other baits we had and it wasn’t long before swarms of small Dolphin (Mahi) were darting out from under the weeds like squadrons of fighter planes going off on a mission.
If you have never seen Dolphin all lit up hoping to feed in the brilliant blue offshore waters you are missing one of fishing’s grand spectacles!
To catch Dolphin by chunking them is relatively simple, depending on the size but for these school-sized fish a spinning rod with 15-20 lb test line and pretty much any fish sized appropriate hook will do the job. They key to this type of fishing is to keep the fish around the boat. To do this you can either keep one hooked fish in the water as the others will swarm nearby hoping for a snack, or just keep chunking pieces of bait into the water, but just enough to keep them interested. This type of fishing is not rocket science although finding the fish is usually much more difficult than catching them.
You never know what type or size fish you may encounter when drifting around these offshore weed patches and you should be prepared for anything. Frequently we will catch a small jack or baby tuna and rig it up and drop it down a bit deeper for a shot at a big Dolphin or Wahoo. It’s important to practice conservation when catching a lot of school sized Dolphins and you need to pay attention to size restrictions and catch limits, as it’s very easy to limit out if the fish are around. You don’t need to take home every legal size fish you catch, just take what you need and try your best to release the others in good shape, circle hooks help in this area. Who knows, the ones you release today might become that giant Bull Dolphin of a lifetime in a few years!