During the late spring, summer, and fall in the Keys, fishing for dolphin, also known as mahi-mahi, is the best time of fishing in the whole year
That’s dolphin the fish, mahi mahi, not dolphin, the “Flipper”, porpoise. Our dolphin fish are an exciting offshore game fish ranging in size from 6 to 60 pounds.
The best time for Dolphin Fishing is usually April, May and June. It is also commonplace for some exceptional Dolphin catches from early October through mid-December.
If you’re learning to catch fish on your own, here are a few tips to get you started. Dolphin truly are the perfect game fish. They are prolific breeders, rapid growing and short lived which make them an excellent choice as a game fish. They can withstand recreational catches without becoming over fishing.
1. Get out early – these fish are always hungry at daybreak. Most dolphins are caught before noon for this reason.
2. Bait – Sometimes we can cast and cut live bait when the schools of Dolphin are attracted to the boat. Often when we are trolling for Dolphin you will see the fish charge and strike the bait. Use Live Ballyhoo whenever possible.
Chum does not last long in a swift current so plan accordingly. I was finding almost 2 mph of current to the east. Live Pinfish and strips of Bonito were hit the best along with strips of Blue Runner and Ballyhoo plugs.
3. Fishing Tackle – One end of the wire will have a haywire twist to attach to the fishing line via snap swivel and the other end will have 7/0 or 8/0 hook attached using a haywire twist and pin rig.
Proper tackle for catching dolphin depends on the size of the fish you might suppose. Dolphin may be as small as two pounds and as large as eighty pounds; so bring a variety of tackle sizes for the fish you want to catch.
4. – Finding Dolphin – Head out to deep water to search for these fish. Regarding location, the most common reason you might not be catching Dolphin is not going far enough offshore. We recommend at least 3 miles.
Keep a look out for sea birds such as the Frigate, Man-0-War, etc. The Birds will often follow the larger fish which they can spot from the air. You will find most of the Dolphin under birds and, of course, look for debris.
Once a schoolie dolphin is hooked and brought to the boat, leave it in the water. A dolphin can grow to a weight of about 80 pounds but lives only about five years.
Work the weed lines to look for fish, particularly dolphin. In any region, the “hottest” hot spot will likely be a blue water agglomeration of floating debris and drifting Sargasso weed, guaranteed to attract roaming dolphin. These objects floating in the open sea attract smaller baitfish for shelter, and they in turn attract dolphin.
Watch the water for fish next time you head out; be aware of what is going on in the water. Baitfish attract predator fish, and there is no reason for not fishing the area around a big baitfish school.
Dolphin don’t move too far from their food source so keep your eyes open for floating weeds, other floating objects, temperature rips, and sub surface structures which may attract and provide shelter to flying fish and other sources of food.
Dolphin like to chase after their food. So trolling their dinner behind the boat will be our way of catching & hooking up these fish. If the fish don’t strike your bait while you’re trolling fast, slow down, and let the bait sink a little.
Pitch a naked ballyhoo over a group of birds working over a small slick, and you might hook up with the fish of a lifetime!
When a fish hits, Let go of the line, count to five, snap the bail closed, and start cranking.
When you’ve hooked your fish, work on him so he gets tired. You don’t want to get a 40 lb fish back to the boat until he’s quieted down a bit.
Dolphin grow incredibly fast, so that a 5 pounder you let go in June might become the 30 pounder you’ll be fishing for in September. Catch & Release means just keep a few of these small dolphins (called “schoolies”) and return the rest to the sea.
Swordfish, Marlin, Sailfish, Dolphin, Cobia, Wahoo, Tuna and Kingfish are just a few of the species we catch off the Southeast Florida Coast.
We catch Most of our dolphin while fishing for Tuna. Whether gunning for tuna, marlin or dolphin, Fish ’em all with Live Bait!!
Marilyn Davis has been fishing the Florida Keys for over 20 years a nd is the Webmaster for the Florida Keys Info-Net. Key West fishing: http://www.flkinfo.com/fishing-reports/fishkw.htm Instructional DVDs on How to Throw a Cast Net, Yellowtail & Mutton Snapper fishing, Live Bait Trolling, and more.