Here in the Florida Keys during the late spring, summer, and fall, one of our favorite outdoor adventures is fishing for dolphin, also known as mahi-mahi or dorado. No, these are not the sea mammals like "Flipper"! Our dolphin are an exciting off-shore gamefish ranging in size from 3 to 60 pounds!
Under the right circumstances, dolphin fishing is almost easy!
Dolphin is one of the most sought-after offshore fish during summer, and they can be found throughout the Florida Keys. The dolphin is a pelagic species, which means it roams offshore. Menus frequently refer to this species, which often goes straight from the charter boat to area restaurants, by its Hawaiian name to distinguish it from the marine mammal associated with the much-loved Flipper.
Once on a line, dolphin are fast, flashy and acrobatic, with beautiful blue, yellow, green and even red dots of color. Delicious on the table, they are a fast-growing species, so reasonable harvests of good-sized dolphin do not harm the fishery. Fresh dolphin sandwiches and entrees are a diner's mainstay in the Keys.
Fishermen start their quest for dolphin at the edge of the reef in about 110 feet of water but often go out to 1,000 feet. Generally, 300 to 500 feet deep is the best zone.
A key to this fishing is looking for floating debris. Debris may be floating boards, palm trees and fronds, pallets that may have fallen off of freighters, or Sargasso weed lines. These are stereotypical dolphin magnets that the fish love to hang under.
Sargasso is floating grass that many animals use as a nursery; for others, it is an eatery. It may contain the full food chain, from microscopic creatures to seahorses to baitfish, as well as dolphin, blue marlin or other billfish.
In search of dolphin, fishermen also look for frigate birds, which may lead the way to the tasty mahi-mahi. The distinctive birds dive for food accompanying the debris or weed lines. Other feeding offshore birds, such as petrels, may show the way to success with dolphin as well. However, they may signify skipjack and other tuna rather than dolphin. Experienced captains and veteran anglers determine what species likely lies beneath them by the birds' behavior.
Anglers aboard their own boats can start the quest for dolphin at the edge of the reef where it drops into cobalt blue water. Head south or southeast from the reef, looking for debris and birds. That way, you are running into the flow of the Gulf Stream, which flows in a northerly direction heading up toward West Palm Beach. By heading south, you negate the push of the stream and lessen the length of the ride on the way home.
You want to slow down at places where you see a color change, a current rip, frigate birds or the debris.
High-speed lures, such as "feathers," are a good choice. Thirty- to 50-pound gear is more than adequate for trolling for dolphin.
Fly-casters may especially seek frigate birds to find big dolphin and then use a bait-and-switch technique. Ballyhoo or a net full of live pilchards tossed into the water can excite the dolphin into a feeding frenzy. Hookless teaser lures can also be employed in the same manner. After tossing the teasers or live chum, throw the fly to the feeding dolphin.
The simplest way to catch a dolphin on fly-fishing gear is to simply always have a fly rod ready to seize the opportunity when it occurs.
Also, another a time-honored trick is to keep the first dolphin that has been hooked in the water to thrash about. This helps to attract and hold the attention of his schoolmates, and this in turn presents a hungry horde for the angler.
Dolphin: The Perfect Gamefish Table of Contents
Capt. Jim Sharpe perfected many special trolling, spin-casting and fly fishing techniques for catching dolphin over his 35 years as a charter boat fisherman in the Florida Keys. For ten years, Capt. Sharpe has shared his secrets on his television and radio shows, and in major fishing magazines. Now, for the first time, he tells the whole story in a single volume complete with detailed how-to illustrations and photographs.
...You'll learn... how to intercept and cast to tailing dolphin, and how to use a kite, a downrigger or chum to attract dolphin.
Learn how dolphin respond to their environment, and how changing seasons and weather conditions dictate the best fishing techniques to choose.
Plus, Dolphin: the Perfect Gamefish illustrates all the best rigs and knots for any dolphin-fishing situation from trolling to spin-casting to fly- using today's new space-age materials and technologies.
Here is what the experts are saying:
"Ideal. You will learn from this book even if you are an expert fisherman. Capt. Jim Sharpe has taken dolphin fishing to a higher level. I predict it will be required reading." Jim Hardee, Miami Herald
"All the secrets are here. Capt. Jim Sharpe can catch dolphin when most others can't even find them. This is the most comprehensive and informative book on dolphin fishing I've ever seen" Capt. Jose Wejebe, Spanish Fly
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