Early June is one of the better times of the year to target dolphin in the Southeast Region. Look for the fish in anywhere from 300 feet of water on out, and if there’s an east or southerast wind there’s a chance they can be in a little closer. The easterly winds push the weeds and other debris and well as all the bait and fish closer to shore from the Gulf Stream.
Any time you’re dolphin fishing you want to keep an eye out for weeds or other large floating debris which tends to attract baitfish, and in turn dolphin feeding on those baits. Color changes are also good areas to find dolphin because they usually indicate a temperature break or current edge and the bait and dolphin like to hunt that. Birds are another good indicator of dolphin, as the small terns like to pick up the pieces of baitfish that are dropped by the dolphin. Man-o-war birds also follow dolphin and feed on the baitfish as the leap from the water trying to elude the dolphin.
If the seas are calm, we just put out some small lures like Japanese feathers and go about 10 knots and cover ground in a search pattern. We’ll fast troll in the boat while scanning the horizon with binoculars looking for weed or any bird activity. We always keep live baits on our boat, preferably pilchards or cigar minnows because they’re going to be smaller than the threadfins. Once we find fish, we’ll toss the live baits at them, and also use cut baits made from bonito, which seems to stay on the hook better than chunks of ballyhoo.
We use a 5/0 longer shank hook, which makes it easier to unhook the schoolies. We’ll put that on a 50 pound leader and 20 pound spinning outfits.
As a rule, if you spot birds that are going south, they’re on larger fish, while birds working their way north are on the scholies. Also, the larger fish tend to be under the frigate birds. We just troll under the birds, or try to get ahead of the birds and put a line out south of them and let the fish come to us.
A lot of times those larger fish are zig-zagging and it’s tough to get in front of them, but then there are times when the fish are swimming in a straight line south and not veering off their path. Get in front of them and cast a bait inshore, cast a bait offshore and cast a bait behind the boat and get the water covered.
If it’s rough we like to troll ballyhoo or a feather and strip bait and take our time working the stuff that looks good. You can’t see into the water as well or see what’s in the area, so it’s really easy to pass by something good and never see it, so we just slow down and work everything well before moving on.
If you hook up to a dolphin, keep it in the water near the boat and if there are other fish in the area, they’ll follow it and you can cast to them and catch them. We usually make a cast around hooked fish with way, because a lot of time the larger partner with it is down deeper in the water column where you can’t see them.
One last thing, if you get into the schoolies, take your time and have fun with them and enjoy the action, but pay attention to how many fish you keep. It’s easy to get lost in the moment of reeling in lots of fish and keep more than your limit or an under-sized fish.
Captain’s Tip of the Week #10 Dolphin - 2015
Chevy Florida Insider Fishing Report