Fishing the Florida Keys - Basic Dolphin Fishing Tips
by Captain Dallas
Dolphin a.k.a. Mahi Mahi, Dorado and Dolphin the fish, are really the perfect game fish as
told by Capt. Jim Sharpe, in his book, Dolphin, The Perfect Game Fish. Few are more
acrobatic, colorful or tasty, than the Dolphin. In the Florida Keys they can be caught any
month of the year. April through May are considered the best months for big Dolphin, June
through August can be great fishing for slammers as well. Slammers, Dolphin over thirty
pounds are plentiful in these months but are often lost in the huge schools of peanuts or
schoolies that are everywhere. Techniques used for catching these beautiful fish varies a
little from captain to captain, but it all boils down to one thing, Find The Fish!
Most of the east coast has access to the Gulf Stream, which flows anywhere from 5 to 75
miles off the coast. This is the zone where the blue water pelagic species, Billfish, Wahoo,
Tuna and Dolphin are found. In the Keys it is a little different, when water temperatures are
uniform all over the Florida Straits, pelagic fish can be found anywhere. A Sargasso weed
line found off Georgia will, almost always produce in May. Here in the Keys you may cross
twenty weed lines before you find fish. So here are a few tips:
Surface water temperature: Any significant water temperature variation can hold fish.
Typically, the higher the temperature, the better the bet. Look for a minimum of 74 degree
and a maximum of 84 degrees water temperature. This has been my best temperature
range. That’s why the Gulf Stream is the spot to fish. In the Keys more often than not, this
holds true as well. But bayside water flow will create color changes anywhere from the
edge of the reef to five miles past the reef. These color changes, green to blue, or power
blue to cobalt blue are hot spots not to be over looked.
Weed lines: Sargasso weed is the ticket. Sargasso is living, floating vegetation that is full
on life. If you find a good weed line that is alive, meaning you see bait in the line, there will
be fish somewhere. Grass lines, created with a variety of bay grasses, are dead
vegetation. Dying grass will hold little bait and therefore little fish. Every year, people catch
a few fish in these grass lines, but the proper weed line will blow a grass line away. Look
for the good stuff.
Eddy currents: Whether created by one of the Humps south of the Keys or by changing
flow in the Gulf stream current will hold fish and normally big ones. Most of the eddy
currents will be near a surface water temperature change.
Floaters: Floating debris is the most popular Dolphin indicator. Older floaters loaded with
barnacles and bait are usually a Dolphin gold mine. But don’t overlook smaller floaters,
like coconuts, trap buoys with line trailing down, or just a bucket or board. These can all
The problem in the Keys is that a beautiful weed line or a fantastic floater, can move over
the reef on one tide and back out offshore with the next. The reef fish, yellowtails,
mackerel, jacks and chubs will eat everything out of the line and the line will hold squat.
Look for bait in your line before devoting your whole day to trolling it. Birds, working the
weed line is a good clue you may be in the right place.
As for birds, Frigates and Sooty Terns are the best to watch. Any type of tern is worth a
look, but the Sooty terns don’t get wet, they rely on the predator fish to drive bait to the
surface. Bigger fish normally have fewer birds. Hundreds of terns will normally be on a
school of tuna or smaller dolphin. One or two terns lazily following a weed line are
normally on a few bigger fish. Any frigate is worth a look, the lower the better, but if it’s
slow, try following a high flier. Their eyes are a lot better than yours. They will normally see
the bait sprays first.
Just about any bait you can think of will catch Dolphin. Ballyhoo are the number one bait
used with straight plastics the second. I normally fast troll (7 to 10 knots) smaller plastics
lures until I find fish then switch to ballyhoo if the plastics aren’t working, which is pretty
rare. Having pitch rods rigged with ballyhoo or a nice, fat live bait, are a must. Most of my
bigger fish have been hooked sight casting to a bull following a smaller fish hooked while
Bailing schoolies normally goes something like this, keep a hooked fish in the water and
catch as may of his buddies with bait chunks on spinning tackle, as you like. Start with
about five foot of leader and a 5/0 to 7/0 hook and a chunk of ballyhoo or squid. Keep that
pitch rod rigged and ready for another big boy, just in case.
Dolphin fishing requires a bit of hunting. All of what I said before can be lumped into one
thing, find something different. I highly recommend you check out a copy of Capt. Jim’s
book and get down here to do some catching.
Florida Keys Sportfishing Information : Florida Keys Fishing Charters : Florida Keys Flats Fishing : Florida Keys Offshore Fishing : Florida Keys Wreck Fishing :
Florida Keys Reef Fishing : Florida Keys Bonefishing : Florida Keys Tarpon Fishing : Florida Keys Bait & Tackle Shops : Florida Keys Marinas : Florida Keys Boat Rentals :
Florida Keys Fishing Tournaments : Florida Keys Fishing Articles : Upper Florida Keys Fishing : Middle Florida Keys Fishing : Lower Florida Keys Fishing
|More helpful Florida Keys and Key West websites:
www.flkeys-diving.com | www.thefloridakeys-keywest.com | www.flkeysgc.com