If you love offshore saltwater fishing, there are probably a few fish that you specifically want to catch above all the rest. For many professional and amateur anglers, dolphinfish are one of the most sought varieties. Dolphinfish, sometimes shortened simply to ‘dolphin’, are not related to mammalian dolphins in any way since they are actual fish. Many non-fisherman know this species as Mahimahi, but it goes by many names across the globe. Fisherman all over the world use a wide variety of equipment to catch this abundant, delicious fish. You’ll find a list of the ten best dolphin rigs below.
Large and Horse Ballyhoo
If you prefer to fish for larger specimens, you’ll want to incorporate many of these rigs into your selection. Rigs of this nature work best when rigged with 110-pound-test fluorocarbon leaders and long-shank hooks. These larger rigs will intimidate the smaller dolphinfish that travel in schools, but larger dolphinfish are not discouraged from this bait variety at all. This could easily become one of your go-to dolphin rigs.
In some instances, you’ll need a lure that can deal with thick grass mats without getting tangled. These work much like the ballyhoo that was previously described, but there are a few key differences. The point of the hook is inverted backwards so it’s within the bait, which prevents it from snagging on weeds or grass. These lures are rigged similarly to the common plastic bass worm. Some anglers choose to add a skirt on the ballyhoo’s nose, which can work to deflect grass from the bill.
This is one of the most efficient tactics for catching large dolphinfish while charter fishing on the open sea. In many cases, the large dolphinfish you’ll want to catch loiter around the outer edges of a school of smaller specimens. If you spot one, take your pitch bait and either throw it out or troll it around the school so it travels on a course to intercept the target. Once the fish has struck, you can free-spool the bait to entice the fish to fully swallow it. Anglers from Jupiter, Florida understand this is one of the deadliest ways to catch dolphinfish.
A dredge is an excellent addition to your trolling setup, and they can even be effective when the boat is stationary. The dredge creates an illusion for the fish that a large ball of bait is in the water behind the boat. If you’re going to use a dredge to lure or catch dolphinfish, you should have the dredge follow about 15 feet behind your boat at a depth of about 10 feet. When stationary, attach the dredge to the transom to create a reflective, fluttering display beneath your boat.
Live Weed-Line Baits
There are some instances when dolphinfish aren’t as active as they might be. A full moon could be the culprit, or it could be caused by angling pressures. To get around this, bait dolphinfish with specimens from their natural diet. Banded rudderfish and similar species that can be found in aquatic grasses and other debris make excellent live baits for dolphinfish. Be sure to employ a live-bait hook with light hardware so the natural movement of the bait can be seen.
Another excellent method to use while charter fishing for dolphinfish is the fluttering jig. Simply drop a fluttering iron lure about 100 feet beneath the water, then quickly jig it back up through the water column. The iron lure can drop beneath weed lines or debris, or you can use a fan-cast to cast around the boat so it will sink. When trying to catch dolphinfish, try to use lures with green and orange coloration.
Small Trolling Lures
While larger lures might be best for catching larger dolphinfish, it’s a good idea to keep a few rigs set up with small trolling lures. Green and orange is the best color combination for hunting dolphinfish, but blue and white works decently as well. Cast your lure and troll towards areas with flocking birds trying to feed. The goal is to have the dolphinfish confuse your trolling lure with one of the legitimate flying fish that the lure mimics. These lures not only have the ability to catch schooling dolphinfish, but large dolphinfish feeding near the school will be drawn in as well.
This is perhaps the most standard form of bait for dolphinfish. Most anglers wait to use this style of bait after jigs and other rig styles have been exhausted. You can use chunks of ballyhoo, squid, or sardine to attract your prey, and you can set them up at several different depths depending on the activity of the fish. It’s also a good idea to throw a bit of bait into the water without an attached lure. This way, the bait will sink and attract dolphinfish closer to the surface where your lined baits are waiting.
If you’re angling for dolphinfish near Jupiter, Florida, but you’re having a hard time with all the aforementioned baits, live shrimp might be the answer you’re looking for. In situations when it seems like dolphinfish won’t touch anything else, live shrimp is basically a sure thing. It rarely fails, even when the dolphinfish refuse to go after their standard fare. Simply attach a live shrimp to a light spinning rig and wait for the magic to happen.
If you’re fishing in an area with limited dolphinfish activity, one way to draw them in is by casting a wide chugger over as much of the water’s surface area as you can. As you work the chugger, the water churns and helps trigger interest in any dolphinfish that might be well below the surface. Reeling in the chugger also triggers dolphinfish to become aggressive since they see the chugger as prey fleeing a predator. Once you start to see fish, remove the chugger from the water and use any of the baits listed above.
Are you curious about charter fishing for dolphinfish or any other species in Jupiter, Florida? If so, get in touch with Captian Charlie Stuve, or as he’s more commonly known in the area, The Native Guide.