> Send This Page to a Friend
Follow us on Facebook
Just to set the record straight, we are talking about the dolphin fish, not the dolphin mammal, which is known as the bottle nosed dolphin. When we say we are going dolphin fishing, people occasionally say "you're not gonna catch Flipper are you?" Just to keep the two from getting confused, I refer to the mammal as a porpoise instead of a dolphin.
Anyway, dolphin is popular around the world as a game fish and as table fare. It is most commonly sold in restaurants as mahi-mahi, or if you went to Mexico, you would hear them referred to as Dorado. We just call them dolphin.
Off Hatteras, I'd have to say that dolphin are our "bread and butter" throughout the summer months. It is normal for us to catch our limit most days if the party so desires. The federal limit on dolphin is 10 per person, including the captain and mate, with a maximum of 60. As the spring warms up, the water temperature tends to as well, bringing in more of the warm water fish from the south. It seems that sometime around the first of May, give or take a week, we will have a pretty good push of dolphin, mostly gaffer size. Depending on the weather, this can last a week, or a month, but its not uncommon to find schools of 10-20 pounders, with 30 + pounders mixed in as well. Now, after this initial charge of fish show up, they don't disappear, but the school size fish tend to get smaller. We still catch big gaffers all summer, but they seem to normally be in smaller pods or in pairs. For a group that is looking for some meat fish to take back home, I would highly recommend keeping dolphin in mind.
We usually fish for dolphin around conditions that are found on the surface, not so much around bottom structure. It is common to find a grass line, which is formed by ocean currents that edge up grass and debris into a line, that sometimes go for miles and miles. The surface structure, depending on the amount of time it has been in the water, develops growth that attracts baitfish. The predators find the grass or surface structure, and recognize it as a food source, and safe haven. Upon locating such a condition, we usually troll until a school is found, at which time we break down with some lighter tackle for some real "hands on" action. These fish provide good action for kids, since they are often small, and the tackle we use is more manageable for youngsters. Schools of dolphin range from just a handful to literally thousands of fish. The normal scenario, at this point, goes like this. My mate instructs the party to break out the "bailing rods" (he has already gone over the drill in the morning, on the way out, so it should be somewhat familiar); he will then throw a handful of chum, to attract the school. We usually fish four rods at a time; two on each side, and the group just rotates around. The rig that we use for this is quite simple. A 20-pound TLD outfit, with a small egg weight, and a hook baited with a piece of squid. The angler simply free spools his bait back into the school, sometimes this means twenty feet, and sometimes it means five feet. Basic angling tactics apply once you have a bite "KEEP THE LINE TIGHT"!! My mate stays in the middle of everyone, where they can walk the fish over to him, he will land the fish, dehook him, and rebait for the next bite. The action is fast and furious. I have on occasion caught a limit of dolphin in less than twenty minutes! As I said, the normal summer time "school size" fish are smaller. I'd say a limit of dolphin, in the summer, would weigh 180 - 200 pounds. All of the fish that we catch in the blue water are beautiful, but the dolphin is by far the most colorful. Their colors are mixed gold, green, and neon blue. These fish are very acrobatic, and usually give the angler a great display of jumps and quick runs. The largest dolphin ever been landed on my boat has been 68 pounds, but I have seen a couple brought in over 70.
As I said before, dolphin (or mahi-mahi) is popular in restaurants everywhere. I am no chef, but I can tell you that it is pretty hard to mess it up! Marinate your filets in Italian dressing for a day, and throw them on the grill for a few minutes, until they are white all the way through. Or you can spread mayonnaise on each side of the filet, shake lemon pepper liberally on top of that, and grill. If grilled fish is not your thing, you can't go wrong with good ol' fried dolphin. My wife likes to use House Autry seafood batter, and her "Fry Daddy". One final quickie is for the broiler. Lay your filets out on the broiler pan, put butter and lemon on top, broil until ALMOST done, take it out, shake parmesan cheese on top, and cook until the cheese is golden brown.
Ready to go catch some dolphin?!!