The majority of dolphin fishing we do is trolling with lures or rigged ballyhoo. Weed lines are okay for dolphin, but we target the fish around birds more than anything.
We start our day by running out to a depth where we think the fish will be pushing through. That may be 400, 600, even 800 feet of water. When we get to the desired depth, we start looking for birds.
Most of the time I target dolphin I’m trolling ballyhoo on a 60-pound monofilament leader. Usually we’ll put some kind of skirt over the ballyhoo, with orange my favorite color, although blue and white and green are other popular colors. We’ll pull these baits at 4-5 knots.
We’ll get out to the depth we plan to fish, put out a spread of ballyhoo and troll blindly as we scan the water around us for birds. Once we find birds working we’ll reel everything in and run towards the birds.
The birds will tell you the story based on their behavior and the number of birds you see. The birds are scooping up the flying fish the dolphin push up. Big fish feed into the current, so birds flying southwest and chasing fish are usually on top of big fish. Lots of birds is usually an indication of smaller fish pushing up a lot of bait.
Frigate birds are usually on big fish, but the majority of birds we see are these small black colored birds. We also get small birds that are white with a yellow beak.
Once you find the birds you want to notice which direction they’re moving and then circle around ahead of the birds and put out your baits. You don’t want to drive directly over the birds or come up on them from behind because that will push the dolphin down and you’ll lose the fish and not get a bite.
At the same time, you want to have your spinning rods rigged to cast to fish that you see swimming down-seas or on the surface. I like 20-30 pound spinning tackle with a 3-foot piece of 80-pound monofilament leader and a 7/0 VMC “J-style” hook. You don’t want to fish circle hooks for dolphin, they seem to throw them very well.
For your pitch bait you want a whole ballyhoo with the hook run up under the chin and the beak broken off. Live baits are also a good option as are dead flying fish.
When you cast at dolphin you don’t want to just have one rod out. Many times I’ll make a cast, hook a fish, put the rod in the rod holder, pick up another rodcast and hook a fish. I’ll sometimes have six, eight, even ten fish on the line and rods in the rod holders and will start reeling in the closest fish first.
The thing you want to remember about dolphin fishing is that your window of opportunity is small, so you want to take advantage of it when it presents itself to catch the most fish possible. Those fish can go down at any time, and if you only have one fish on, that’s all you catch.