Warm water, baitfish pull dolphin off Gulf Stream in mid-summer
Dolphin are a favorite target of many bluewater fishermen, and they should be. They are almost always feeding, and they make hard runs and acrobatic jumps. And they are top-notch fare for the dinner table. There doesn’t seem to be a downside, except that for most of the year, they are along grass or weed lines well offshore at the Gulf Stream.
During the summer, however, dolphin, aka Mahimahi, follow baitfish and move closer to land as the water warms. This puts them in the range of lots of fishermen. They are often less than 15 miles off the beach along North Carolina’s Cape Fear in July and August.
The waters off Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach are cleaner than the waters off Brunswick County, and dolphin may be within sight of the beaches. Fishermen should not be surprised to add a dolphin or two to their catch at places like the Dredge Wreck, the Schoolhouse, the 30/30 and more.
Dolphin are often accidental catches
Anglers catch many summer dolphin incidental while slow-trolling for king mackerel. They will readily hit live menhaden, cigar minnows and sardines, plus frozen cigar minnows, sardines and chub mackerel. Anglers often slow-troll these on live-bait rigs for kings, with a pair of treble hooks or a nose hook and a trailing treble.
Two popular rigs for dead cigar minnows, sardines and chub mackerel are the Pirate Plug from South Chatham Tackle and the Mackahoo from Big Nic Fishing. Both use a weighted head to hold the bait upright and allow trolling a little faster to cover more water.
Summer dolphin are typically smaller fish. But they often swim in schools and many can be caught quickly. Sometimes, a huge bull is watching from below, and the excitement gets him to bite. Wise fishermen check under any flotsam, weed or grass lines. Spotting one telltale flash of blue/green/yellow can be key to putting a bunch of tasty fillets in the fish box.