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May 23, 2011

South Florida Dolphin Migration

If you doubt the popularity of this fishery, just try finding room to troll along a perfect weed line on a gorgeous weekend day.

Wait for the Bait
Fishing out of the Sailfish Marina in Palm Beach Shores, Capt. Greg Bogdan does it all, from fishing inlets to swordfishing, in his 27-foot center console Permitted, and he knows how to score dolphin.

"Where I look for dolphin depends on the wind," says Bogdan. "An east wind in May, June and July stacks weeds and bait in along the Juno-Jupiter edge in the 110- to 150-foot zone. Bonito also school heavily beginning on the full moon in May, and they stay through July. Very early in the morning along that edge when there's an east wind, you stand a good chance of catching a large dolphin in the 40- and 50-pound class.

"I also find dolphin around our swordfish grounds, 12 to 14 miles off Lake Worth Inlet. The seven-mile area between Lake Worth and Jupiter inlets has good bottom structure and drop-offs. And there's the Palm Beach Canyon, Palm Beach Hump and Catch-All Canyon, which all have upwellings when there's a strong current. There's a lot of bait and impressive dolphin fishing between 1,100 and 1,200 feet on out to 1,600 feet of water."

For schoolies, Bogdan runs well offshore to distant weed lines with abundant bait and little angling pressure. "Don't bother with a weed line unless it is loaded with bait, like triggerfish and bar jacks," says Bogdan. "Before you decide to troll a weed line, look it over for bait. If there is none, head offshore until you find one that is loaded, and you'll find the dolphin."

Bogdan's preferred dolphin baits are Boone Birds in blue-and-white, to mimic flying fish, and green-and-yellow, to mimic small dolphin. He rigs the Birds on a foot of 130-pound-test monofilament, adds a couple of spacer beads and another ball-bearing snap swivel at the back end and attaches a 5-foot leader carrying a SeaWitch or squid skirt in the same color as the bird. One of his favorite trolling baits is a bonito strip. "It's hard to beat a bonito trolling strip for dolphin," says Bogdan. "You can catch one fish right after another on the same bait — that's how tough it is." Bogdan favors 80-pound-test leaders for dolphin. Yet when it's calm, he'll drop to 60-pound-test, believing the fish can see the heavier leaders in a slick ocean. Scaling down his leaders also works on fish that have been pressured by other anglers and become wary.

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South Florida Dolphin

Rods: 12- to 30-pound spinning rods for casting jigs, cut bait and live bait; 20- to 30-pound trolling rods.

Reels: Look for smooth drags and moderate capacity. Light to medium trolling outfits; 12- to 20-pound spinning rods for casting.

Lines: 50- to 80-pound fluorocarbon leader on 20-pound mono line for trolling.

Lures: Bucktails, ballyhoo or live baits on spin tackle; teasers and dredges, or cone- or slant-head Mold Craft lures, on 100-pound mono leaders for trolling. A Wahoo Whacker, a C&H Chugger and a C&H Rattle Jet in pearl finish or blue. A blue-and-white Ilander-ballyhoo combination and a plain ballyhoo. A Boone Bird in blue-and-white, to mimic flying fish, and green-and-yellow, to mimic small dolphin. Bonito strip trolling baits.

Other: Carry plenty of chum, and use it generously when you find a cooperative school of fish.

***

What: Dolphin.

When: Late spring through summer.

Where: Offshore, edges of Gulf Stream.

Who: Dolphin fishing is well within the capability of anyone with a boat large enough to venture offshore. It helps to go with an expert as you develop your own skills and game plan.

Marathon
Capt. Jimmy Gagliardini
High Caliber Fishing Charters
305-395-0915

Fort Lauderdale
Capt. Steve "Pumpkin Eater" Huddleston
954-562-0051

Palm Beach Shores
Capt. Greg Bogdan
561-758-4812