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March 02, 2012

Tricking Picky Dolphin

Coast to coast, specialized dolphin fishing techniques can help make the day

California Dreamin’
First things first: “We call them dorado or mahimahi. Dolphin won’t be recognized out here,” says San Diego-based Barry Brightenburg of Always an Adventure charters. Dorado in southern California are seasonal, and prime time is August through October.

“When we are trolling for albacore, they are incidental,” he says. “We troll a small green-and-yellow feather, looking for tuna, and lately we’re trolling more cedar plugs because of the squid explosion in our waters.” When targeting dorado, kelp paddies hold the key. “We have caught them [off paddies] from three miles out to as far as 120 to 150 miles,” says Brightenburg. “Primarily we look from three to 40 miles offshore.”

Once he locates a promising paddy, Brightenburg keeps his distance. “Pelagics swim within 100 yards of the kelp. I troll in the vicinity, go around the kelp paddies, slide up on it and drift down, and get in the tower and look for fish. If that doesn’t work, we’ll hook a bait sideways and troll it with the rod high so it skips on the surface.” The object is to trigger the initial bite. Even when mahi are wary, they get competitive once one bites, he says.

On pressured fish, Brightenburg has started fishing a kite. “I get upwind of the paddy and slow-troll the kite with a rubber flying fish or a live sardine. Getting the leader out of the water helps a lot.”

Dolphin Trip Planner

What: Dolphin, aka dolphinfish, mahimahi and dorado.

When: Summer or in warm-water currents.

Where: The world’s oceans.

Who: Everyone from rank novices to international tournament champions welcomes dolphin, and the fish accommodate.

Brightenburg is a true believer in fluorocarbon leaders. He prefers a fluoro top shot of 30- to 50-pound-test on top of 20- to 30-pound main-line mono but often drops down to 20-pound fluoro. With light leaders, circle hooks become necessary so the leader stays away from the fish’s teeth.

20- to 30-pound trolling rods offshore; 12-, 15- or 20-pound casting tackle inshore and on weed lines. Casting, spinning and fly tackle all work on dolphin.

Reels and Lines:
Full gamut to match the size of the fish and the method of fishing.

Lures: Start by trolling artificials. When you locate fish, stop the boat and switch to jigs and lures, then to bait as fish grow wary.