Chicken dolphin don't squawk at food

A Part Of The What's Biting Series

I am always very cautious whenever I am writing or talking about dolphin fishing. I never want anyone to get the wrong idea of the species being targeted. Dolphin fish, also known as Mahi-Mahi or Dorado (the Spanish word for golden) are not to be confused with one of our most popular attractions at the beach – the dolphin that is a mammal.

Highly prized for their soaring leaps, beautiful colors and how great they taste, dolphin are always an offshore crowd pleaser. Dolphin are a unique fish in the Gulf of Mexico. They are one of the fastest-growing fish and usually live no more than four years. They can reproduce at a very young age, and since their time is limited, they are voracious eaters and always on the move.

Plenty of dolphin are caught in open water, but most are found near some type of structure. Weed lines or anything floating are prime locations to hold dolphin. Dolphin are prone to hit any lure you may have in your spread, but they also will make very quick work of a bait cooler of rigged ballyhoo. ‘Chicken dolphin’ are smaller, younger fish but no less hungry and can be found as close to the beach when the conditions are right.

Last week while trolling in about 450 feet of water, northwest of the one hundred fathom curve, I came across a what looked like a top to some type of wooden crate. It was probably two feet by two feet, but under it was a school of hundreds of chicken dolphin. I immediately marked the spot on my GPS and made one pass by the debris and hooked one on a lure.

Knowing the school wasn’t going to stray far, I then rigged up a spinning a reel to cast to the fish. Dolphin will hit anything from cut bait to any small, fast moving, preferably shiny lure. The key to catching multiple fish is to have multiple rods ready to go.

Once one fish is hooked, if you’ll leave that fish in the water. The rest of the school will stay with that fish. This allows you to make casts at the other fish in the school. Even if your boat drifts off whatever you found floating in the water, most times the school of fish will move with your boat.

While it is fun to catch them, how many will you feel like cleaning after your trip? On our last trip, we could have probably kept fifty fish, but my personal preference is to eat and give away fresh fish, not frozen, so I only kept ten. If you want some for the freezer, there is nothing wrong with that, but after cleaning ten when I got back to the dock I was certainly glad I didn’t have to clean anymore!

Mahi-Mahi Orange Beach
Plenty of dolphin (Mahi-Mahi) are caught in open water, but most are found near some type of structure.


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Jim Cox
Jim Cox (1323 Posts)
Jim Cox is an avid inshore, offshore, and big game fisherman. He has twice qualified for the prestigious IGFA Offshore Championships in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. He is the past president of the Mobile…