Offshore trolling for dolphin might seem to be a piece of cake if you connect the dots of water temperature, surface cover, boat speed and presence of baitfish. However, like all things fishing, it’s frequently the fine print that turns bites into fish.
Justin Carter of DIG Charters outlines a number of tips that can help offshore anglers catch more dolphin.
“In South Carolina, everybody has to use frozen ballyhoo,” said Carter. “I have seen fresh available here, but it’s rare. You don’t want to quick-thaw ballyhoo as it tends to get mushy easy and makes it less durable and hard to rig. I prefer to thaw my ballyhoo in saltwater, which brines the bait and makes it tougher.”
Dolphin have relatively small mouths but it is amazing how they can engulf large baits when fired up. On the other hand, in spring when the blue/green torpedoes are not as aggressive, it is often common and always frustrating to miss bites.
“I can’t emphasize enough how important sharp hooks are,” Carter said. “A sharp hook point will catch inside the mouth and stick, and the fight will drive the hook deeper into the fish’s mouth. A dull hook will stick, but it just hangs, and when he jumps and shakes his head, out comes the hook.”
Carter’s final tip is to go ahead and get the baits rigged before the trip. He said choppy seas will guarantee you won’t always be able to rig baits on the trip out, and even if you do, it’s like rigging while riding a bucking horse.
“I like to take time and at least have my first couple of waves of baits rigged,” he said. “I poke the eyes out, clear the bowels, clip the pectoral fins and make sure the hooks are wired in straight. On occasion, I’ll also make a clean break on the spine, which gives the bait a more lifelike action when trolled.”