Spring fever has arrived along the coast, and a mild winter followed by a warm spring is setting up to make May a tremendous fishing month, especially for anglers with an affliction for the jazzy-colored dolphin.
Ed Keelin, who runs the Early Bird charter boat out of Georgetown, is fired up about the upcoming dolphin run.
“As much change in the weather as we have had over last few months, the dolphin should be here strong in May,” said Keelin (843-543-5126). “From the last week of April through the end of May, it should be prime time to catch dolphin out of Georgetown.”
In the spring, dolphin migrate north from the Bahamas and up the eastern seaboard, all the way to the waters off Rhode Island. By May, the bulk of the migratory fish arrive off the South Carolina coast, bringing along hearty appetites. Dolphin are relatively short-lived fishes, and their incredible growth rates are fueled by high metabolisms that require a solid food source all along their journey.
Keelin starts planning before he leaves the house by looking at the most-recent satellite picture of temperature breaks.
“The hard edge is obvious from the satellite pictures, and the dolphin will be traveling right along the Gulf Stream edge,” he says.
Since the Gulf Stream constantly shifts from east to west, knowing exactly where to go makes a difference. Keelin is overjoyed when the Stream shifts towards the Georgetown Hole, a popular offshore spot.
“You can get some big numbers there when it happens,” he said.
Typically, dolphin are following the edge of the current, but when a patch of Sargassum weed or some floating debris is present, the fish may get hung up in a big group.
“If you can find a log, pallet or some floating grass along the edge, you better buckle down, because the dolphin will be thick in there this time of year,” he said.
As the dolphin show up, Keelin drops his spread from 10 to four lines and switches to plain, naked ballyhoo on circle hooks.
“If the dolphin are on it, four rods is all four to five anglers can handle at one time,” said Keelin, who will run two lines on short outriggers and two flat lines.
With a 10-fish daily creel limit per angler, and a 20-inch fork-length size minimum, a good May trip to the bluewater for dolphin can be the highlight of an angler’s year.