What's hot: Schools of small dolphin fish (mahi mahi) are being seen while bottom fishing for red grouper, which tend to congregate on the flat, hard bottom in 90 feet. They often will follow a grouper being reeled up or suddenly appear in the water circling the boat. Dolphin are one of the fastest-growing fish and feed heavily to maintain their growth rate.
Tips: Chumming with squid or Spanish sardines is the most effective method to get dolphin fish feeding. These fish have small stomachs, however, and can fill up quickly if too large a piece is used. Have scissors handy, and cut small slivers of bait that are placed in the water.
Hook size is critical because their mouths are small, so 2/0 long-shanked gold hooks are a good choice. The light weight does not pull the bait below the chum, and the flash of gold attracts the fish, who often strike the bare hook after they have stripped the bait. Ten- or 12-pound test spinning tackle makes for great sport, and a leader isn't needed. The hook should be tied to the line and baited with pieces the same size as the chum.
Dave Zalewski charters the Lucky Too out of Madeira Beach and can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 397-8815.