One of the best places to find these drag burning green screamers
is on the edge of the worlds mightiest river, the Gulf Stream, which
flows from southwest to northeast off the Florida Keys. The northern
edge can vary from a couple of miles south of the reef to as much
as forty miles, depending on season and wind. The Stream carries
floating debris, weeds and all sorts of habitat for pelagic species
such as dolphin. Birds, namely the frigate or man-o-war bird cruise
the Stream edge looking for a meal. The frigate bird is your ticket
to big dolphin. These large birds have wingspans of up to six feet
and can hover or circle on the thermals for long periods of time.
It is said that a frigate bird can see down in the water up to 100
feet. This bird is our spy in the sky for finding dolphin. When
a frigate spots fish, it will start flying in lazy circles over
the spot, very high up. The frigate will continue circling until
the fish come up to feed or they go deep and the frigate loses sight.
When you see the frigate bird start circling close to the water
or maybe come right down on the water, this is when you want to
get to that spot fast and get some baits out. This means the fish
have come up to feed and the frigate is there to pick up the scraps
or chase down a tasty flying fish. The frigate will sometimes stop
circling and fly off in a straight line. This is a good time to
pick up lines and follow the frigate bird. Watch the surface under
the frigate bird and you may see some weeds or other floating objects
with smaller birds called terns working the surface.
The terns, tuna birds or bonito birds, as they are sometimes called,
can be seen singly, in large flocks or just three or four birds.
A large flock of birds diving into the water or actually sitting
on the water and looking down into the water usually means tuna.
They could be little tunys, skipjack tuna or black fin tuna. These
large flocks can be very frustrating, as they move very quickly
from spot to spot chasing the feeding tuna. The only way to work
these tuna is by trolling very fast with very small weighted bait
such as a Tackle Box Tuna Killer. Place the baits at least 100 yards
behind the boat, get you speed up to at least 10 knots and try to
circle around the feeding birds dragging your Tuna Killers right
through the feeding tuna. When you see these birds singly or in-groups
of 2 to 10 birds and they are sort of diving and swooping over patches
of weed or a weed line, they are following feeding dolphin. The
terns will not dive into the water when dolphin are feeding because
the dolphin will sometimes eat a diving bird! The dolphin feed on
the small fish that hide under the Sargasso weed and the birds swoop
in to pick up the scraps or perhaps grab a flying fish that is being
chased by a dolphin. The trick is to get around to the west of where
you see these terns working and troll your baits in a circle around
where the birds are working. Triple D lures are the best
because they can be trolled fast without washing out the bait. You
must be very mobile to work the birds. Now that you have hooked
up a dolphin it's time to work the school. Some simple rules for
keeping and working a school of dolphin are:
If the fish is over
20 pounds, get him in the boat!
Keep the freshest
dolphin in the water, two are even better.
Have at least 2 doz.
fresh ballyhoo cut up and ready to go, nobody wants to cut bait
when the dolphin are feeding around the boat.
4. Rig your schoolie
rods with snap swivels, so that rigs can be changed quickly and
have plenty of schoolie rigs ready (3 feet of 50 pound leader a
6/0 3407 Mustad hook, very sharp, tied with a surgeon's knot loop
on the other end).
Have a live bait
ready to cast when the big dolphin shows up.
keep a watchful eye beyond where the school action is happening
as you may see a 40-pound plus dolphin circling looking for a schoolie
or other live bait to eat. Schools of dolphin in a feeding frenzy
attract all kinds of attention from other large fish including blue
marlin, wahoo and sharks. One crewmember should also keep track
of where the birds are. That way if you loose the school, you can
move right back to where the dolphin are feeding and continue your
quest. You can also ues the Man Overboard feature on your GPS to
get back to you last strike.
for good dolphin fishing it's preparation, preparation and more
preparation. No body likes to cut bait or rig hooks when the school
is at the boat!
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