As the height of summer hits there’s a fair chance of finding “peanut” dolphin, or mahi-mahi, in the two- to five-pound range, plus a few larger ones now and again, at the inshore bass pots from 10 to 20 miles off the beach. Dolphin won’t move in this close each and every season (stay tuned to the FishTalk fishing reports to find out if they’re in town right now), but when it does happen it offers anglers with small boats and limited range a shot at putting a very tasty pelagic on the dinner table. Catching them in good numbers with reliability does, however, require some specific tactics.

dolphin fish caught at the bass pots
  • Troll to locate the fish, because bass pots are more numerous than the polyballs found offshore and you may need to check dozens before finding the magic float that holds all the fish. Bouncing from pot to pot to pot and then moving on to a different batch until you locate fish is usually the best move.
  • Downsize your trolling offerings from the usual skirted ballyhoo and 10-inch lures, so the common two- to five-pounders don’t hesitate to attack. Four- to five-inch pink plastic squid, rigged flounder-sized squid, four-inch paddle-tails, small Tony Acetta spoons, and similar offerings are the best way to get the ball rolling.
  • Pre-cut a small bucket of fish or squid chunks, have bailing rods rigged with 30-pound fluorocarbon leaders and 6/0 to 8/0 hooks, and be prepared to switch to bailing the moment you hook a fish. As soon as a hook-up occurs toss some chunks behind the boat, and toss some more as you bring the fish close. Often you can attract an entire school of mahi, toss over baited lines, and really wail on ‘em.

* Bonus Tip * To find different clusters of bass pots, simply go to the charted artificial reef sites. Most of the permitted sites have them scattered all around.