Step 1: Checklist

Go through the checklist and prepare for trip. Check out my dolphin checklist here. List includes stuff for the boat, regs, papers, safety, etc…

Step 2: Plan

  1. When: Spring time is best. Small or new moon they chew more. Few days before or after a full moon they’ve fed all night and are finicky.
  2. Fishing Reports: or
  3. Plan:
    1. Check the weather.
    2. Look at fishing reports and identify rips, temperature changes or color changes. Find the blue water.
    3. Plot points before you leave the dock.


Step 3: Prepare Your Tackle

  1. Rods: 6 spinning rods and maybe 2 conventional reels.
  2. Line: as low as 20 lb test; my rods are spooled with 50 lb braid because I use the rods across various species.
  3. Leader: 80 lb fluorocarbon. You can use mono, but why cheap out and risk losing a bite?
  4. Trolling rig:
    1. 4′ leader with lead headed feather and bonito strip.
    2. Here is a link to a down and dirty drawing of this rig.
    3. Purchase frozen packages of bonito strips and pre-made rigs from RJ Boyle’s tackle shop and have them sent via Federal Express.; (954) 420-5001.
  5. Chunking rig:
    1. 4′ leader with hook.
    2. Here’s a link to a drawing.


Step 3: Run to First Target Point

  1. Run to your first target waypoint.
  2. Watch for edge, rip, temperature change, color change, weed line, floating debris or birds.


Step 4: Look While Running

While running look for weed lines, birds, or floating debris.


Step 5: Fishing a Weed Line

Then once you’ve hooked the first fish go to step 8.


Step 6: Fishing When You’ve Found Birds

There are two scenarios: you’ve spotted a solo frigate bird or a flock of smaller birds. Frigate birds usually mean a big dolphin or a bill fish. Flocks of white birds usually mean dolphin; black birds usually mean skip jacks. Either way, slow down and assess.

  • Frigate Birds

Soon as you see a frigate bird pull back the throttles. Watch the current and wind. Watch where the bird is going…

  1. Travelling? No fish.
  2. Circling? Get your spinning rods ready with the dolphin trolling lure with bonito strip.

Bird goes up high? Fish is down deep. Bird down low? Fish is on top. Either way, you can catch the fish.

Troll in a circle around the bird. 8 to 12 knots. 50 to 150 feet away.

No bite after one pass?

  1. Then he’s full and you need a live bait…. OR,
  2. It’s a blue marlin or a sailfish.
  • Travelling Flock of Birds

Usually black birds: skipjack. White birds: dolphin. Usually medium to small sized dolphin.

Either way position the boat way out in front of the birds. They’re fast; may be 10 to 12 knots. Have to fish a lure that’s pretty fast…  Use the RJ Boles’ Bonito Strip Lure. Will be medium to smaller dolphin.

Goal: pull the lures at high speed, maybe up to 12 knots or more, to put the lure in the face of the dolphin.

Use a lure, with a strip, at high speed. Might have to go 10 to 14 knots. Can’t do this with a ballyhoo. Use the trolled rig with the bonito strip. So:

  1. 2 baits.
  2. Get way behind the boat in clear water. 300 to 500 feet behind the boat.
  3. Take the boat up to 12 knots to get yourself positioned. Rest of the spinning rods better be ready to go.
  4. Have all of the rest of the spinners ready to go.

*** Use your radar and put on “echo trace” to see where the birds are going. Turn up the gain and turn down the sea clutter so you can watch the birds.

Then once you’ve hooked the first fish go to step 8.


Step 7: Fishing When You’ve Found Floating Debris

  • Spot something? Bucket, tree, pallet, piece off wood, whatever. Slow down and check it out.
  • As you approach, be aware of the current and the wind. Come to a stop so you don’t run into the debris.Allow for current and the wind. Aim to be about 100 feet away. Main thing is to not get too close. Throw 60 feet? The dolphin will come towards you and will hit the bait or chunk. Keep your safe distance. Too close you can scare away fish.
  • Throw weighted throwable device and squirt menhaden oil around the bouy. You’ll see the slick and the buoy. Then throw chunks or live baits close to the wood.
  • After you throw buoy and create an oil slick, then FIRST before you cast, troll past the wood a few times with one spinner with a strip lure. Stay way off the structure. Use only 1 rod. Steer 12 knots in a circle but stay WAY off from the debris; try to put the lure 20 feet near the debris. Think about wind and the current. Then when you get a hit, immediately take the boat out of gear. Then the other fish will come towards the boat. Circle twice then throw.
  • Then throw chunks to the floating debris. Get 100 feet away, close enough to the debris.
  • Then, get out a the planer with the dredge spoon. With the spoon: put it on a planer and troll around the floating debris twice.
  • Finally, then use the diamond jig for wahoo. Biggest mistake is not having a diamond jig. Other boats on the device? Wait it out. Then throw the diamond jig. Let it sink down 150 feet. Wind as fast as you can. Do not jig. They’ll cut you off. Tied straight to 20 pound mono. No wire. Wind it at 150 feet. If you jig it you’ll lose the lure.

Then once you’ve hooked the first fish go to step 8.


Step 8: Start Feeding the School: Oil, Chum and Chunks

After you’ve hooked the first fish, keep him in the water. Before you start spanking out chunks on hooks, designate one guy to do nothing but feed the fish. This is critical.

First, squirt some menhaden oil on the surface. This smoothes down the water so you can better see the fish. It also stinks up the water and will help keep the school interested.

Second, put in a chum bag. Use a bag with large holes. Shake it ever minute or so.

Third, throw out frozen chunks of sardines or bonito using the  “2 Every 30” Rule: every 30 seconds throw out two chunks. Only two. Don’t want to overfeed the school. And keep it coming like clockwork every 30 seconds. Idea is to train the school so they’re looking for the chunks.

Keep this food train coming. Keep shaking the bag. Keep up with the 2 every 30 chunk rule. Don’t stop.


Step 9: Fishing With Chunks

Free line chunks of sardines, squid or bonito in the same spot where your man has been throwing chunks. Substitute one baited hook for one of the chunks. Every 30 seconds.

Once you have a fish on, slide to the side to land the fish using either a gaff if he’s big or swinging it over the side of the boat if smaller.

Keep the oil, chum and free chunks coming every 30 seconds. Keep catching dolphin until you’ve caught the whole school or reached your limit: in Florida, the dolphin limit in 2016 is 10 fish per person or 60 fish per boat whichever is less. Minimum size is 20″ at the fork.