Recently, my long-time fishing/surfing/diving buddy TJ Marshall sent me this picture of a mahi mahi that he caught, alone, about 15 miles off Port Canaveral.
This big bull, which weighed an estimated 40 pounds, managed to swallow all four baits trolling behind the Cape Horn Marshall had rented from the Port Canaveral Boat Club.
“I thought I’d been attacked by a school, but this fish grabbed all four ballyhoo. I was reeling in four lines by myself and they were all about in when I realized I had one big fish hooked four ways.”
Now a mahi, or “dolphin” as the species is known locally, is one dangerous fish to boat with help, much less alone in a rocking boat. These fish are nothing but ferocious muscle, they are as limber as snakes, and they are as slippery as fish get. I can’t tell you how many times a tail slap by a big dolphin has brought me to my knees. You have to get the fish on the gaff and straight into the box, closing it immediately.
TJ managed to gaff the fish, but it jerked the gaff out of his hand. Fortunately, it was a floating model, and he managed to retrieve it alone, and still stick the fish a second time. That’s quite a feat. He will enjoy those dolphin fillets immensely.
That trophy fish was caught toward the middle of July, a time of the year when most of the really big fish are north of Florida waters. Now, as we approach the middle of August, those fish should start turning around and heading back south. September and October are probably the two best months for dolphin fishing from Key West to Fernandina Beach.
Anglers trolling “the edge” from Port Canaveral northward typically catch the fall’s biggest fish, though some huge bulls are invariably brought to the scales in the Keys.
Some people consider mahi “the perfect fish.” They are beautiful, fight powerfully and acrobatically, and are utterly delicious about any way you can think to serve them except raw. Treat yourself to a day of mahi mayhem.