A Guide to Catching Dolphin Fish in Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay is an absolute haven for every fishing enthusiast as it offers a wide variety of fish to catch. One of the most exciting fish species to catch is the dolphin fish, also known as the dorado or mahi-mahi. These fish are known for their bright colors and acrobatic jumps, making them a favorite among sportsfishers.

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This must make you want to start planning your fishing trip for a chance of catching dolphin fish in Tampa Bay! Read on to learn more about what dolphin fish are and how to reel one in.


What are Dolphin Fish?

Before anything else, let’s first talk about what dolphin fish are and their prevalence in Tampa Bay.

Dolphin fish are a highly migratory species you can find in Tampa Bay from late spring to early fall. During this time, they will come closer to shore to look for food, swimming in waters ranging from 100-500 feet deep.

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The dolphin fish in Tampa Bay can grow up to 50 pounds, with the average size being around 20 pounds. You can identify them by their striking colors, which range from bright green and yellow to blue and silver. Interestingly, they can change color rapidly depending on whether they are excited or stressed!

Anglers who try catching dolphin fish in Tampa Bay usually use trolling techniques, though you can also catch them by casting lures or using live bait. When using live bait, the popular options include ballyhoo, pilchards, and squid. If you want to cast lures, bucktail and jigs are effective.

It’s worth noting that dolphin fish are a highly sought-after species, and as such, there are regulations in place to protect them. In Florida, there is a minimum size limit of 20 inches for dolphin fish, and recreational fishers are limited to a daily bag limit of 10 fish per person. It’s essential to check the latest regulations before heading out to fish for dolphin in Tampa Bay to ensure you are fishing within the legal limits.


Techniques for Catching Dolphin Fish in Tampa Bay

The first step in catching dolphin fish is to locate them. They are pelagic fish, which means they spend most of their lives in the open ocean but come closer to shore during migration. Dolphin fish are often found around floating objects such as buoys, debris, and weed lines, so keep an eye out for these as you navigate the waters.

When you have located a potential fishing spot, the next thing to do is to set up your gear. Keep in mind that dolphin fish are fast swimmers, so use a heavy-duty rod and reel that can withstand their great strength. We recommend using a spinning reel with a 30- to 50-pound test line when catching dolphin fish in Tampa Bay. We also recommend using a wide selection of lures like surface plugs, feathers, or trolling lures, because dolphin fish are attracted to bright colors.

When catching dolphin fish in Tampa Bay, you must troll at a consistent speed of 6-8 knots. This is an ideal speed as it imitates the natural swimming speed of these fish, thus increasing your chances of hooking one. The depths of your lures can vary, as dolphin fish are found at different depths, depending on the time of day and weather conditions.

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Chumming is another effective fishing technique for catching dolphin fish in Tampa Bay. This technique involves throwing pieces of fish or shrimp into the water to attract the fish. Since dolphin fish are known to feed on small fish and squid, chumming is very effective. That said, be aware of the regulations of the fishing spot you’ll be catching dolphin fish in, since chumming may be prohibited in some places.

After hooking a dolphin fish, hold on tight! They are known for their acrobatic jumps and can put up a fierce fight. It’s crucial to keep the line tight, reeling in steadily to tire the fish out. If you plan to fish with a partner, take turns reeling in the fish to avoid exhausting yourself.


Additional Tips for Catching Dolphin Fish in Tampa Bay


Look for birds

When searching for dolphin fish, keep an eye out for birds hovering over the water. These birds are often attracted to schools of small fish, which in turn can attract larger fish, such as dolphin. By following the birds, you may be able to locate a school of dolphin fish.


Use a fish finder

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A fish finder is a useful tool for locating fish in Tampa Bay. These devices use sonar technology to detect fish and display them on a screen. Look for areas with a high concentration of fish on the fish finder, as this may indicate a school of dolphin fish.


Keep your eyes peeled

While dolphin fish are often found around floating objects such as buoys and weed lines, they can also be found swimming freely in the open water. Keep an eye out for any disturbances on the surface of the water, such as a fish jumping or splashing, as this may indicate the presence of dolphin fish.


Experiment with different lures

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Dolphin fish are known to be attracted to bright colors, so try using a variety of lures in different colors to see what works best. Trolling lures with skirts or feathers are often effective, as are surface plugs and casting lures.


Wrapping It Up

Catching dolphin fish in Tampa Bay is an exhilarating experience for any fishing enthusiast. By locating the fish, setting up your gear correctly, and using the right techniques, you can increase your chances of a successful catch. Remember to be patient, and don’t forget to take in the beauty of these magnificent creatures as you reel them in. Happy fishing!

Whether it’s your first time fishing or you’ve got years of experience, you may benefit more from a fishing charter than going solo. If you plan on heading to the deep waters to reel in a huge dolphin fish, book a fishing charter from us and you can get everything planned for a successful trip!