May brings dolphinfish delight to SC offshore anglers | Fishing

If you are an avid offshore angler and it’s May in South Carolina, on your next weather opportunity, you’re probably heading out in the Atlantic in quest of one of the most colorful gamefish in the ocean. While dolphinfish can be taken year-round off the coast of South Carolina, May is considered the peak month for targeting the popular fish.

So what makes the dolphinfish such a favorite?

One reason is that they are mighty tasty. Chances are if you head into a seafood restaurant you’ll find it listed on the menu as fresh mahi-mahi.

Another big reason is that dolphinfish are gluttonous. They are fast-growing fish so they must be constantly feeding. Studies show that in the early stages of life a dolphin may grow as much as 2.67 inches per week. They may weigh as much as 40 pounds in the first 12 months of life.

Once you find a school of dolphinfish, you can quickly fill your fish box. Dolphinfish will hang around a hooked fish, something veteran offshore anglers use to their advantage. They leave lines in the water while fighting a fish, and if schooling dolphin follow their hooked mate to boatside they stop the boat and cast baits or lures into the school, always leaving a hooked fish in the water.

The key is finding schooling dolphinfish. Though dolphinfish may chase bait in as shallow as 60 feet, you’re much more likely to find dolphin near the edge of the continental shelf in about 160 feet of water.

Dolphinfish prefer water temperatures of 77 to 81 degrees, but if the food supply is in cooler water they also can be found there. If you’re targeting dolphin you should look for flying fish and diving birds. The most welcome sight for offshore anglers is probably a golden brown weed line, where currents have piled up sargassum. Floating debris also can be a good spot to look for dolphin.

Troll around these areas with offshore lures tipped with ballyhoo, and if you manage to find a school, hang on and enjoy.

They come in all sizes with 12- to 15-pound catches most common. But it’s not uncommon to catch dolphinfish much larger.

SC state record

The South Carolina state record dolphinfish is a 77.5-pound catch made July 24, 2008 during the Bohicket Invitational Billfish Tournament. Ryan Riggs, who was the mate on the boat Daymaker, caught the fish, which had a 5-pound dolphinfish in its stomach. It was caught using 30-pound tackle. The previous record was 74 pounds, 6 ounces. The world record for dolphinfish is an 87-pound catch caught in 1976 off Costa Rica.

Bull reds make their springtime return to Charleston waters

Dolphin catch limits

The catch limit for dolphinfish by South Carolina recreational fishing vessels is 10 fish per angler while the daily boat limit has been reduced from 60 to 54 fish per day effective May 2, 2022. There is a 20-inch fork length minimum size for dolphinfish.

SC Mahi Series

The South Carolina Mahi Series (, which began May 1, continues through May 28. Boats were allowed to fish two days, with their two heaviest fish as an aggregate determining the winner. As of May 17, the top boat in the SC Mahi Series is Shady Lady, captained by Landon Sigler of Edisto Beach, with a combined weight of 85.3 pounds, with both fish caught May 4. Shady Lady also has the heaviest fish in the tournament at 61.1 pounds.

America’s Boating Club

America’s Boating Club Charleston will hold boating safety classes June 4 and June 18 at 1376 Orange Grove Road, Charleston. Classes begin at 9 am and end around 4 pm Successful participants earn the SC Department of Natural Resources Boater Education Card. The cost is $25 for adults and youth 12-18 are free. Call 843-312-2876 or email [email protected]

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