King Mackerel/Mahi July – August 2018
When the dog days of summer are upon us, it’s time to make the run offshore for cool ocean breezes and big fish! While King Mackerel can be targeted May-November, Mahi only make their way closer to shore in the heat of the summer which makes it an ideal time to troll. A relatively simple and exciting fishery, everyone loves hearing the drag scream and witnessing the endurance and aerobatics of a big Mahi or King on a surface rig!
These fish can be anywhere and everywhere but there are a certain places that produce every year. A good game plan is to pick a starting point and a backup and always bring binoculars to look for surface action while you make the run. 10 Mile Boxcar/AR376 (N34 03.283 W077 39.633), The Dredge Wreck/AR382 (N33 58.583 W077 41.283), The Hyde/AR386 (N33 57.517 W077 33.450), The Gill/WR4 (N33 52.350 W77 29.010) and 23 mile rock are all good places to start. Remember to have your rigs ready to deploy if you see birds or bait on top as you run out.
Penn Senator or 300GTI reels with medium heavy rods are good all around combos to take that can also be used for bottom fishing if the troll bite is slow. 80 lb braid works great for both as well. We prefer to make our own dead bait rigs using an array of skirts, 38 – 44 lb test wire leader, 1/4oz jig heads and treble hooks tied with haywire twists. These are versatile and inexpensive rigs that can be tied up weeks or months in advance with just a little bit of practice. Skirt style and color can make a big difference, so start with a variety until you dial in what the fish are biting. A typical trolling spread will be 2 surface rigs at varied lengths in the spreaders and 2 rigs on the downriggers at different depths. I also like to run a 3 1/2″ drone spoon on a #3 planer until I find out what they’re biting. Whatever you do don’t forget your gaff at the dock as these fish are notoriously tough to land and tend to make hard runs when they get close to the boat.
Cigar minnows are the most popular and effective bait for both species. Sardines will also work and Ballyhoo are expensive but produce well when specifically targeting Mahi. If you’re just trolling, 5 lbs of bait will be more than enough, but we always bring more in case we decide to bottom fish. Whatever isn’t used can always go back in the freezer for next time!