Mahi fishing along the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast is just getting started as water temps are pushing up into the 70 degree range and higher.
Bluewater anglers are keeping their eyes peeled for sargassum weedlines, flotsam and jetsam like floating logs, buckets or cardboard as well as hi-fliers that mark lobster pots. All floating structures will generally hold dolphin to the area as they mill around for protection as well as to pick off baitfish that congregate around the local food chain.
One of the most exciting ways to pick dolphin off the pots is via bucktails and soft baits. Relatively small, light Magictail, Andrus or Spro bucktails of ½ to 2-ounces will work best to pull mahi off weeds as they can be jigged with maximum life-like effectiveness. White, white/chartreuse, and white/pink color patterns always seem to attract mahi. Without a doubt, tipping the bucktail hook with some flavor intensifies the attraction. Many offerings can be lanced on the hook, including fluke bellies, live killies, squid tentacles or strips, and any kind of strip bait like false albacore, bonito, bluefish or mackerel, or you can opt for artificials such as a Gulp! 5-inch jerk shad or 4-inch Swimming Mullet, or 5-3/4-inch Fin-s Fish in Albino Shad or Rainbow Trout. Try dipping the soft baits into FinEssence oil beforehand so the scent soaks into the bait.
When working a pot line or marker buoy, take the boat out of gear upcurrent of the target about a hundred yards, staying a good 40 feet or so away so as not to spook any fish. Make your casts past the target, allowing the bucktail to sink for a good three count. Proceed to jig the bucktail or soft bait in short, jerky strokes back to the boat. Present the bait naturally in the current, so if you are drifted pass the target and are simply pulling the lure through the water, engage the engines and redo the drift again. If you aren’t getting any hits near the surface, allow the bucktail to sink a good 30 feet or so, then work the bucktail back up the water column, pulling the deep rooted dolphin to come up.
My personal light bucktailing set up includes a 7-foot GLoomis IMX-Pro Blue 843S rod rated for 15 to 50-pound, Shimano Stradic 5000 reel spooled with 30-pound Power Pro braid, then a 5-foot section of 25-pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon leader.