The next time you go wreck or reef fishing out of Indian River, Ocean City, Virginia Beach, or any other Mid-Atlantic port for sea bass or flounder at one of the many inshore sites, don’t forget that mahi-mahi are found amongst the bass pot floats with startling regularity during the summer months. True, sites at least 12 or 14 miles out are best and yes, the mahi found inshore are usually smaller than those found out in the deep, but with a bit of simple pre-planning you can expand your inshore options to include putting a few three to 10 pound mahi in the fishbox.
- Troll from pot to pot with small, three- to five-inch offerings including plastic squid imitations, swimming plugs, and wobbling spoons. Pinks, blues, and silvers are good choices. Stagger the lures so a pair is close to the boat (15 to 20 yards back) and some other offerings are about twice that distance. If you spot mahi swimming up to the lures but not striking, take the rod in hand and jig it.
- Cut a few handfuls of fish or squid chunks into domino-sized pieces, and upon a hook-up, start tossing bits over the side while the fish is brought to the boat. Mahi are almost always swimming with some friends, and they usually follow the hooked fish until they get close enough to spot the sinking chunks and go into a frenzy. Once you have them teased up to the boat be sure to toss in another chunk or three every minute or two, to keep them close by and interested.
- Prep a couple spinning rods with 30-pound flouro leaders and 4/0 to 6/0 circle hooks, and bait them up with the fish or squid bits. When the hooked fish gets within 20 feet or so of the boat – or better yet, if you see fish swim in and eat the chunks you tossed overboard – flip the baits out and let them sink for a few minutes. If no one else bites or gets spotted, reel in and begin trolling again.
BONUS TIP: Always keep a box of whole squid with you, on offshore trips. If the mahi get skittish and you see them under floats or eating chunks, but they won’t take a hooked bait, putting a whole squid on the hook usually gets them activated.
DOUBLE BONUS TIP: Carrying a livewell full of bull minnow is another way to get shy mahi fired up. Bounce the minnow off an outboard cowl or the side of the boat, so they get dazed and swim in tight circles. This will drive the mahi utterly mad, and they’ll start devouring everything within sight.