Capt. Joel’s Fishin’ Holes

By: Capt. Joel Brandenburg

Mastering mahi can take a lifetime of successes and failures with a lot or research and development.  This is the time of year that many consider the peak of mahi season. I’ve written several stories over the years about mahi fishing but in this addition, I will give you some tips I’ve learned that may help you during your next mahi trip. One time I was in a mahi tournament, and I had my team on the boat at 5am as we ran out past the humps all the way to the Bahamian Border. We caught a few, but no tournament contenders. I came back to the dock and was complaining to a buddy of mine, Captain Jamie Platt, about how bad the mahi bite was. He said “a lot of good mahi were caught today. Did you leave before sun came up and you went out as far as you could go didn’t you?” He said the quality and quantity mahi have been hitting between 9am and 12noon in 350ft to 550ft deep. You left to early and went too far and you ran right past the mahi in the dark. That day taught me a couple valuable lessons:
Lesson #1- Do your research prior to going out mahi fishing, especially if you haven’t gone in the past few days. Look at online reports and call avid mahi anglers and ask them to give you a report. If I would have asked around and done my research my tournament team could have slept in for a few extra hours and we would have traveled half or a quarter as far to get to a contending mahi. We would have saved precious fishing time, had a much better chance at a slammer and not to mention saved a bunch of money.
Lesson #2- Understand how’s and why’s.  Back in my corporate executive days we had a saying that “those who know how will always have a job and those who know why will always be the boss.” Why were those mahi in so close and hitting so late in the morning. The moon had 98.3% illumination, The wind was blowing 15 kts into the west, the waves were 4ft to 5ft, the sky was overcast, and the water was not clear and almost considered murky and the Gulf Stream was only 15 miles offshore. Mahi feed in the middle of the day on a full moon just like deer and other animals in the wild. When it’s windy and wavy, bait fish and flying fish get pushed in shallower and gamefish follow them in. Because the skies were overcast, and the frigates and sea birds couldn’t feed on the flying fish because of the cloud shade on the murkish water. The Gulf Stream with the direction of the wind/current pushed the weed lines in closer.  This is an example of understanding Mother Nature’s how’s and why’s. Another time I was out mahi fishing with an Sr Captain Kavon Mehrani who taught me how to look at birds. Big difference between a sea bird and a sea gull. He taught me how to read whether the birds hunting like we are or swooping on bait while staying almost in the same spot pecking at the same area, if he doing this he’s over mahi if he’s swooping but covering a lot of water quickly it’s most likely over tuna which we call “ tuna birds”, or frigate what does it mean when he’s traveling slow down low? It means he’s most likely over a 30 plus inch bull and cow (once the bull and cow reach 30 inches they’re mates for life) and if the frigates moving fast and flying high, he’s either on the hunt or over tuna. He taught me to look for “birdnatos”, when the birds get into a feeding frenzy and looks like they’re flying in tornado formation. Best on the edge of storm line. Capt. Kavon also taught me that when it comes to trolling, less is more. Some boats troll five lines, seven lines and more. Kavon taught me to troll one real long and one pretty short. You might ask how two lines can be better than seven lines. When you consider how often you have to clean the weeds off of your trolling bait be it pre-rigged ballyhoo or artificial, you get worn out trying to tend to two lines much less seven lines. By the way, in case you didn’t know, mahi won’t hit a trolling bait with even a little piece of seaweed stuck to it. “Also, with one long and one short you can dive in tight circles and not get your lines jacked up by turning sharply. Plus, if and when you get a slammer bull to hit, he’s less likely to tangled on a bunch of other trolling lines. Kavon taught me that there’s a big difference between seaweed and sargassum weed. Mahi don’t really follow seaweed lines they mostly follow sargassum weed because sargassum weeds have little berries on them that baitfish love to pick at and eat and of course the gamefish eat the baitfish. This is an example of understanding the food chain. Another lesson was in a mahi tournament a few years ago that we achieved largest bull and cow calcutta. We were in heavy waves in our 53ft Hatteras Sport Fisher with a four-person team and decided to bring my 3-year-old grandson Atlas along. My grandson started getting seasick at the same time we were trolling under three frigate birds. We hadn’t seen a weed line or any floaters all morning and I knew these three frigates were our best shot at finding a tournament winning bull and cow. I took my grandson into the cabin and put him to sleep and instructed my first mate, named Chicken Wing, to follow those frigates until I come back up or until he finds a floater bigger than a bucket. It took me an hour get my Grandson to sleep. I went back up and Chicken Wing was still traveling with the three frigate birds and informed me he had spotted a big bull and cow a few times in the past hour under the frigates. We eventually trolled past them and hooked a giant bull and cow simultaneously. The lesson I learned was “love the one you’re with.” If I hadn’t gone down to put my little guy asleep for an hour, we probably wouldn’t have stuck with those frigates that long. I probably would have gotten impatient in a half hour or less and called the frigates “fake news birds” and traveled on for greener pastures. It’s hard to leave frigates, but always remember a frigate is a 100 times better fisherman than any human. As my late mother in law used to tell me, be patient! See you next month and thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply