Dolphin, billfish big draws for offshore anglers

Wallace Jenkins, with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources, watches as Steve Poland, with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, takes samples from a blue marlin that will be used to research the habits of the migratory fish after it was caught during the Governor’s Cup fishing tournament in May 2013 in Georgetown.

When it comes to a hard, acrobatic fight followed by a tasty meal, it’s hard to beat the dolphin (not the mammal, but the colorful fish also known as mahi mahi).

Dolphin, especially the big ones, begin showing up in good numbers in May and can be caught off the South Carolina coast throughout the summer. You also can catch wahoo and the billfish — blue marlin, white marlin and sailfish — that begin showing up in May and June.

“Everything starts to bite real well in May,” said Capt. Mark Brown of the charter boat Teaser II.

“In May, if you are targeting mahi, you have to go out to at least 20 to 25 fathoms (120 to 150 feet). When you get into June, you’ll see them in as close as 100 feet,” Brown continued. “When the water temperature starts reaching the upper 60s, low 70s, that’s when the fish start to bite.”

Brown said May traditionally has been a fickle weather month, at times offering good weather options and sometimes blowing the entire month. He said June tends to be a better weather month.

Well-known offshore fishing destinations for the pelagics include the Georgetown Hole, Southwest Banks and the 226 Hole.

The South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series takes place from late May through early July.

But it’s not all about trolling.

May and June are also good months for catching bottom dwellers such as grouper, snapper and black sea bass.