Chasing Mahi

mahiA multi-generational fishing expedition offers formidable challenges and rich rewards.

The calm sea exploded around the skipping ballyhoo, the rod bucked wildly and the fish took to the air. There was no doubt we were hooked up to the most beautiful fish inhabiting the deep blue waters of the Gulfstream: the dolphin (fish), more commonly referred to as mahi.

Young Robert Lyon, the third Lyon generation family member I’ve had the honor to fish with over the years, took up the rod and, after a great battle, Capt. Bryan Benson aced a nice gaff shot. Dinner was in the box. It was midday, and we had just arrived at our destination some 90 miles off the beaches of Hilton Head.

The calm seas promised for the morning were late, and we found our way offshore, stopping at Navy towers R7 and R8 looking for some action. We were not disappointed, having jigged up some amberjacks that provided tough bulldog battles for young Robert and my son Caleb. We also had a wolf pack of cobia circling the boat for awhile, but had no success in getting them to take the bait. Huge schools of spadefish, barracuda and mutton snapper offered up an aquarium experience that is all but guaranteed in the clear waters around these towers.

However, now we were in the Gulfstream, our original destination, and the seas had flattened. With young Robert’s fish in the box, Capt. Bryan and I redeployed the bait as the senior Robert Lyon started working the boat up and down a spotty sargassum weed line.

We spotted some blackfin tuna jumping around the weed – a good sign – and were soon rewarded with another explosion on the skipping bait. The line poured off the reel, and I wondered if it was one of the tough football-shaped blackfins we had sighted. The fish burst from the water with a huge head-shaking jump and, again, there was no mistake … big bull dolphin.

Caleb was on the rod this time and finally living a dream. For years my son had told me, “I really want to catch a bull dolphin!” The back and forth battle went on for 20 minutes, accented by many aerial escapades by the bull. As the battle neared the end, we admired the gold, green and blue colors of this amazing fish as he jumped and swam only feet from the boat. Capt Bryan aced another great gaff shot just in time, as Caleb announced the fish was wearing him down. But he prevailed and his dream became reality with a nice catch, a 25-pound bull dolphin!

Young Robert caught another large mahi and, while we set no records that afternoon, it was certainly a wonderful day. Two youngsters bending up rods is always a fun experience, and fishing with my son and young Robert’s dad brings back good memories of casting a line with one of my favorite people of all time, the senior Bob Lyon.

Great people, great day. But that’s what you get when you fish with three generations and your own son.


Written by Captain Miles Altman of Bayrunner Fishing Charters, who has more than 41 years experience fishing the waters surrounding Hilton Head Island. Don’t miss the new “Finatic” boat, which can accommodate up to 12 passengers and features a special three-hour shark/dolphin eco-tour trip. Contact Miles at (843) 290-6955 to book an unforgettable inshore or offshore charter fishing trip, departing from Shelter Cove Marina.