Reducing Dolphin Interaction With Fishermen

All of you who fish in the Gulf of Mexico, have see wild bottlenose dolphins swimming along beside your boat.  Everyone knows that dolphin are one of the smartest mammals in the world.  They are in the toothed whale family.   They live to over 50 years of age.  That gives them enough time to develop some bad habits and unintentionally create a problem for recreational fishermen.  Over the past 30 years, a lot of dolphin have developed habits that are not good for themselves and our fishery.  Dolphins are smart and they learn from reinforced behavior.  They are no different than the dogs we own.  My dogs come a running every time they hear the refrigerator door open or hear the can opener running.  In just a short period of time, an intelligent animal can learn behaviors that can be negative to those around them.  I know I hate it when I go  to the kitchen and open the door of the refrigerator and close it to find my dogs looking at me for a handout.

Reinforcing Dolphin Behavior Has To Stop

Our biggest problem with the wild dolphin in Gulf Shores, Alabama is they show up beside our charter boat and wait for a hand out.  The problem is not as bad as everyone makes it out to be.  They are a nuisance to most fishermen because they drive the reef fish down to the bottom and often cause the fish bite to stop altogether.  Another mild problem is that when you are fishing and you release a fish like the Red Snapper, they tend to love to eat them before the snapper can return safely to the reef.  Basically, if dolphin are around the charter boat, the reef fish has been sentenced to death.  This action has been reinforced from years of fishing and not moving to escape from the dolphin.

Changing The Dolphin Behavior Is Hard To Do

The obvious solution is to try and re-educate the dolphin by not reinforcing the behavior.  When a dolphin arrives where you are fishing, you should move away from them and go to another fishing reef to try and catch fish.  I know.  You just dropped anchor and it is a pain to have to pull up and do it again.  If you don’t go far enough away from them, they will simply follow you to the next spot.  It is a pain to have to move.

Dolphin Interaction and Red Snapper By-catch

The biggest problem we have is wild Dolphins eating undersized or discarded Red Snapper that are either too small to keep or they were caught out of season and could not be harvested anyway.  If the Red Snapper are suffering from Barotrauma, it makes it hard for the fish to adjust it’s swim bladder and get down to the bottom reef to seek shelter from the dolphin.  The delay in getting back down to safety seals the fate of most Red Snapper with Barotrauma.

Reduce Dolphin Interaction By Using A Fish Descender

One of the solutions to keep dolphins away from the charter boats is simply not to feed them.  What?  You have to get the reef fish back down to the bottom so they can become active faster so they have a chance to escape and get back to the reef.  Red Snapper are not a primary food source of the Bottlenose Dolphin.  They do eat fish, squid, small rays and shrimp.  The Red Snapper are harder to catch so they are not the primary food source.  Now I did not say they didn’t like them.  I like deer meat but I can’t always get one.  It requires an effort.  The dolphin love to eat the smaller snapper.  After they have had their fill, they will often play with the Red Snapper and toss them around and basically lose interest in them.

Using a fish descender to get the fish back down deep, interferes with the Dolphin and does not allow them to get to the fish as long as it is attached to the descender.  They are afraid of getting hooked themselves and stay away from the fishing gear.  I know, there are some dolphin out there that are smarter than others and know how to get a Snapper off the hook without getting hooked themselves.  The Shelton Fish Descender takes the Red Snapper back down to the depths and release where he may become more active quickly and escape the dolphins attack.  The fish descender is a win win for the Red Snapper when used in less than 3 atmospheres (ATM).  We are still studying the effects of fish caught in deeper waters or waters greater than 4 ATM or water greater in depth than 99 feet.

Dolphin & Fish Descender summary

We appreciate you taking time to read our version of what is going on with the wild dolphin in our fishery.  We are always looking for ways to make things better.  If you have ideas or thoughts, please let us know.  We work with a gentleman named Steve Shippee who is a dolphin expert and has spent the last 20 years of his life working with the Navy and bottlenose dolphins.  Steve is working on his PHD in Marine Biology and is an inspiration and a resource to go to for questions about marine mammals.

We would  love to take you deep sea fishing and show you how we handle wild dolphins.  We make a conscious attempt to retrain dolphin.  Please visit our Gulf Shores fishing rates page to see which deep sea fishing charter fits your budget.  After deciding on a fishing charter, please fill out our online fishing reservations and let us know you want to go fishing.  You may also call us directly at 251.975.8111.  We will gladly assist you and look forward to serving you.