Dolphins and fishermen: familiar, but rare encounters

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The longtime local fisherman was slightly taken aback by the question: have you ever hooked a bottlenose dolphin?

“No, I didn’t. But then again, I’ve only been fishing these waters for 65 years.

This response asked for an informal follow-up poll, and the response was mostly an echo.




You get the point.

“I don’t know how they know, they just know,” says local captain Billy Pettigrew, who has been casting mooring lines since he was a toddler — 37 in total.

Luckily they know, it turns out.

“I have a buddy who accidentally snagged one once,” Pettigrew says. “He told me he took off nearly 200 yards from the line in less than three seconds.”

And you thought the large shark population was difficult to manage. If the dolphin ever started ignoring the hooks and started peeling the reels left and right, a lot of guys would give up and sell their gear.

SNOOK SEASON: Reds are limited but Snook comes back in play for Halifax, Indian River, Ponce Inlet

FISH: The idea for Fishbites started with young Billy Carr in New Smyrna Beach

Cody Moore, owner-operator of New Smyrna Outfitters, is among local anglers who have had rare and unwanted contact with dolphins, both offshore and in the Indian River.

“Offshore, I’ve had a big ballyhoo eat it naked,” he says. “It ran about 600 yards of line and broke on the spool in about 10 seconds. In the lagoon, I made a pig eat it and do the same on a spinning rod.

“Dolphins seem to be quite smart and I think they have excellent eyesight. Many times you will fight a fish for several minutes with the dolphin all around but not touching it. As soon as you land the fish, unhook it and release -it, the dolphin eats it.

Before continuing, let’s make a digression. The bottlenose dolphin and the porpoise are different animals, although closely related. The most noticeable difference is that bottle nose.

Some anglers like to call them all porpoises, sometimes to differentiate “Flipper” from the offshore delicacy Mahi-mahi, which is technically known as dolphinfish.

Over time, as dolphin fish continued to appear on markets and menus, often with its name shortened to dolphin, common sense prevailed and “Mahi” was born. Fewer people are freaked out that way.

Now back to our mammalian companions, who can sometimes scare you with their intelligence.

Pettigrew recounts many night fishing trips, anchored about 20 feet from the wharf lights off the Intracoastal. On one side of his boat, the wharf lights up, with a colony of trout and/or pike below. On the other side, where it is darker, one or more dolphins.

Whenever Pettigrew caught a fish that was too small, he threw it over the dolphin side of his boat. If he went too long without offering anything, he swears a dolphin – seemingly angry – would scurry around his boat and under the dock, chasing all the fish.

“If I didn’t feed them, they would run through the dock light and blow everything away,” he says. “They knew how to make me feed them. And they are bolder at night. They will sit there, five feet from my boat, all night.

Captain Jeff Patterson, who runs his Pole Dancer charter, says most of his interactions come as he pulls a fish off the hook and prepares to return it.

“It’s an easy meal at this time, given that the fish is usually pretty worn out,” he says. “All I can find is that they have to see the line, which is pretty amazing considering how thin it is – I’m using braided line compatible with 8-10 pound monofilament diameter.

“The only other possibility I wonder about is that they notice a fish acting frantically when reeled in, and they can tell something is wrong.”

Or, maybe, that’s just the basics.

“Apparently there are at least a few factors involved,” Patterson says, “but at the end of the day, dolphins are very intelligent mammals.”

Numerous studies indicate that dolphin brain size is right behind us. OKAY, more from U.S.

To hear some of the stories, it makes you glad they don’t have legs and thumbs. They would invade us in a few weeks.

Halifax/Indian River: Snook, active redfish around Ponce Inlet and near the coasts

Captain Jeff says the fishing has been great around the creek and just outside of it

“Lots of rockfish, snook and mangrove snapper,” he says. “I use live shrimp and mullet and I’m doing just fine.”

Tarpon takes advantage of bait pods closer to shore, he adds.

Friday and Saturday, and possibly Sunday, however, you may want to avoid venturing east into and through Ponce Inlet. Conditions are expected to be difficult for small boats after several days of good forecasts, especially at the start of the day.

Throughout the lagoon, “since the start of the season, I have seen everyone get a big snub, both in the slot and in the slot, in the river on the docks and on the bridges”, adds Captain Jeff.

In the Daytona Beach area, Gene Lytwyn (The Fishin’ Hole) also receives reports of snook around the decks, as well as ladybugs, sheep, and “a few trout.” And the mangroves, of course.

All of the above, plus black drums around Grenada Pier, says Ike Leary, operator of the pier’s bait shop.

Upstream in Tomoka Basin, Captain Barry Englehardt says the reds currently prefer gold spoons and assorted surface lures. He uses shrimp and mud minnows to find the mangroves, while in the Tomoka he finds ladybugs.

Surfing/Bridges: Surf fishing improves; the pier is also heating

In surfing, says Gene Lytwyn, “good whiting, blues, a few little pompanos, occasional tarpon and reds.”

“The ocean pier is also seeing more activity,” he adds. “Reds, sheepshead, blues, black drum, sharks, rays, snook.”

St. John’s: The water level rises, as does the number of points

After about a month of living with a new baby, Captain Bryn Adams is back at the helm of his family’s Highland Park Fish Camp in DeLand. And just in time to see decent water levels starting to come back.

“Water levels are rising and we are seeing speckled perch (crappie) starting to arrive,” she says. “Fishermen caught them trolling in open water on Lake Woodruff using artificial jigs. The best catch I’ve seen so far is 20 fish brought back. It’s a little early for the season, so we’re already excited to see them.

“Bass fishing is always fair if you can get out early. As the day warms up, the fishing slows down. Get out on the main St. Johns River and find that deeper water to really catch them.

Save this date: Anyone can learn to fish

The Halifax Sport Fishing Club has a few upcoming events.

The annual “Kids Can Fish, Too” clinic is scheduled for Saturday at the Sunglow Pier in Daytona Beach Shores.

It is aimed at children aged 6 to 15 and includes instructions on all aspects of fishing. Equipment is provided and the first 50 children registered receive a free rod and reel.

Also, on September 15 (next Thursday) at the club (3431 S. Ridgewood, Port Orange), the monthly meeting will include a free fishing clinic for anglers and would-be anglers of all ages.

For more information:

Hook, line and clicker: Send us your pictures of fish

We want to see your most recent take. Email your fish photos to [email protected]

Please include the first and last name of the angler(s), as well as the type of fish (sometimes we are confused). All are included in our online fishing report, and some occasionally make the print edition.

Do I need a fishing license?

You can find all licensing information, including exemptions, on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission website: But the basics are:

Nope: If you are 65 or older, 15 or younger, you do not need a permit.

Nope: If you fish with a licensed guide or a charter boat, both buy commercial licenses that cover their clients.

Yes: Almost everyone, including visitors from other states.

Yes: Even if you are a shore fisherman (shore, wharf, pier, bridge, etc.). However: The shore permit is free. . . But: You still need to register for this free license.

Where can I get a license and how much does it cost?

Many bait shops sell licenses, as do larger retailers (Bass, Dick’s, Walmart, etc.).

The Florida FWC uses a third-party site for purchasing or renewing fishing licenses:

The cost: $17 for an annual license.

Do not forget : Whether you fish in fresh or salt water, you need the specific permit. Freshwater and saltwater licenses both cost $17 per year.

I’m on vacation, do I need a fishing license?

Yes, and they are also available at or at select bait shops and major retailers.

Cost: $17 for three days, $30 for seven days, $47 for one year.

Also: Non-residents must purchase this license even if they are only fishing from shore or shore structures. (Florida residents also need this license, but it’s free.)

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