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Daddy am I eating Flipper?

There is a lot of confusion when it comes to using the word “dolphin”. Many of us grew up watching “Flipper” on TV and were told it was a bottle nosed dolphin when it was really a porpoise. The names, dolphin and porpoise, as they are now commonly used, refer to the mammal. Dolphin also happens to be the name of a fish family. It can get confusing if you’re not careful.

In the Gulf of Mexico there are two species of dolphin fish, the common dolphin (Coryphaena hippurus) and the pompano dolphin (Coryphaena equisetis). Both of these species are worldwide in distribution occurring in both tropical and subtropical waters. The common dolphin is rarely found close to shore while the pompano dolphin tends to like it a bit closer in. They both are also called Mahi-Mahi, which in Hawaiian means strong-strong and Dorado.

In both of these species the males are the ‘Cock-of-the-Walk’ when it comes to coloration. They have bright iridescent green, blue and yellow colors with the more mature males of the common dolphin developing a pronounced high forehead. These bright colors rapidly fade once they are landed so if you expect to see one on the docks in full coloration you’ll be disappointed. The common dolphin is larger than the pompano dolphin but they look very similar. They’re hard to tell apart unless you like counting dorsal fin rays (60 vs. 52, respectively).

Dolphin fish spawns far off shore in the blue water with spawning generally taking place in early summer, but in tropical waters the spawning season can begin earlier and extend later. These fish can become sexually mature around 20 inches. The smallest females produce only a few hundred eggs, while large fish may yield several million eggs. Following that thought, it’s better to throw back the big ones and keep the smaller fish. This will help to stabilize the stock.

Dolphin fish are one of the fastest growing fish and thought to live only five years or less. They can swim at an estimated at 50 knots and spawn in the world’s ocean currents throughout the year. Their young have been found sheltering in sargassum weed. Dolphin fish feed on flying fish, squids and other fish. Dolphin fish live in the surface waters of open oceans, and are very often found near floating objects, which tend to attract and shelter the small fish, on which they feed. Young dolphin fish, commonly called ‘schoolies’, can form large schools early in the season. These 20 to 30 inch fish will stay in a tight school and keep right on hitting any shiny lure you put in front of them until all the fish are caught. If you have fished very much you probably have heard someone say “we really murdered ‘um today”. “Take what you need and leave the rest” is a common sense principle that should be applied when you’re situations like that.

Think Global – Act Local!


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