The big spring wave of dolphin passing the South Carolina coast is on the wane. Catches have gone from a solid six to 35 fish per trip averaging 10.5 pounds per fish to zero to eight fish per trip averaging 11.3 pounds. There have been the rare 15 to 20 fish trips (mostly schoolies) when boats have carried children. While the number of fish and total poundage have dropped from May, the number and percentage of fish over 20 pounds have increased. Only 17 of 426 fish checked during May weighed 20 pounds or more. In June, 18 of the 162 fish examined weighed 20 pounds or more. In May, large dolphin made up only 4.2 percent of the catch, but so far in June have represented 10.5 percent of the fish brought to the dock.
Jim Lyons in Hatteras Harbor, North Carolina, reports they are still seeing good catches of gaffers, fish over six to eight pounds. The smaller fish, schoolies, are on the increase and are showing up closer to shore. The increased presence of schoolies typically indicates a decrease in the abundance of the larger fish, though waves of larger dolphin will periodically move through throughout the summer.
North Carolina, South Florida and the Keys host some of the largest fleets of charter boats on the East Coast. These boats offer land-locked anglers throughout the eastern U.S. their best opportunity to catch dolphin for their freezers. Many of these anglers only get one such opportunity each year, spending the rest of the year catching small freshwater pan fish. Catching a 20- to 30-pound bull dolphin would be the thrill of a lifetime, but even catching schoolie dolphin is exciting because they are still bigger than the fish these anglers normally catch. While most experienced offshore anglers seek to avoid catching schoolies, inland anglers with limited access to the ocean are thrilled to catch these fish and look forward to eating them.
This leads into the value of small school fish to the domestic fishery. The Outer Banks of North Carolina, South Florida and the Florida Keys are famous for the abundance of small school dolphin off their shores. The fishery based on these fish stirs a lot of discussion among experienced offshore anglers. This issue looks at the meat-yield from a small fish in an attempt to quantify the food value of these fish. Hope you find it interesting.
Read the full July newsletter here: www.dolphintagging.homestead.com/Jul13Nwsltr.pdf
DonDonald L. Hammond
Dolphinfish Research Program
Cooperative Science Services, LLC
961 Anchor Rd.
Charleston, SC 29412