Managed by: SAFMC , GMFMC
The dolphin fish has bright turquiose, green and yellow patterns, which fade almost immediately upon death. This species may be distinguished from the pompano dolphin by its 55-66 dorsal fin rays, and a very wide and square tooth patch on the tongue.
Dolphin are fast growing, prolific and have a short life span - an average of 5 years. Average fork lengths for males and females ranges from 34 to 55 inches. Males grow faster and usually live longer than females. The spawning season varies with latitiude. Dolphin collected in the Florida Current spawned from November through July, and those collected from the Gulf Stream near North Carolina were reproductively active during June and July. Small females may spawn 240 thousand pelagic eggs, and fish larger than 43 inches may spawn several million. Dolphin are attracted to Sargassum, a floating brown alga, which serves as a hiding place and source of food. Other sources of food associated with the Sargassum include small fish, crabs, and shrimp. Dolphin may also pursue fast -swimming fish, such as flying fish or mackerels. Often man made garbage is entangled in the floating Sargassum, and is consumed by dolphin, which do not recognize the waste as a non-food item. Plastic wrappers, small light bulbs, rope and string have been removed form the stomachs of dolphin.
South Atlantic Federal Regulations
(For areas three-200 miles off the coasts of NC, SC, GA, and East Florida)
The Dolphin Wahoo Fishery Management Plan for the Atlantic was approved in December 2003 and the final rule published on May 27, 2004. In addition to the regulations printed below, publication of the final rule gives effect to NOAA Fisheries’ approval of other portions of the FMP, including: The management unit and designations of stock status criteria for those units; The fishing year of January 1 through December 31; A non-binding 1.5 million pound (or 13 percent of the total harvest) cap on commercial landings; Establishment of a framework procedure by which the SAFMC may modify its management measures; and Designations of essential fish habitat (EFH) and EFH habitat areas of particular concern (EFH-HAPCs). Contact state agencies for information regarding regulatory restrictions for harvest in state waters.
There is a 20-inch fork length minimum size limit for dolphin off the east coast of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina (effective 4/16/12) with no size restrictions elsewhere.
Longline fishing for dolphin and wahoo is prohibited in areas closed to the use of such gear for highly migratory pelagic species (HMS).
Allowable gear to be used in the fishery includes: hook-and-line gear including manual, electric, and hydraulic rods and reels; bandit gear; handlines; longlines; and spearfishing (including powerheads) gear.
Owners of commercial vessels and/or charter vessels/headboats must have vessel permits and, if selected, submit reports.
Dealers must have permits and, if selected, submit reports.
Longline vessels must comply with sea turtle protection measures.
For a commercially permitted vessel fishing north 39% N. latitude, that does not have a federal commercial vessel permit for dolphin or wahoo, there is a trip limit of 200 pounds of dolphin and wahoo, combined.
Operators of commercial vessels, charter vessels, and headboats that are required to have a federal vessel permit for dolphin and wahoo must have and display *operator permits.
To apply for a vessel, dealer, or operator permit, interested parties should contact the Permits Office, NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office, 263 13th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, Florida, 33702, or by phone at 727/824-5326.
*Note: An operator permit card issued by NOAA Fisheries' Northeast Region is valid for the South Atlantic Dolphin/Wahoo fishery. Similarly, persons who already possess an operator permit card to participate in the South Atlantic rock shrimp fishery do not need to obtain a separate operator card. For additional information, visit NOAA Fisheries' Southeast Regional Office.
There is a 20-inch fork length minimum size limit for dolphin off the east coast of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina (effective 4/16/12) with no size restrictions elsewhere.
There is a recreational bag limit of 10 dolphin and 2 wahoo per person per day, with a limit of 60 dolphin per boat per day (headboats are excluded from the boat limit).
The sale of bag limit dolphin is prohibited. This includes all for-hire vessels (charter and headboat) (effective 4/16/12)
Other applicable documents:
Dolphin/Wahoo Fishery Management Plan Final Rule (PDF)