Though it is true, there are many wonderful restaurants in Panama City Beach, some of the local residents prefer their meals freshly caught straight from the crystal clear waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Of course I’m talking about the local pod of bottlenose dolphin living in the shallow waters off the coast of Shell Island. Dolphin are predators that enjoy dining on fish and bottom-dwelling species like squid and shrimp.
Bottlenose dolphin are mammals, which means they are born alive, have lungs and warm blood. For the first year of life, calves drink milk from their mothers. When a mother is nursing, she consumes up to 8% of your body weight every day-around 24 pounds of food! And adult males can eat up to 30 pounds of food a day! Even with a stomach that is compartmentalized to facilitate quick digestion, much of a healthy dolphin’s day is spent in search of food.
Cooperative Hunting Techniques
Dolphins live in groups called pods, who often cooperate in hunting and catching fish. One common technique is called “bait balling” where dolphin work together to corral a large group of fish into a tight ball and then take turns charging through the dense school to feed.
Dolphins living in St. Andrews Bay have been seen herding schools of fish into the shallows or against the reefs, where they become easy prey. One group even drove smaller fish toward other dolphins acting as a barrier. Once the fish are surrounded, both the “driver” and “barrier” dolphin take turns eating the fish.
Individuals Also Fish
However, not all fishing is cooperative. Often dolphin are seen dining on individual, non-schooling fishes. When a fish is too big to swallow whole, dolphins have been seen slapping it against the water or dragging it along a rock to break it into smaller, easier to consume pieces.
Dolphins also use their long snout to channel through the soft sandy bottom of the Gulf, scaring fish who may be hiding there.
Another fun method to see, is a fishing technique called “tail-whacking”, where the dolphin flips a fish out of the water and slaps it with their tail flukes. They swim back and consume the stunned fish. Scientists aren’t sure if this is truly an effective hunting method or simply a way for dolphins to play with their food.
Seeing Them for Yourself
No matter how dolphin are fishing, whether it’s following a trolling fishing boat, cooperative fish driving or tail-whacking, there’s nothing like witnessing in person! Let DOLPHIN EXPRESS be your tour guide to these amazing creatures in Panama City Beach. Give us a call, stop by Lighthouse Marina or use our convenient online feature to book your Panama City Beach dolphin tour experience today. No doubt you’ll create memories you’ll be sharing for years to come.