Bouncer’s Dusky | Dolphinfish Research Program | Mahi-Mahi | Mahi | Dorado | Dolphin | Dolphinfish
mahi mahi, dolphinfish, dolphin, dorado, fisheries, FADs, tag and release
mahi mahi, dolphinfish, dolphin, dorado, fisheries, FADs, tag and release
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Bouncer’s Dusky

Captain Bouncer’s Distinguished
Dolphin Tagging Effort

Last year, Captain Bouncer Smith retired from the charter fishing industry after a remarkable career that spanned 54 years.  Over that time period, he guided more than 6,000 half and 10,600 full-day trips fishing the inshore and offshore waters off South Florida as well as throughout the Caribbean Sea.  The number of people that he guided and educated, through his live radio shows, seminars, and magazine articles, are too numerous to estimate but could likely fill a stadium rock concert.  One thing is certain: we are all fans of Bouncer’s career and the positive influence he had and continues to have on the sportfishing industry, fisheries knowledge, and conservation for game fish species such as dolphin.  Bouncer’s retirement as a Miami-based charter captain prompted us to take a detailed look at his contribution to our knowledge of the movements and

“I have always been very interested in fishery knowledge. We had released a large portion of our mahi catch so tagging made good sense.”

Captain Bouncer Smith

life history traits of dolphin in the Western Central Atlantic Ocean (WCA) – a species that he loved to target with his clients and also began to tag and release in conjunction with the Dolphinfish Research Program (DRP) in 2005.  In total, Bouncer tagged and released 823 dolphin, of which 45 were recovered throughout the WCA.  Bouncer’s high 5.5% recovery rate speaks to his care and handling of dolphin during the tagging process; during the last 14 years of his career, he tagged and released at least 1 dolphin in 190 separate outings aboard his vessel, Bouncer’s Dusky.  One key facet of Bouncer’s dolphin tagging participation that we would like to highlight is the fact that he was able to make a substantial contribution to our knowledge of dolphin through tagging in only 5% of all of his outings from 2005 to 2019.  But, through persistent participation, he allowed our program to incorporate his data collection into four separate scientific manuscripts that described, for the first time, movements of dolphin along the U.S. East Coast, in the Bahamas, in the northeastern Caribbean Sea, and on the species population structure in the WCA.  As a result, we are pleased to present to him an award of distinguished tagging effort for his dedication to participating in the DRP and highlight his specific contributions below.  Congratulations Captain Bouncer Smith and thank you for your participation!

Captain Bouncer’s Dolphin Data

Bouncer’s dolphin data collection revealed both local and regional short and long-distance movements throughout the WCA.  We arranged his data collection into three separate sections based on specific attributes that relate to the recoveries he generated.

Among the most unique tagging results generated by Bouncer were 7 movements of dolphin from Miami to near-shelf locations (< 2 miles) from Key West to North Key Largo.  All fish that exhibited southerly movements were tagged and released within 4 miles of the 30 meter depth contour and the main reef tract of the Florida insular platform off Miami.  In all examples, the leading edge of the western wall of the main part of the Gulf Steam, as calculated by the Naval Oceanographic Office, ranged from 7.5 to 12.6 miles off of Fowey Rocks Lighthouse during the time periods these fish were at liberty.  Therefore, these fish were released well inside the main part of the Gulf Stream which could have had an impact on their movement pattern.  One fish, tagged offshore the 400 meter depth contour, was at liberty for 127 days and represents a return migrant which is highlighted below.

In total, five of Bouncer’s dolphin exhibited return migration patterns, which are when dolphin are tagged off Florida and recovered in Florida waters, the Bahamas, off the Outer Banks, or in the Caribbean Sea in a year subsequent to when they were tagged.  While conventional tagging data do not provide the pathways traveled by fish, the timing, when compared to surface drifter tracks and regional oceanography, provide realistic comparisons that suggest small and large-scale recirculation patterns of dolphin biomass through the Florida Straits.  Bouncer’s tagging activity contributed to this knowledge.  To read more about U.S. East Coast return migrants click here.  Growth is another key aspect of these recoveries which is highlighted below.

Dolphin Growth


Bouncer currently holds the record for the longest time at liberty for a tagged and recovered dolphin: 557 days.  He tagged and released the 20″ peanut off Miami and it was reported by Raudrick Nazario of San German, Puerto Rico, after he caught the 58-pound brute off southwestern PR (image left).  Based on the tagged and recovered lengths, the fish grew 29″ in 557 days at large which equates to a weekly growth rate of .36″/week.  Growth obtained for fish at liberty up to a year for our tagging program observe dolphin grow around 45” or 28 pounds (35 grams per day) a year (unpublished).  This equates to a weekly growth rate of .86″ and shows Bouncer’s brute started to slow in terms of growth in length but made up size in terms of pounds packed onto its 49″ frame.  It is relevant to note here that my predecessor, Don Hammond, received a recapture report of one of Bouncer’s fish that was at liberty for 1,470 days (4.02 years)! However, the individual that submitted the report never responded back to repeated inquires, never sent in the tag, or corroborated additional details to verify the report.  Nevertheless, Bouncer’s tagged dolphin provide some remarkable examples of growth and life history of this species in which both scientists and anglers alike can learn about for years and decades to come.  In April, 2019, we published a more in-depth analysis of Bouncer’s brute.  Click here to read the PDF of that newsletter or click here to read it on

Table 1 Conventional dolphinfish tag recoveries generated by Captain Bouncer Smith’s tagging activity between 2005 and 2017 arranged in chronological order. SAB = South Atlantic Bight; CARIB = Caribbean Sea; BAH = Bahamas.  ** = Unverified recovery.

We are honored to have had the pleasure to log the tag and recapture data provided through Captain Bouncer’s participation and we hope it serves to inspire and drive you to participate in our tagging program to continue to compile necessary information about the biology and movement ecology of this iconic species.  Click here to request tags to start participating.

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