Dear Captain " When dolphins or porpoises show up, do gamefish leave the area? "
Many times the gamefish do leave the area or the bite completely shuts down when dolphin or porpoise come around. It is a fact that snook, redfish and trout have and will fall prey to dolphins and porpoises. I have witnessed this first hand. But I have also witnessed this: While fishing amongst big schools of snook and catching a few, the dolphins and porpoises would show up and chase the snook that we had hooked! Even with porpoises circling around, the snook did not leave the area. My guess would be because the snook felt safer in the large schools than if a single snook swims alone amongst the dolphins.
The bite definitely changed for the worst. I actually had a client hook a big snook and a single porpoise showed up and started to chase down the hooked snook. My client tightened his drag up and horsed the snook to the boat. During this time, snook season was completely closed, besides the fact the snook was way over slot. Point being, it would be against the law to be in possession of the snook. So if I released the snook, the porpoise would have grabbed the snook and killed it, especially after the snook was worn out from fighting against the drag. I had to make a decision. I decided to place the snook in my 40-gallon livewell and let him rest until the porpoise vacated the area. Not that the livewell is a stress-free environment for the snook. But the fish could get some more oxygen and rest before I released him. It also was the lesser of two evils in my opinion.
After about 10 to 15 minutes, I did not see the porpoise and thought it was safe to release the snook. I wetted my hands so I would not remove any of the snook's protective slime-coat, and I placed the snook in the water. When he was ready, I let him swim off. Everything was working great until the snook got about 15 feet from the boat. The porpoise had been hiding underneath my hull and now shot out like a cannon after the snook. The porpoise nailed the snook, sending it air-bound and the catching him in his mouth. The funny thing is the porpoise spit the snook back out and started juggling and playing with the now-dead snook. The porpoise would swim down the beach and then come back, and each time it would flip the dead snook out of the water. The porpoise never did eat that snook. He just played with him. Crazy thing.
My point would be to assess the situation at the time, depending on what the porpoise or dolphin is doing when it shows up. You will immediately know when you see them what they are doing and whether you should leave your fishing hole or not!
Thank you for sending in your question to The Online Fisherman.
Captain David M. Rieumont
The Online Fisherman Inc.