fish may be one of the most colorful fish in the open Gulf
of Mexico. It is azure blue to emerald green on its back,
with cadmium yellow sides and a lighter belly. These bright
colors are quickly lost when the fish dies after being boated.
The large colorful dorsal fin extends almost the length of
the back. Large mature males develop blunt, vertical heads.
This fish is difficult to separate from its less common relative,
the pompano dolphin. The only sure way to do so is to inspect
the shape of the tooth patch on the tongue. In dolphin it
is round; in pompano dolphin it is noticeably squarish in
If ever the motto "Live Fast - Die Young" could
be applied to a
fish it would apply to the dolphin. It has an explosively
rate. It may be the only fish for which scientists can measure
their growth rate on a daily basis. In the Gulf of Mexico,
dolphin grow at the rate of 5 inches per month, topping out
at a maximum size of 42 - 5 feet in length in 2 years. Then
they die! Scientists estimate that 100% of Gulf of Mexico
dolphin die before they are 2 years old. Dolphin are eating
machines. In the Gulf of Mexico and south Atlantic, they eat
more triggerfish than anything else, followed by decapods
(shrimp relatives), squid, jacks, and flying fish.
Dolphin begin spawning when they are almost 21 inches long,
during their first year of life. In the Gulf, spawning occurs
in the summer in high-salinity offshore waters at water temperatures
of 75º F or higher. Particularly high numbers of larval (baby)
dolphins have been found near the Mississippi River Delta.
They spawn repeatedly during the season, laying 85 thousand
to 12 million eggs per spawn, with larger fish producing more
More females than males are caught in the fishery. It seems
small fish of both sexes, and females of all sizes, spend
more time around floating objects and seaweed rips, and are
therefore easier to locate. Large males spend more time in
open water traveling between female-dominated schools near
floating cover. This makes females (and small dolphins) easier
for fishermen to find and therefore catch.