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

Raudrick Nazario of San German, Puerto Rico, displays the 58 pound tagged dolphin he caught off the southwest coast of Puerto Rico on December 9th, 2012 (Photo provided by R. Nazario)

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.    

Tag ID Date Tagged
Date Recaptured
Recapture Zone
Reporting Vessel
Days at Liberty
X742 4/22/2007 5/5/2007 South Florida Baby Grady 13
X4507 5/18/2007 5/19/2007 South Florida AJ's Toy
X4518 5/18/2007 5/19/2007 South Florida Naughty Girl
X5599 12/20/2007 12/22/2007 South Florida Must Go 2
X5927 4/1/2008 4/3/2008 South Florida
No Name 2
X5952 5/28/2008 5/31/2008 South Florida
Days Off
X7697 11/11/2008 11/15/2008 South Florida
No Name 4
X7707 1/30/2009 4/12/2009 North Florida
Daddy's Girl Too
X8783 4/24/2009 5/6/2009 South Florida Little Toy
X8797 5/19/2009 5/27/2009 SAB Shady Lady
X13018 12/3/2009 12/12/2009 North Florida
Sonny Boy 9
X13019 12/7/2009 1/24/2010 Keys
X13028 12/7/2009 12/27/2009 South Florida
Conchy Cat
X13034 12/7/2009 12/20/2009 South Florida
L & H 13
X10721 4/16/2010 4/23/2010 South Florida
No Name 7
X13740 12/17/2010 12/18/2010 South Florida
Dive Version
X13756 3/5/2011 3/22/2011 Keys Southbound
X13761** 3/12/2011 3/21/2015 South Florida
No Name 1470
X13762 3/12/2011 3/12/2011 South Florida
Bouncer's Dusky
X13763 3/12/2011 3/15/2011 South Florida
Happy Day Today
X13774 6/1/2011 12/9/2012 CARIB Gole
X13790 7/14/2011 2/22/2012 BAH Patsea VII 223
X18537 11/4/2011 12/7/2011 Keys
No Name 33
X18538 11/4/2011 11/11/2011 Keys
Doghouse 7
X18540 11/4/2011 11/15/2011 South Florida Bluewater Bones 11
X18196 8/7/2012 5/19/2013 NC Runway 285
X18614 3/13/2012 3/21/2012 North Florida
White Dog 8
X18639 6/14/2012 7/18/2012 SAB No Name 34
X19220 8/7/2012 8/30/2012 NC Hatteras Blue 23
X19245 9/27/2012 9/29/2012 South Florida
Alias Smith & Jones 2
X19508 11/13/2012 11/26/2012 Keys
Marquesa Lee 13
X19525 3/13/2013 3/29/2013 South Florida
No Name 16
X19529 3/29/2013 3/31/2013 South Florida
My Rules II 2
X19572 6/8/2014 6/18/2014 SAB Savannah
X26518 7/11/2014 11/15/2014 Keys Blue Heaven 127
X26548 7/18/2014 7/20/2014 South Florida
Off Duty 2
X29521 9/5/2015 9/6/2015 South Florida
No Name 1
X29525 9/5/2015 9/6/2015 South Florida
Gusto IV 1
X29526 9/5/2015 9/6/2015 South Florida
Gusto IV
X29531 10/29/2015 11/1/2015 South Florida
No Name 3
X29539 4/13/2016 5/27/2016 SAB No Name 44
X29540 4/14/2016 4/19/2016 Keys
Broad Minded
X29541 4/14/2016 4/15/2016 South Florida
Picture Perfect
X29542 4/15/2016 4/30/2016 North Florida
No Name 15

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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  • Newport, RI 02840

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