Recently I went kayak fishing with a buddy out of Henderson Beach State Park in Destin, FL and although I didn’t catch any fish, I did get my very own private dolphin show that more than made up for the lack of fish.
I’ve gone out in the kayak and been treated to dolphin encounters before, but never one as long-lasting and as enjoyable as this one. In fact, it was the dolphins in Choctawhatchee Bay that inspired the purchase my first kayak even though I don’t do a lot of off-shore paddling. Today, however, was one of the rare times that I ventured out. The waves were less than 1′ and the winds were forecast to be less than 5 mph; about as close to perfect conditions as I could hope for.
In my experience, dolphins tend to be more active early in the morning as they patrol the waters just past the second sand bar on their quest for breakfast. There’s no trick to knowing where they’ll be, it’s more a matter of knowing their habits, and then putting yourself in the right place at the right time. And then you wait. That’s where trying your hand at fishing can help you pass the time until a pod shows up.
The first pod of dolphins that we spotted were hunting quite a distance away and we wisely chose not to try and paddle out to them. It’s very easy to get farther away from shore than you realize and then spend the better part of a day trying to get back, especially if an offshore wind picks up. It’s better to stay within a half-mile of shore, and if fishing, no farther than 2-3 miles.
So after waiting another half hour our first dolphin arrived with a clearing of its blowhole and then two more dolphins glided eagerly beneath my kayak, rolling onto their sides to make eye contact with me as they came out on the other side. In another moment the entire pod of 8-10 dolphins were circling and playing all around my kayak and putting on quite the show. Staying cautiously a bit farther away was a mother dolphin with her calf.
I watched entranced as the dolphins frolicked sometimes right next to my kayak. Four dolphins formed into a precision acrobatic team and did an underwater flyby next to my kayak that would have even the Blue Angels jealous. Over and over again they would swim underneath my kayak and pop up a few feet away almost as if inviting me to join them, however, I prudently stayed in my seat and just enjoyed the show.
After about 10-15 minutes they bid farewell and moved off to continue their morning hunt and perhaps to find something more interesting to investigate. Since this encounter happened toward the end of our fishing trip, we turned and began our (very) long paddle back to shore with a promise to return.