25 12th Avenue South, Naples, FL
NAPLES — The Beast is back.
The distressed bottlenose dolphin seen swimming irregularly near Naples Pier on Tuesday was seen again on Wednesday by fishermen and Naples officials.
The dolphin, which is known by some pier regulars as The Beast because of its propensity for stealing bait off fishing lines, was observed by pier visitors on Tuesday morning swimming on its side and back.
That’s a sign that a dolphin is in distressed, said Amy Rhoads, a marine biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The apparent cause of the dolphin’s distress was fishing line or netting that was wrapped around its right pectoral fin.
City of Naples police approached and observed the dolphin from a police boat on Tuesday, but did not attempt to bring it in.
Naples Dockmaster Roger Jacobsen said a call was placed to FWC, but the dolphin did not hang around long enough for anyone to aid it.
Jacobsen went out to the pier on a city boat Wednesday morning hoping to find the distressed animal, but found no sign of it.
Jacobsen said he feared the dolphin might not have survived, so he was relieved when he received a phone call that same afternoon from Bob Rogers, a Naples beach patrolman, who said the dolphin was spotted again at Naples Pier.
The netting that had given the dolphin such a hard time on Tuesday was still on its fin, but it appeared to be coping with its circumstances better than it was the day before.
Rogers said it was swimming more normally.
Beach patrol and other fisherman were able to distinguish the dolphin as the Beast, because of its scarred top dorsal fin.
“It’s kind of chewed up,” he said, “like an old battle scar.”
But Rogers, who regularly watches the dolphins that swim near the pier, said he was still concerned about what it could mean for the dolphin if it could not become disentangled.
Rhoads said the danger for dolphins is that becoming entangled in nets or fishing line could hinder its ability to swim.
She said the entanglement could make a dolphin’s everyday survival needs, like catching fish or coming for air at the surface, more difficult.
“It could be life-threatening,” Rhoads said.
Jacobsen said city officials would keep on an eye on the dolphin and report any changes to FWC. However, he said at this time the city does not have the capacity or training to capture the dolphin and remove the fishing line.
Jacobsen said protecting the dolphins is important to the city.
“They are part of Naples,” he said. “Are we going a bit more than normal out of our way? Absolutely.”
The city will also have to rely on anglers who go to the pier daily to help watch for developments with the dolphin, he said.
Frank Vitiello, who’s been fishing at Naples Pier for nearly 40 years, said he knows the Beast well.
Vitiello talks about the dolphin, with its chewed-up fin and ability to loot his fish, as a cross between a pest and a rival.
He said The Beast has been at work around the pier for 4 or 5 years, and is one of the best fish thieves.
“He can be on one the side of the pier and then he’ll come over and pick the fish off your hook,” he said.
“There’s some days you can’t fish because of them,” Vitiello said of The Beast and other dolphins.
But he said he got no pleasure from seeing a dolphin tangled in fishing line.
“Nobody wants to seem him hurt,” he said. “That’s for sure.”
For now, the dolphin seems to be surviving.
While Jacobsen, Rogers and some of the fisherman were watching the dolphin’s movement on Wednesday afternoon, it was spotted heading toward one fisherman’s hook.
The dolphin pull on the line, then released. The fisherman reeled in his line to find an empty hook.
The Beast had struck again.
Rogers took that as a good sign.
“Well, at least he’s feeding again,” he said.
Connect with Aaron Hale at http://www.naplesnews.com/staff/aaron-hale