Free at last.
The troubled dolphin that’s been spotted with an entangled fin for weeks near Naples Pier is finally swimming free.
That liberation came after the dolphin got wrapped up in an even bigger problem.
Officers and biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, with the assistance of a Collier County Sheriff’s Office marine unit, were able to rescue the animal, nicknamed “The Beast,” from entanglement with fishing line and an anchor line of a 19-foot recreational boat on Thursday.
The dolphin, which earned its monstrous moniker from Naples Pier anglers because of its propensity for stealing bait off fishing lines, was seen near Naples pier in early June with monofilament (fishing line) wrapped around its right pectoral fin.
On Thursday, FWC officials and the sheriff’s deputies responded when Naples boaters reported that a dolphin was dragging their boat.
Steve and Tracy Lucas were fishing near Santa Lucia reef off Naples Thursday morning when their deck boat became the Beast’s latest burden.
Steve Lucas said a dolphin with a “gimpy” fin got stuck on his already deployed anchor line, and then began towing the boat around the gulf.
Collier Sheriff’s deputies were the first to respond after getting a call from Lucas around noon.
Lucas handed his anchor line off to the sheriff’s boat, he said, and the Beast began dragging the deputies while they waited for FWC assistance.
Upon arrival, Marine biologists and FWC officials were able to remove the anchor line and all monofilament from the dolphin’s fin, said FWC spokeswoman Gabriella Ferraro.
FWC officials confirmed that the dolphin was the same one spotted weeks earlier.
Biologists inspected the health of the dolphin to determine whether it should be brought in for rehabilitation or set free.
“It was good enough to be released,” Ferraro said.
The Beast swam away, finally stripped of its burden.
The notorious dolphin first came to the public’s attention in early June when Naples Pier visitors saw it irregularly swimming on its back and side in apparent distress. Local anglers already knew the dolphin from a scarred dorsal fin and its thieving reputation.
A Daily News photographer snapped pictures that revealed fishing line wrapped around one of its pectoral fins.
A Naples Police boat responded and monitored the dolphin but did not attempt to capture it before the dolphin swam away.
Amy Rhoads, a marine research biologist with the FWC, said only experts should attempt to approach an injured dolphin.
FWC officials searched for the injured dolphin earlier this month but were unable to find it.
After weeks of lying low, the Beast made what looks to be one finally splash when it got stuck on the Lucas’ boat.
The dolphin’s plight – stuck to the anchor of recreational boat – is a rare one.
“I’ve never heard of it before,” said Mike Bauer, natural resource manager for the City of Naples.
The fishing line in the dolphin’s fin caused it to get stuck in the anchor line, Ferraro said in an e-mail.
She encouraged anglers to always dispose of their monofilament in the proper containers.
“Never toss your monofilament in the water,” she said. “It can endanger not just dolphins, but sea turtles, birds and other marine animals.”
The Beast may be the one getting the last laugh, though.
It’s now free to steal from fisherman’s lines without one fin tied behind its back.
Connect with Aaron Hale at http://www.naplesnews.com/staff/aaron-hale