The old saying “it’s as easy as shooting fish in a barrel” is something the dolphins in Edisto can appreciate.
This is because the dolphins here have a method of fishing that almost guarantees a full belly for them with minimal effort. This method is known as “strand feeding.”
Here’s how it happens
Dolphins swim through the estuaries that wind through the marshes to catch the plentiful fish found in the area. But instead of preying upon the fish in the water, they’ve got a foolproof method that feeds not only the dolphins, but the area birds as well, because it involves tossing the fish out of the estuaries and onto the muddy banks of the marsh.
To do this, the dolphins swim in circles near the marsh banks and then switch up the pace and swim up onto the marsh. In doing this, they create a bow wave that sends all the little fish in the area up onto the marsh so that the semi-beached dolphins can gobble up the dumbstruck fish. (The marsh birds take advantage of this as well and swoop down to catch the unsuspecting fish).
After the dolphins have their fill, they slide back into the water and gear up to do it again.
What’s most interesting about strand feeding is that it isn’t something that dolphins are meant to do; it’s something they learned to do. The intelligence of these aquatic mammals has long been something marine biologists have marveled over, and this form of fishing is just another example of how smart dolphins are.
However, strand feeding is not without its risks. For one thing, the dolphins beach themselves and could potentially become stuck. They also put themselves at risk of predators like alligators or even humans.
But like all good things, the benefits must outweigh the risks, so dolphins in the area continue to strand feed.
This time of year is the best to catch the dolphins doing this, so if you get the chance to go out on a boat and tour the creeks then you might be able to catch a glimpse of the dolphins in the area doing a little strand feeding.