All about dolphins

From time to time folks in our neighborhood see dolphins in the Potomac River.  If you spend any time on your boat in the Bay or the River, you likely have encountered dolphins.

Dolphin Facts | Dolphin Project
Bottlenose dolphin. Scientific name: Tursiops

The Potomac-Chesapeake Dolphin Project is a regional organization of volunteers who monitor dolphins in the Potomac and the Bay, and who educate people about dolphins.  Visit their website

If you are able to photograph dolphins, try to get a close-up shot of the dorsal fin — the Project uses the shape and markings of the dorsal fin to identify individual dolphins.  To date, they have identified around 1,000 individual dolphins.  Email photos and the location of the photo to them at

Here’s a photo taken September 1, 2021 in the Potomac near where it joins the Bay.

Dolphins winter in the ocean and associated waters in and south of North Carolina.  In spring, summer, and early fall dolphins enter the Bay and the Potomac that are important breeding grounds for them.

Here are some safety guidelines for operating a boat around dolphins:

  • Stay at least 50 yards away from dolphins.
  • Don’t approach dolphins in a boat — propeller strikes can kill or injure dolphins.
  • If you want to observe the dolphins, put your boat in neutral unless you need to move.
  • Don’t chase or encircle dolphins.
  • Reel in your fishing line when dolphins are nearby, or, move to another area.
  • Do not feed the dolphins; don’t throw leftover food or bait into the water if dolphins are nearby.
  • Dolphins like to “bowride” — that is, come alongside a boat and ride along in the bow wake.  If dolphins bowride your boat, either shift into neutral, or, maintain slow speed, straight ahead until they peel off.

2015 dolphin sightings.

2015 and 2016 dolphin sightings.

2015 and 2016 Citizen Obs V1 (1).png

Also, if you photograph dolphins, email the photos with date and location to us at — we will post your photos on this website.

Another organization — Chesapeake Dolphin Watch also collects data on dolphins in the Bay and tributary waters.  Their website requires visitors to establish an account (free).

Thank you for protecting our local wildlife!!