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I walk along Del Monte Beach in Crow City, USA (Monterey, California) quite often.

It is not too rare to see dolphins frolicking (so it seems to me, although they may just be going about their business, with no particular feeling of fancifulness or frivolity as they periodically arch their backs out of the water every several seconds/yards) about 60 feet (estimated) off shore.

However, it seems that either I have been very unlucky lately, or this may be a seasonal occurrence. What used to be common is now "special" - I saw one again last week for the first time in at least several weeks.

Is this because they would tend to be in Monterey Bay only during a certain time of the year (and not in late spring)? Is it based on a prey/predator situation, the temperature of the water, or something like that? Or is it just sort of a "random" circumstance or "happy accident" that I might happen to see them quite a bit for a stretch of time, and then an "unhappy accident" that I miss them for quite awhile (they're there, but I just don't happen to look in the right place at the right time)?

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    I know of a place in Florida where if you get up before sunrise and head to a certain stretch of beach, you'll see a pod of dolphins swim past every single morning. I would imagine it depends mainly on where their food is. If their food is found in certain places at certain times, you'll find dolphins there at the same time. – Carey Gregory Jun 8 '16 at 18:22
  • I will have to get some Purina Dolphin Chow and seed the waves with it. – B. Clay Shannon Jun 8 '16 at 18:25
  • Yes, this area is great for viewing creation (Monterey Bay within walking distance to the west, Big Sur within easy driving distance just south of here, a couple of (relatively untall) mountain ranges just east of here, and Steinbeck's "Pastures of Heaven" a few miles to the east. And the weather is awesome - never hot, never cold - almost always between 55 and 70. The worst thing about Monterey is the congestion and dearth of parking. – B. Clay Shannon Jun 9 '16 at 14:56
  • No problem whatsoever. I've seen a few more recently (September 2016). – B. Clay Shannon Sep 27 '16 at 15:10
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My experience relates to Common Dolphin, but likely applies to dolphins of other species, too.

Although dolphin may be seen at any time, you are most likely to see them in proximity to food. So if their prey is migratory, they may follow the prey to some extent; they may also change prey as different fish are available at different times of year.

Here in north-west Scotland, the best time to see dolphin is in Spring, as salmon make their way to their freshwater spawning grounds. The fish gather around the river estuaries, making it a great feeding ground for the cetaceans, especially when the tide is low (making it harder for the salmon to enter the rivers).

Dolphin are sometimes to be found in the vicinity of fish farming operations. The conjecture is that some of the feed escapes the farm cages, drawing in wild fish which feed on it, and that in turn attracts the dolphins. The aquaculturists here don't accuse dolphins of damaging cages as seals do (but that might be simply because they like the dolphins, and don't want to believe that they would force their way in).

In California, you might find that seasonal differences in water temperature affect the availability of prey. Warm water holds less oxygen than cold water, so supports less life throughout. It's possible that "your" dolphins move to a cooler sea when warm currents pass through.

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