On any given dive in the kelp forests of northern California, divers have a surprisingly slim chance to encounter this shy kelp inhabitant. One of the prettiest fish on the rocky reefs, rock greenling are also one of the most cryptic, living in cracks and crevices waiting for their next meal to come along. Growing to 24 inches and living for up to 11 years, this fish is seldom seen by divers south of San Francisco but those that do find it are treated to a colorful scheme of mottled bright red and brownish/red blotched sides. One of the coolest fish you’ll encounter, it has nothing to be shy about. So when you’re out there, take an extra moment to look into the dark. You might just be greeted by the blue smile of the rock greenling, our subtidal hide-and-seek champ.
See you out there.
Photo by P. Colla
Okay divers, here comes Shellfish Saturday. Why Shellfish Saturday? Because I love alliteration and time marches on for the California diving lifestyle. Sheep crab is our first installment in what will prove to be a most likely irregular feature on CFD. These spider crabs range from Point Reyes in the north all the way down the Baja Sur peninsula. They are large and in charge for any of you that might have seen them on your undersea adventures with a carapace that can grow to 6 inches and a claw-to-claw span of over 2 feet.
There was once a multi-million dollar fishery for the sheep crab, specifically their claws, but it fell by the wayside in the early 90’s when gill and trammel nets were banned in California waters. Today it is considered by-catch for the most part and apparently spends a great deal of it’s time threatening divers who happen to swim up on them.
So much anger….
Keep your eye out for them when you’re cruising the sandy shallows around the reefs or in some of the submarine canyons that we drop down in to up and down the coast.. They are a real treat to see.
See you out there.
A juvenile sheephead is a pretty little girl.
This weeks foray into the kelp forest presents us with one of the most versatile and important residents of California’s nearshore waters, the Sheephead. A large member of the wrasse family, this hermaphroditic species feeds mainly on urchins and other shellfish, keeping populations in check and rocky reefs healthy. These guys are considered a fairly vulnerable species to the pressures of recreational fishing with mainly large males being targeted, resulting in an imbalance in the populations male-to-female ratio when it’s time to reproduce. Next time you’re out there and you come across a large urchin barren, such as the ones you find off Palos Verdes, look around for Sheephead. Then look some more. You probably won’t find many. Healthy Sheephead populations mean healthier reefs and kelp forests. The more you know.
A large male takes care of a purple urchin.
A female swimming by a red gorgonian.
Three-pole fishing for albacore
For over 40 years, starting in the 1920’s, San Diego was the Tuna capital of the the world. With a massive fleet of fishing boats and a complex of processing plants supplying tuna to a hungry world, the fishery was the third-largest employer in San Diego to only the US Navy and the aerospace industry. It was truly a way of life for mid-century San Diegans. The good times didn’t last however. With the end of WWII, major corporations started buying out the local processors and alienating the independent fishermen. Japanese imports further eroded the market and concerns over dolphins made the move to offshore fishing cheaper, driving the final nail in the coffin for what was once the late, great Tuna Town. by 1984 it was all but over.
Today, there isn’t much left of Tuna Town. Bumblebee Tuna has it’s corporate HQ there and a sustainable pole-and-line fishery has emerged but most of what the industry was is gone. But not forgotten. Catalina Offshore Products, a 40 year veteran of seafood supply in San Diego, just announced the launch of a line of sustainably U.S. caught “choice” canned tuna line. With a “catch to can” concept, the line promises to deliver a safer and better managed product for the fishery. It also brings a little reminder of what tuna fishing was like in San Diego when big, fast fish ran the town.
Enjoy the video below from the golden age of tuna fishing in California.
This is kind of a special Fish Friday. Normally, here at CFD, we highlight fish that divers are likely to see. This is kind of a special occasion however as I ran across an interesting article in the Western Outdoor News about a lonely and apparently very lost Chinook Salmon being caught and released in Santa Monica Bay last week.
The largest of the Pacific salmon, Chinooks can grow to up to 135 pounds during their years at sea before returning to spawn in their home streams and rivers. They are highly sought after game fish and certain runs, such as winter run Chinooks in the Sacramento River, are even ESA listed. The species range doesn’t include any Southern California rivers so what this guy was doing here is a mystery and apparently the reporter who wrote the story forgot to ask. Fake news with cool fish.
Have a great weekend and we’ll see you out there.
Bocaccio photo courtesy of D. Gottshall
This weeks fish, if it were a boxer, would always be leading with it’s chin. Growing up to 3 feet in length, the bocaccio is instantly recognizable by it tremendously long lower jaw, extending past it’s eye socket into a distinctive bulb-shaped ending. While very popular with anglers and spearos, it’s also showing signs of being over fished, being federally listed under the Endangered Species Act as a species of concern. It’s interesting to note, that like other rockfish and unlike most bony fish, bocaccio give birth to live larval young. The more you know.
Judging by it’s expression, even this bocaccio is shocked by the length of it’s lower jaw. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
The namesake of the Bocaccio and inventor of the comma, Sebastian R. Bocaccio.
With Fish Friday falling on St. Patricks Day, I thought I’d take a little creative license and go with the Gaelic name of an invert we’re all familiar with. Say hello to the spiny lobster, a familiar and popular resident of the California Kelp forests. Unlike his Atlantic and Irish counterpart, he is clawless, but the fact remains he is everybody’s favorite dinner guest.
Have a great St. Patricks Day and an even better weekend. See you out there.
So that’s what the claws are for? Makes sense.
***************Quick reminder, the season ended so take a few minutes to send in your report card results to the CADFW. The information is invaluable and better data means better management.*********