[Tweeters] Something Fishy Going On

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Wed Mar 18 10:47:28 PDT 2015

Reading the recent Tweeters thread on "seabirds down?", it did occur to me (and to others), that maybe some of the dearth of seabirds in various locales might be due to shifting locations of fish populations- seabirds (except those mollusk chompers like Goldeneye, Scoters, etc)., go where the fish are. Alas, our oceans are dying the death of a several billion cuts - thanks to billions of knife bearing hominids. Overfished, over polluted, over heated . Less fish to go around. What a downer.
Hey, that don't mean you should just roll over and drop dead. You could enjoy fish watching instead! I know I do.
I should note, in semi-full disclosure (don't give away everything on the internet to people you don't know) I do like to eat fish, and various other forms of marine life. Whether I snare it myself, or buy it doesn't really matter to me - I'm no sportsman. It's the famous Sea Food Diet - I see it, then I eat it. More or less.
However, I also just like watching fish. Been doing it for decades now. I'm no Ichthyologist, but have amassed a pile of interesting fish watching experiences over the years, like Tubesnout sightings. Tubesnouts are cool. I saw my first one back in the seventies, on Samish Island, when I was wading through some eelgrass beds with a garden rake, trying to snare some crabs to eat (got some). Being on a low budget (what else is new), I was doing this without the benefit of a wet suit, or hip waders. Wading waist deep in the eelgrass on a hot summer day, I emerged from the cold sound waters in a state of partial hypothermia - my frozen legs nearly the color of a boiled Dungeness crab.
But in the process, I was introduced to many eelgrass habitat citizens. One was the Tubesnout. A real surprise. This small slender fish ( sort of the shape of a short pointy ended bit of eelgrass) can achieve brilliant colors in the mating season (like it's relative the Stickleback, which I've posted about before.) My first (and only, for years) Tubesnout just happened to be one of these gaudy mating males ; touches of incandescent blue, a bit of orange yellow, and bright green. A real brightly colored fish for these parts. Wow!
I hadn't seen many Tubesnout's over the years, but Port Townsend is a great place to see one - or thousands.I saw a few out wading in my rubber boot at low tide last spring, and in November, saw fair number around the pier at the Marine Science Center at Fort Worden. But then...
About a week ago I was down at the pier again, to see what I could see, and hit the Tubesnout jackpot: thousands and thousands of Tubesnout's in extremely dense schools. "Packed like Sardine's", as the saying goes, but as I saw , you can pack a lot more skinny Tubesnout's in a cubic foot of water, than a Sardine. These were all full-grown Tubesnout's - about 7 inches long, and appearing dull green from above.
The movement of these incredibly dense schools - right near the floating dock - was an enchanting sight: it looked like a flowing bed of eel-grass, flowing around the pier posts, and the dock in ever changing patterns, like a braided creek of Tubesnout's, a Tubesnout flow, whatever. It was just the coolest thing ever! At least on that day.
Maybe watching fish, you could see a "murmuration" of Herring - a big dense ball flashing light, then dark, like a fishy version of Dunlin. That's a cool thing to see, and there are plenty of Herring here at the PTMSC dock in spring and summer - at least there were last year. Fish watching - you might wanna try it. If you don't like getting wet, close-focusing binoculars are a big help.
The Marine Science Center aquariums open up again in April (friday saturday and sunday only) - last year they had Tubesnout's, and other cool things.
Jeff Gibsongone fishy, inPort Townsend Wa

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