Photograph Giant Sea Bass

In the year 2000, I had the good fortune to make over 25 dives with one of the largest fish found off our Southern California coast, the giant sea bass. This wouldn’t have been much to write about 40 years ago, but today, after years of overfishing by commercial and private fishermen, and being a much sought-after trophy by many spearfishers, the number of these gentle giants has dropped dramatically. However, since a moratorium on landing these fish has been in place, this species has […]

Playing with Garibaldi

When I have guests over to the house I often find myself showing off my dumb dog George and the few silly tricks I have managed to teach him. On command he will sit up, come, stay, roll over, dance on his hind legs, and even speak. Did you know you can get a garibaldi to stand on its nose? How would you like to get one to “speak” to you? A bit more coercion and they will freeze and be a perfect model for […]


Fish have basically two personality types—those that flit around the reef in a nervous, almost psychotic fashion; and those who are calm, relaxed, and confident. In California waters one of the most relaxed and approachable fish you will encounter is the lingcod. Biologists place lingcod into the Class Actinopterygii, the ray-finned fishes. These are called ray-finned because their fins are webs of skin supported by bony spines (“rays”), as opposed to the fleshy, lobed fins that characterize the class Sarcopterygii. They are further classified into […]

Arrow Gobies – Little Fishes That Dart All Around

One of the harshest environments anywhere is the intertidal zone. Practically nowhere else on earth is so regularly exposed to such a variety of extreme conditions within such a short period of time. Just think of how it must be for tiny animals to be comfortably basking in cool, clean sea water, then just a few hours later, be stuck practically high and dry in a small tidepool. If it is a bright, sunny day, the water will begin to evaporate, raising both the temperature […]

How to Photograph Blue-Banded Gobies

California underwater photographers are always looking for bright colors to shoot against the muted greens, blues, grays, and browns of the reef and water. The striking contrasts make for excellent images. In Southern California waters one of the most brightly colored fish is the blue-banded goby (sometimes called the Catalina goby because it is so prolific at Catalina Island). These small fish (1 to 2.5″ in length) dot rocky reefs in 20 to 80 feet of water. They are brightly colored reddish-orange with neon blue […]

Hagfishes – Repulsively Fascinating

“The most repulsive creature around!” Such is the typical reaction of people when they first encounter a hagfish. But, really, such an extremely negative opinion is not at all justified. Not only are there plenty of other repulsive animals to choose from (how about, for example, a blood-bloated tick?), but hagfishes actually have many redeeming and fascinating features. Nevertheless, it must be admitted that hagfishes are often considered to be the “lowest of the low” as far as fishes are concerned. If sharks and rays, […]

Fish Eating Anemones

One of the most conspicuous inhabitants of California’s middle and deep reefs is the fish-eating anemone. This striking anemone has a bright red column with long white (although sometimes red) tentacles, and a yellow to off-white, to golden oral disk with red striations. These colorful invertebrates are very photogenic and can be easily identified. They are found from Alaska to San Diego, on rocky outcroppings or walls from the low intertidal down to about 160 feet. Fish-eating anemones are rather large and can be over […]

Scythe Butterflyfish Not A ‘Tropical’ Species

I enjoyed Ken Kurtis’ recent article on Crane Point at the Empire Landing Quarry. This area of Catalina is one of my favorite local dive sites. As Ken mentioned, one of the highlights of this site is the scythe butterflyfish. They’ve been seen in Catalina waters for decades, and as Ken said, most likely dispersed from their usual tropical distribution during an early El Niño. Unlike many tropical fish that enter our waters during such events, the scythe butterflyfish is not really a warm water […]

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