No other fish along our coast has more a predictable behavior that the bright orange garibaldi. And perhaps more important is that no fish has a behavior that can be manipulated as easily as the garibaldi. You can make them come, fetch, stay, heel and more. Just a few simple tricks will have you getting garibaldis to pose and flip for great photos and impress your friends.
Bright orange gloves, about the same color and tone of the the garibaldi themselves, can be found at just about any hardware or garden supply store. The are ordinary garden gloves, but for us divers they are “garibaldi gloves” and key to manipulating behavior.
Find extra large orange gloves that can be worn over your regular dive gloves. Or, if the water is warm enough, you can wear them as your dive gloves. You can wear one or both. You then become like a conductor at an orchestra. Holding your hand in the shape of a fish, fingers together with hand flat, flip your hand around within 10-15 feet of a garibaldi and odds are they’ll come running. To them, this is another fish exhibiting a confrontational behavior. Being territorial and intensely curious the garibaldi will investigate the commotion. For a more confrontational look when the garibaldi comes close, point your fingers down at about 45°. For garibaldi, a head down pose is an aggressive stance. Once you have the garibaldi’s attention you can now move your hand around to position the fish as you wish.
SNAP YOUR FINGERS
When garibaldi are in a confrontational mode, they will often make a popping noise in their throat. You can imitate this by snapping your fingers. The trick works best when the fish is within 10 feet or closer and with your orange gloves but it also works with other gloves.
Garibaldis react with zeal to their own image. This again plays off their intense territoriality. Sometimes they will react to their own image in your mask, but for guaranteed fun, bring down a mirror underwater. For safety and portability purchase a plastic pocket mirror (vary in size from 4″ to 7″) from the camping section of a sporting goods store. These small mirrors will fit in your BCD pocket with little fear of breakage.
Of course there are the old standard practice of breaking open an urchin to create a feeding frenzy. Garibaldi become so focused on eating the urchin guts that you can get quite close. There a number of problems with this practice. First, it kills another animal. Second, it puts a lot of crud in the water, a special problem if your participating in photography. It also attracts every other fish within 30 feet, a problem if you are trying to photograph just garibaldi. And finally, they will exhibit an unnatural feeding frenzy behavior. If you want to attract fish, a better plan would be to rub rocks together. The sound will bring them in.
Another old standard is to find a garibaldi nest and drop in a small object. The male garibaldi protecting the nest will then attack the foreign object and remove it promptly. This may stress the garibaldi and damage the nest. Better yet, if you do this, drop in just a small piece of seaweed. More fun though is to simply bring your face or finger close to the nest and they will attack. An “in-your-face” experience with a garibaldi can be quite fun.