The California State Fish is the Golden Trout. Its beauty is equivalent to its name.
As any avid trout fisherman will tell you, this game fish, living only in the high-altitudes of the Sierra Nevada, is a coveted quarry. But it is also unusual if not rare.
Not so rare is the California State Marine Fish, the Garibaldi. In Southern California, it is unusual to NOT find one or more over rocky reefs and in kelp forests. They seem to be everywhere and usually in your face. Their copious quantity and bold nature is owed to a number of factors. First, they have been protected for 40 years when divers (mostly committed spearfishers back then) recognized that given the garibaldi’s boldness and bright color they would have been spearfished out of existence in just a few short years. Thus began probably the first marine protected species in California waters and to say it has been a success is an understatement.
Bright orange against the blue and/or green background of our waters and our kelp can make striking photos. And because their behavior is generally predictable and easily manipulated, they make for excellent photography for the beginner.
For a long while I turned away from this camera quarry in favor of more challenging subjects. Too easy, I thought. Then on a recent dive, when not much else was showing up, I turned my camera once again toward these fish with an attitude. And I enjoyed their show once again.
My camera rediscovered textures in their scales, the silver of their eyes and the challenges of getting the right exposure on their bright bodies.
And then there is of course their predictable but fascinating behaviors. They nest in a farmed patch or red algae that, after the eggs are laid and fertilized, the male guards voraciously. Watch how they keep the nest clear of any debris. Observe also the way they confront intruders, including animals much larger than themselves like divers. They will even bite the hands of divers. Listen as they pop their throats in confrontation of other fish and even divers. To draw them in even closer, rub or bang some rocks together. Or wear and orange glove, flip it around like another garibaldi, and they will come in very close.
They are the fish that first delighted my sons when snorkeling as children. The garibaldi are the first marine animal that I imparted to memory their scientific name (Hypsypops rubicundus) and also taught it to my boys (I think they can still recite it). Some of my first underwater photos were of garibaldi and I likely have more garibaldi shots than any other California subject.
Thank you Garibaldi for many years of delightful California underwater fun. And thank you for many more to come.