fish

Photographer’s Mantra: Get Close. Get Low. Shoot Up.

Please envision yourself diving along your favorite California reef. The sea is calm, the water clear, and the sun shines bright. Out of the corner of your eye a once-in-a-lifetime subject swims by right in front of your camera. It could be a whale, a shark, or a tiny fish that has never been photographed. You know that if you get the shot it will make the cover of a major magazine, or at least a Facebook post that will get you millions of “likes.” […]

Massive Anchovy School Migrates Off La Jolla

The waters off La Jolla in San Diego were filled with anchovies in early July, as a massive school of the fish migrated near shore, leading to a spectacular sight recorded by researchers from the San Diego-based Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO). The event gained nationwide media attention. According to Scripps, the giant school of California anchovies, also called northern anchovies, Engraulis mordax, formed a dark band off La Jolla, near the Scripps pier, swimming quickly through the area. In an interview with CNN, SIO […]

Rocks, Rainbows, Scorpions: A Playful Look at the Scorpaenidae Family

Paper covers rock. Scissors cut paper. Rock dulls scissors. You know the game, right? In the California fish version, called “Rocks, Rainbows, Scorpions” the rainbow scorpionfish beats its California scorpionfish cousin, but the rockfish beats ’em both with its “magnificence.” Read on to learn why — and to decide if you agree with the rules of this made-up game. The Scorpaenidae family is represented by no less than 56 genera and 421 species, 85 of which can be found off the Pacific Coast. The latter […]

Thornback Rays

I couldn’t believe my luck. I had just reached the bottom at 20 feet and was cruising toward the kelp forest in deeper water when I saw a prehistoric looking creature lounging on the sand. It was light brown, with a distinctive flat, heart shaped head and a long tail. There were three rows of spines on its back. The animal, which reminded me of an armored vehicle, was a thornback.  The creature tolerated having its photo taken for several minutes before moving on. (Yes, […]

Sheephead: The Bold Rogue of the Kelp Forest

When I first came upon a male California sheephead, I thought I had wandered into the neighborhood of the local bully. The adult sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher) are bigger than many fish of the Central and Southern California rocky reefs and kelp forests. With a big, blunt, black head, red mid-section, and black tail he looks at you with alert eyes, a sense of cool detachment and a mouthful of long, crooked teeth. Itʼs not just his appearance that is a bit intimidating, itʼs his attitude. […]

Yellowfin Fringehead

Those with patience and good eyesight are frequently rewarded with glimpses of exceptional beauty. California has many tiny invertebrates and fishes that are difficult to find, even though they are brightly colored and quite common. The yellowfin fringehead may be one of the cutest and hardest to find little fish a California diver will ever encounter. Yellowfin fringeheads have three pairs of massive, multi-branched cirri between and above their eyes. Their “Marty Feldman eyes” can be used to distinguish them from other native fringeheads including […]

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 […]

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