Join me in the cold, dark, life-sustaining NE Pacific Ocean to discover the great beauty, mystery and fragility hidden there.

Posts from the ‘Lingcod’ category

Five Fish

Five fish. One Dive.

Here are just five fabulous fish faces from my dive on July 12. These are just the fish who tolerated my taking photos. I am sharing with you to add to the sense of biodiversity hidden in these waters.

Also, I really value what I feel is mirrored back from these fish . . . the “What the hell are YOU and what are you doing here?” It’s good to feel like a visitor in others’ habitat rather than than a human at the epicentre of the universe. It’s below the waves, with the fish, that I best know my place and where I best feel humility. I also feel apology, not just for the disturbance of taking photos but as an ambassador for my species.

Sometimes I think as I look at the life below the surface “I’m trying. Please know, I’m trying”.

Thank you for caring and for trying too.

[Please note that I did not realize when compiling these photos that I have a blog on every species represented here. I suggest that the most insight would be gained from reading this blog first and then accessing the further links I provide here showing video, etc.]


Fish #1
Male Kelp Greenling with a Striped Sunflower Star to his right.

 

This species seems to so often be chasing one another and they have extraordinary courtship where the males change colour. Males will guard the fertilized eggs.

Video of the courtship is in my blog “Kelp Greenling Colour and Courtship” at this link.

Photo above is another perspective on the same fish. Note that the bright orange life you see here are animals, not plants. They are Orange Hydroids. The soft coral beside the Kelp Greenling’s head is Red Soft Coral.


Fish #2
Quillback Rockfish

Quillbacks, like so many of BC’s 34 rockfish species, have been over-exploited.

Rockfish are slow to mature, and are very localized in where they live. Therefore, they are particularly vulnerable to overfishing.

As divers, we’ve seen how Rockfish Conservation Areas can make a real difference for the number, diversity and size of rockfish.

There is no egg-guarding in this species because the young develop inside the females and are born into the water i.e. they are viviparous.

Please see my previous blog “Rockfish Barotrauma” at this link on the importance of Rockfish Conservation Areas and also on how to reverse what happens to rockfish when they are brought up from depth i.e. how to easily reverse barotrauma.

Quillback Rockfish = Sebastes maliger to 61 cm.


Fish Face #3
Lingcod

Lingcod males also guard the fertilized eggs. They are extraordinary large masses that look like Styrofoam. We survey for the egg masses each year to get a sense of potential recovery since this species was overexploited. It’s believed the same males guard eggs in the same spot year upon year. This again helps understanding of how many fish have homes whereby fishing intensely in one area can lead easily to overexploitation. My blog “Fastidious, Fanged Fathers” at this link shows the egg masses with information on Ocean Wise’s Lingcod Egg Mass Survey. 

Lingcod = Ophiodon elongatus, females larger, to 1.5 m.


Fish Face #4
Buffalo Sculpin

Yes, this is a fish, not a rock with eyes.

There is so little understanding about how species like this can change their colour as they do.

It won’t surprise you that the most research is done on “commercially important” species with regards to stock management. Males also guard the fertilized eggs in this species.  See my blog “Buffalos Mating Underwater” at this link for photos showing the diversity of colour / camouflage and for photos of the eggs.

Buffalo Sculpin = Enophrys bison to 37 cm long.


Fish #5
Red Irish Lord

 

I must have disturbed this Red Irish Lord with my bubbles for him/ her to be easily visible like this. They are usually fully camouflaged.

Note the shell the Red Irish Lord is on. This is a Giant Rock Scallop whose shell has been drilled into by Boring Sponge. Astounding isn’t it to think that Giant Rock Scallops (Crassadoma gigantea to 25 cm across) start off as plankton; are free-swimming to ~2.5 cm; and then attach to the bottom with their right side and can grow to 25 cm. They may live as long as 50 years but there have been problems with human over-harvesting.

Red Irish Lord parents take turns caring for their fertilized eggs (Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus; up to 51 cm).

Please see my blog “In the Eye of the Lord – the Red Irish Lord That Is” at this link. 

Lingcod = Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus, to 51 cm long. 

And the final photo and thoughts for you dear reader:

Same Red Irish Lord as in the photo above.

 

Under the canopy, beams of light shimmering through as they would in a forest of trees, bringing energy to the algae which feed the depths. This is all at only 5m depth. This is life you could imagine when you close your eyes and think of the dark sea off our coast. This is the world where Humpbacks feed, where families of Orca follow the same lineages of Chinook Salmon generation after generation, where species exist without our knowledge let alone our respect. This is their world. This is the world to which all life on earth is connected.

Five fish. One dive. A world connected.

Lingcod – Fastidious, Fanged Fathers!

Every year, our local dive club does several dives for Ocean Wise’s lingcod egg mass survey from around the end of January to March 10th.

Lingcod male guarding eggs

Lingcod male guarding an egg mass (generally – the larger the egg mass, the older the female that laid it). Photo: ©Jackie Hildering.

The survey is the result of concerns about the overfishing of this fish species and is conducted just after the spawn (January to February) when females leave the males to guard the egg masses from predation by species like sea stars. There are very few deadbeat dads in this species!

The data collected provide insight into the abundance and reproductive success of Lingcod in British Columbia and include: depth of the egg masses; their size (grapefruit, cantaloupe or watermelon sized); if the eggs are being guarded by a male; and their state of development (new, eyed or rotten). We are very fortunate that our area appears to have relatively abundant and large egg masses. At the end of this blog, you’ll find my 2.5 minute slide show of their life history. 

 

Male Lingcod with my buddy with her slate, having just recorded depth, size and condition of the egg mass. Buddy is Natasha Dickinson. ©Jackie Hildering.

 

But let me first take you on a wee retrospective journey.  

My understanding of the behaviour of these magnificent fish has now evolved  to where I now take photos of the extremely territorial males guarding their large orbs of fertilized eggs, but it certainly wasn’t always that way for me. The following is a much exaggerated perspective from when I was a very new diver doing their first Lingcod egg mass survey.

In 1999, I had only ever done 14 dives and had never even seen a Lingcod while diving. So, in preparation for the survey, I consulted my trusty field guide and felt well-prepared knowing the information below:

Lingcod male guarding egg mass (lower right). ©2015 Jackie Hildering

Lingcod male guarding egg mass (lower right). ©Jackie Hildering.

 

LINGCOD (Ophiodon elongatus)

  • Size: To 1.5 m and 37 kg.
  • Description: Large head, mouth and teeth; dark blotches on a slender, tapering, mottled body.
  • Habitat: Adults on rocky reefs and in kelp beds to 2,000 m; juveniles on sand and mud bottom.

However, nothing could have truly prepared me for meeting the awe-inspiring and highly dedicated Lingcod Fathers for Future Generations Club.

Serious teeth. ©2012 Jackie Hildering.

Serious teeth. ©Jackie Hildering.

That first experience with the survey in 1999 led me to writing the following tongue-in-cheek “updated” field guide information in my dive log.

LINGCOD (Megadontos fishious)

      • Size: &%$#@ huge!!!!!
      • Description: Teeth sharp, large and fear inducing; species camouflaged for added surprise value; ability to make themselves appear even larger and more menacing by fanning out huge gill plates (opercula). Note: Wise for divers to retreat if this behaviour is observed.
      • Habitat: Adult males found anywhere that groups of dive slate carrying divers like to congregate.
      • Comment: Egg masses are said to have eyes at some stage of their development but no living diver can confirm that this is the case!

This is an awe-inspiring fish species indeed. I have even had a male knock my dive slate out of my hands during a survey. Ironically, I was recording “absent” under the column for whether a male was guarding the egg mass!

Huge egg mass and male Lingcod with battle wounds. It is so meaningful to me that we are likely often documenting the same males year upon year. The males apparently court, mate and guard near the same rocks every year.  ©Jackie Hildering.

 

Huge female Lingcod. After age ~4, females grow twice as fast as males. By age 10 to 12, they are twice the size of males of the same age. Bigger females lay larger egg masses – up to 500,000 eggs! More on the life history in my slide show below. ©Jackie Hildering.

Note that the common name of Lingcod is confusing as they are not a cod nor a ling (another fish species).

For detailed information on the survey, survey reports and on the biology of Lingcod click here for the Ocean Wise webpage. 

Okay, maybe not looking so serious here. :) ©2012 Jackie Hildering.

Okay, maybe not looking so serious here. 🙂 ©Jackie Hildering.

 

Guarding egg mass. ©Jackie Hildering.

 

So much to protect. ©Jackie Hildering.