Monday, May 26, 2008

Gone Fishing Part 1!

Good day everyone. Today I like to talk about a fishing /crabbing trip that I took when I was still back in the US. Fishing is my true passion, then comes corals. Before I went into the fish business, I was contemplating on commercial fishing. This way I can do what I truly liked and make a living at the same time. After some research though, the prospects didn't look good. I decided to go into the aquarium business and then go fishing afterwards. So whenever I get a chance, I take my dog Joyluck and head to the beach!

My favorite spot on the California coast is a lighthouse called "Pigeon Point". It is about an hour south of San Francisco off of highway 1. On certain days of the month, tides are low enough to access this rocky shoreline. I have a favorite fishing hole here and I've been coming out to this spot ever since I was a little kid. I guess this is where I got my early start in aquarium keeping.

So me, my wife, Joyluck, and a friend Loren, got up at five in the morning to head to the beach. The minus low tides are usually in the early morning and it took us two hours to get there from where I live in Dublin. We did take a small breakfast stop at Mickey D's too. We arrived at Pigeon Point Lighthouse around seven am and the tide was way out already. Joyluck was jumping up and down in the car, anxious to get out and run around in the sand. It has been a long time since I've taken Joy out to the beach. But she knew the area right away! We had to get out there fast as I knew the tide would turn soon!

We parked near a telephone pole and there was this big sign warning not to eat mussels and clams. During the summer months, a natural phenomenon call "red tide" occurs around the coast of California. These signs are posted everywhere along the coast. Basically an "algae bloom" occurs in the warm months off the coast. Filter feeders like mussels and clams feed on this phytoplankton. The bivalves that feed on this toxic algae, become poisonous themselves. People can die from eating such infected specimens. The mussels and clams eventually get rid of the toxins when the algae bloom stops. Usually in the winter months, it is safe to eat the bivalves. For more info, you can check out this link.

A view of the shoreline from the road that we parked. The rocks that are sticking out is where we want to be!

And here we are getting ready to walk down to the beach. Notice I have waders on. This comes in handy when I have to walk through tidepools looking for crabs.

Down on the beach, the first thing we noticed is the beautiful iceplants. On the other side of the hill, is where we parked.

A closeup of the iceplants. The ones here in Bali are much smaller and thinner on the green branches. But the flowers are just as beautiful!

Down on the beach, my dog is happy as she can be! First thing she does is to run around in circles, pretty funny to watch.

As we kept walking, the sand stops and the rocks dominate the shoreline. My adrenaline was pumping as I haven't been out here in years. Before I started going overseas, I used to come out here all the time.

Huge patches of seagrass exposed at the upper tide level.Some big rocks at the upper tide level. At first no growth to look at.

But a few yards in, mussels and barnacles! This is where the water reaches the shore furthest during high tides. Hm, I wonder how much toxin is in those mussels?

A little closer down the shoreline to the water and we can see all these little sea anemones closed up. They are lucky today, as it is overcast and the clouds are blocking the sun. But either way, they have plenty of moisture to keep them wet until the tide comes back in.

Three huge anemones! Look at the size difference between these monsters and the smaller ones. One of them is half way in the small tidepool.

Back in the early days of fish keeping. I managed to dig an anemone up from a sand bottom and take it home to put in my 10 gallon saltwater tank. It lived for three days. I was twelve years old!

Some old abalone shells. These used to be common years ago but now only a few remain. Those few that do remain, are always in danger of poachers. They cannot be taken along the California coast, except in Northern California. There is a strict quota limit and a short season. Fish and Game officers strictly monitor the activities and even set up road blocks to search every vehicle for over the limit or licensing problems. There are three main species of the abalone on the Pacific coast. These are the black (small), the green (medium) and the red (large). The large red Haliotis rufus are huge, sometimes measuring 12 inches across. The Asian restaurants will pay big dollars for these. A large one can go for $100 a piece! So poaching (illegal take) is a big problem. Fish and Game officers usually patrol these rocky areas during very low tides for poachers. I've been approached by them while fishing on the rocks many times! I didn't even see them coming. Or sometimes they just wait by the cars for the fishermen to return. Once I had my whole truck searched in and out! I guess that is one of the good things about the US, everything is monitored and enforced.

Some common black turban snails. I also tried keeping these in my early years. They did better than the anemone. I think they might be able to acclimate to warmer water if the process was long enough.

The first crab of the day! And Joyluck found it crawling around the rocks!
It was a small one and I let her play with it.

The coldwater anemones can get very beautiful too! Under some actinics, this anemone would probably glow!!

A porcelain crab hiding among the seaweed. One of my customers/friends is a super expert on these unique crabs. He has a doctorate in Marine Biology and his specialty is the porcelain crab. His name is Jonathan Stillman and he even gave a talk at my shop to the local reef club, BARE. He is a passionate reefer and a good guy all around. Once he joked to me, "hey Eddie, do you want to apply for the head position at Steinhart Aquarium with me? They are looking for someone who is a scientist and a practical fish keeper at the same time. I'm the scientist and you can be the practical fish guy." Ha! ha!, it was pretty funny. Jonathan runs a research lab in Tiburon California. You can check out this link to his lab.

A common chiton. I was looking for the giant gumboot chiton that has the "butterfly shells" on it's back, but couldn't find one.

A crab hiding out in a tidepool. He was the first one to go into my bucket. There are two main red crab species that live here. This one is the Cancer productus, the bigger of the two species. The real big Dungeness crab that is famous at Fishermen's Wharf in SF lives out in the ocean sand bed and are not found on the shores. Juveniles however use the SF bay as a nursery ground, and they are protected and illegal to take inside the bay. The red crabs have no season and can be taken all year long, unlike the Dungeness crab which has a season. Both crab species have a minimum size limit and no females of the Dungeness crab can be taken.

A sun star! This slimy soft starfish can move extremely fast! The number of arms on this starfish seems to vary. Once I found one with 21 arms!

An underside view revealing it's tube feet. No wonder it moves so fast, look at all the tube feet on each arm!

Now let's have a look at some more corals!

This Acanthastrea rotundoflora was pretty beat up when I left for the US. It has healed nicely and even the green rim is starting to show, typical of this coral under artificial lighting.

A cute little wild colony of an Acropora millepora. This one is pink with green polyps!

An aquacultured piece of the "ultimate stag". This coral looks so beautiful when it is in the water. I remember seeing it underwater with snorkels at the Turtle Island aquaculture farm.

A large branch of a tabling Acropora loripes. It is common here, but still nice!

A large colony of Acropora tenuis. The thin branches and the stunted growth form tells me that this piece was found in deeper water!

A large killer colony of another millepora! Notice the whitish new growth tips on the edges. You can clearly see the green highlights inside too!

Another deep water tabling acropora. This one is duper dark green. It would glow under halides for sure!

Check out this large piece of Acropora granulosa. If I could, I would cut all the purple tips off and then put it back in the sea for new colored tips!

Bali aquacultured tenuis! Always color up and easy to keep. Even small pieces like this are fragged into many branches in the US. Patient reefers don't mind to wait for years to reach a certain size.

Another Bali aquaculture! This one is an aboltanoides. It literally has three colors, green, purple, and pink! Killer piece that would do well under halides.

Another nice piece of Montipora confusa! I'm sure the purple rim would turn very purple under some halides.

Acropora samoensis. Again the ones from Fiji and Tonga are difficult to keep it's color. But this Indo Pacific piece should do just fine. It actually has better colors than what the picture shows, but need lots of light. This and the humilis species are normally found at the crest of the reefs. Sometimes they are even exposed at low tides!

A bad picture of a very nice coral. This is a wild colony of an Acropora horrida. It is light purple with real bushy white polyps.

Another killer piece of an acropora! This one broke off of a main piece somewhere in the reef. It looks like the edges had been broken off before and it regrew back. Nice raspberry tips!


Well I hope you enjoyed the first part of my fishing trip. Part 2 will have my favorite fishing hole and what we caught! Of course as usual, I will post more pictures of corals at the end too.


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