Category Archives: Fish

Strasburg’s Blenny

A Strasburgs Blenny peers from its home
A Strasburgs Blenny rests in the waters off Hawaii

Yes, there is a fish in each of these photos! The endemic Strasburg’s Blenny is less than two inches long and is easily overlooked. It tends to move about in short, sharp bursts, blends in well when it settles, and is almost undetectable when it backs into its hole. That’s where the blenny is in the top photo.

In the second photo, it’s lying out in the open, but blending in rather well. Can you spot it?

Blue Goatfishes

Blue Goatfishes hunt in the waters off Hawaii

This is a scene I like to refer to as ‘gang activity.’ Blue Goatfishes are predators and hunt in packs, often in the company of other fish, such as Bluefin Trevallies and Pacific Trumpetfishes, as well as eels and octopuses.

The fish on the left is showing its barbels, which are used to ‘sense’ prey and also can be poked into tight spots to flush out prey.

Yellow Tangs

Yellow tangs swim in the waters off Hawaii
Yellow tangs swim in the waters off Hawaii

Yellow Tangs are about the most easily identified reef fish. They’re easily spotted from shore, puttering about in the shallows in large schools. In the water, their bright yellow color stands out even in murky water.

These fish are almost entirely yellow except for the white scalpel at the base of the tail. One or the other of these sharp spines can be flicked out and can inflict a serious cut on the unwary. When they spar with each other, they go round in circles trying to keep the exposed scalpel of the other fish away from them while trying to maneuver their own into a dangerous position.

Yellow tangs are a prime target of the aquarium fish industry. They don’t breed in captivity so every yellow tang in an aquarium is one taken from the wild. While these fish can been found around the Pacific, Hawaii is where they are most numerous and where most of these yellow tangs are taken. There have been a few bans on the trade in some places, affording some respite from the steady decline in numbers. Alas, our elected representatives have yet to exhibit enough backbone to impose a ban that is permanent and significant enough to allow fish stocks to truly rebound.

Yellow tangs swim in the waters off Hawaii

Right time, right place

A manta ray swims in the waters off Hawaii

A couple of days ago, my wife and I arrived at our usual snorkeling spot and, when we got out of the car, she spotted fins in the water. Fins generally belong to dolphins, sharks or rays. Each has a different look and these had the look of manta ray wingtips. We could see that there were at least two mantas in the bay. Sometimes, especially with dolphins, the fins will be on the move as the bearers move along the coast. These mantas did not seem in a hurry to go anywhere, but were just puttering around the bay. We hustled down to the water and swam off in the general direction of where we’d seen activity.

A manta ray swims in the waters off Hawaii

We were swimming along when I saw the first manta heading towards me. I stopped and started taking photos. It came fairly close before veering away and heading back the way it came. Then it turned, came back past us and continued on its way.

A manta ray swims in the waters off Hawaii

When it became clear it wasn’t coming back we continued on our way. A little farther along we saw the second manta. It was doing barrel rolls and then came our way. Again, we stopped and watched. This one was more curious, passing by quite close and then looping around several times. Sometimes it went a fair distance away and we’d pop up and follow its progress when it was close to the surface.

Eventually, it seemed to head off in the general direction of the other manta. We lost track of it and popped up in the water to decide what to do next. When I ducked under the water again and turned around I saw the manta again. It made a couple more passes before heading out towards deeper water.

A manta ray swims in the waters off Hawaii

Undulated Moray Eel

An undulated eel with other fish
An undulated eel in the waters off Hawaii

I saw this Undulated Moray Eel out in the open recently and, rather than dart for shelter, it remained where it was opening and closing its jaws. While this looks threatening, it’s typical of most eels, the purpose being to push water over its gills, the equivalent of breathing. However, that’s not to say it’s a good idea to dive down and interact with the eel.

My fish book describes the Undulated Moray Eel as “one of the nastiest.” Its narrow jaws hold three rows of teeth, one running down the middle of its mouth. It’s usual prey includes small fish, but this eel was accompanied by a changing group of fish, and neither seemed too bothered about the other.

In Hawaii, this eel is often called the chainlink eel, for obvious reasons.

An undulated eel in the waters off Hawaii