The Blackstripe Coris is known as Hilu in Hawaii. According to legend, two gods who were brothers appeared as Hilus. One got caught and ended up on a grill, but the other took human form, rescued his brother, and returned him to the ocean. However, the stripes from the grill remained and can still be seen on the Hilu to this day.
I was snorkeling recently when I saw this Dwarf Moray Eel hunting with a small Saddle Wrasse. It promptly disappeared under a rock and I didn’t expect to see it again. But I was in no hurry, so moved away a bit and kept watch. After a while the eel poked its head out, hesitated, then swam out.
I snapped these two photos, the first as it emerged and the second as it disappeared again. I like how, in the top photo, the eel oozes out of a hole no bigger around than it is, which is less than an inch! These small eels typically are less than a foot long.
I was photographing this school of Convict Tangs when I saw this initial phase Surge Wrasse swimming in the opposite direction. This is not a fish I see too often and it’s one which my fish book describes as ‘one of the most difficult Hawaiian fish to photograph.’ I think this is because of its scarcity and it’s tendency to spend a lot of its time close to shore in shallow, surging water.
While this isn’t the greatest photo, I liked how the very small inhabitants of this rocky area were all looking at me at the same time. At the top is a juvenile wrasse, probably a Saddle Wrasse, though the Bird Wrasse is somewhat similar. The middle two are Bright-eye Damselfishes, and at the bottom is an Hawaiian Whitespotted Toby, the giant of the group at about 3 inches long.
I saw this Fivestripe Wrasse just before I got out of the water recently. This one seemed a little redder than the ones I usually see, which have magenta markings, though I don’t see them that often as they’re not especially common.
Belted Wrasses are endemic to Hawaii. This one is a supermale, and while it’s not the greatest photo, I like how the light illuminates its bright colors with the vibrant blue lines particularly emphasized.
Incidentally, I’ve decided to start capitalizing the creatures named in the blog. I think it helps when proper names contain words that can be mistaken for descriptions. Now all I have to do is remember this decision!
Saddle wrasses are one of those fish where the juvenile looks nothing like the adult. The top photo shows an adult supermale. The second one shows the very different look of a juvenile. These differences are one of the challenges of identifying fish. My fish book offers a wide variety of photos, but it can require careful attention to identify what I’ve captured with my camera.
The easiest way to spot an octopus is to see it swimming (top photo). They’re not large creatures but they’re quite distinctive when they swim.
If they’re not swimming, one thing to look for is certain fish, such as goatfishes and jacks, just hanging around in a spot for no apparent reason. When these fish are hunting alone, they tend to be more active in probing the rocks and trying to disturb prey. But when they’re hunting with an octopus, they seem more content to let the octopus do the work and snapping up whatever emerges. I’ve found that goatfishes are particularly helpful as an octopus indicator.
A while back, there were videos online of an octopus apparently punching a goatfish. I wasn’t surprised by this. The octopuses I’ve seen don’t seem best pleased by the presence of goatfishes. Part of this might be down to feeling that the goatfishes are not pulling their weight in the hunt. But another factor might be that if goatfishes give away their position, for the octopus that can be fatal.
Octopus is a popular food in Hawaii and has long been so. If I’ve learned to look for goatfish as an indicator of their presence, then no doubt spear fishermen have too. These days, if I see an octopus when anyone’s spear fishing nearby, I don’t do anything to draw attention to it.