Sep 14, 2015

To 100 and Beyond!

     Several months ago I got it in my head that I was going to go tuna fishing on the Oregon coast. I had done it once before, and it was easily in my top 5 fishing trips ever (See this post for details). So I called a few of my buddies and between our busy schedules we settled on one Saturday that would work for all of us. I knew it was unwise to not have a backup date in case of inclement weather, but that's what worked, so that was our plan. Anyway, long story short, the forecast for this particular Saturday ended up being 30 knot winds and 15 foot seas, not exactly conditions you'd want to motor offshore 40 miles in. So the trip was off.
      I considered my options, and that they boiled down to two: cry into my beard all weekend, or go fishing anyway. I of course chose the latter and quickly came up with a plan B. I would drive to the Washington coast and hit up some long overdue saltwater species, and sprinkle in a little pink salmon fishing somewhere in the Puget Sound area. So on Thursday afternoon I hit the road.
This bruiser along the way was kind enough to pose for a couple pictures before chasing after his girlfriends.
     Friday morning I made my way out onto the jetty in the town of Westport with one thing on my mind: surfperch. Most of them would be new species, and I was two away from reaching 100 species on my list, so hopes were high!
I don't know who Erick or Eddie are, but if it was safe enough for them, that was good enough for me!
The Westport Jetty
That little black dot in the water is a harbor porpoise (or maybe just a little black dot...). A big one and a baby kept swimming back and forth in front of me. Probably eating my fish. No fair. Fun to watch though.
     On one of my first casts into the surf I realized that there was nothing to be nervous about, as I brought in two small redtail surfperch (species 99) on the same cast!
Redtail Surfperch
I've since stared long and hard at this particular picture trying to turn this small redtail surfperch into a calico or even a lost barred surfperch, but I don't think it is to be. I think his spiny dorsal is just laid down in the picture, making it look shorter than it actually is... But this is nothing to loose sleep over. Right??
     Over the next few hours, I probably caught 30 more perch. Among them were some really nice redtails:
Redtail Surfperch
THIS is a redtail Surfperch. Disregard the baby in the last picture...
          But I was much more excited about this little guy:
Spotfin Surfperch
Spotfin Surfperch!
     I had to look it up to be sure, but it was a spotfin surfperch! And more importantly, number 100 on my species list! Many of my friends thought that 100 was my goal... silly friends... On we go to 200! Then 300... 
If you're really curious, (I won't be offended if you're not...) click here for the full current list of all my species and subspecies.
Silver Surfperch
Silver surfperch. Species 101!
Pile Surfperch
Pile Surfperch. Species 102!
     Somewhere along the way I made friends with this gang of strange cats:
Is it bad when they rear up an hiss?
     In the afternoon I fished off of the pier in the harbor and was greeted by a variety of species, some old, some new.
Shiner Surfperch
I broke out the micro-gear to see what these tiny fish were under the docks. They turned out to be just more shiner surfperch.
Pacific Staghorn Sculpin
Here's a pacific staghorn sculpin. These are like the bluegill of the pacific coast. They're everywhere. To the point of being annoying...
Pile Surfperch
Sight fishing for these big pile perch was one of my favorites of the day. This one was my biggest.
White Surfperch
White surfperch. Species 103!
White Surfperch
     I was hoping for a sanddab or a starry flounder, so I began casting into some promising looking sandy bottom, and proceeded to catch about 4,000 pacific staghorn sculpin and exactly 0 flat fish. Did I mention that the staghorns are annoying? 
     I did manage one last species just before it got dark though. And it ended up being my favorite fish of the trip. It was obviously a sculpin, but I had never seen one that had antlers before! It was a buffalo sculpin (so named because of it's "horns"), and it was one of the coolest fish I've seen. It had horns, huge cheek spikes that it stuck out menacingly, a great big pot belly (even by my standards...), and seemed to have scutes like a sturgeon. Perhaps strangest of all was the fact that the whole time I was holding it, it was vibrating just like a cell phone. No joke! Apparently it's a defense mechanism to help scare off predators. Did I mention that it was cool?! He quickly became probably the most photographed buffalo sculpin in the history of buffalo sculpins, then after his photo shoot, he grumpily vibrated back out to sea.
Buffalo Sculpin
If you're wondering, those are not just for show. They're sharp!

Buffalo SculpinBuffalo SculpinBuffalo Sculpin

Buffalo SculpinBuffalo SculpinBuffalo Sculpin

     I don't know about you guys, but six new species is a GOOD day for this guy!
     The next day, I had grand plans of fishing from the other side of the jetty and catching some some kelp greenling and some coho salmon that were just starting to come in, but the forecast for Saturday ended up actually being an understatement. Mother Nature was officially off her meds again. It was just too windy Saturday morning to fish in Westport, even for me. So I packed up and headed inland to go chase some pink salmon. I had caught pinks before, but didn't have a good picture, so it needed to be done.
     I ended up at the Snohomish River, about a 1/2 hour north of Seattle (depending on traffic...). I'll spare you most of the details, but except for the 60 mph winds that came through in the morning and all the trees that blew down, this picture about sums up the activity on Saturday:
     Sunday was a new day though. The windstorm was gone and it didn't even rain too much. I soon had a few pinks, although they weren't quite as plentiful as I had hoped.
A much more inviting Snohomish River after the storm.
Pink Salmon
Don't ask me why they're called "pink salmon". I think they should be called brown salmon. Pink is probably more appetizing than brown I suppose.
Pink Salmon Skin
Pink Salmon
Pink Salmon
Pink Salmon
     After catching a few pinks and being satisfied that I had gotten some pictures, I packed up and headed home Sunday afternoon. In hindsight I'm pretty glad the tuna trip was canceled given the ridiculous storm that hit on Saturday. Maybe next year I'll get another crack at them. Until then I'll be chipping away at the quest for 200 species!

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