Mar 12, 2022

Bloop Bloop

     The year 2021 kind of ran together in a blur. It wasn't quite as weird as 2020, but definitely still not back to normal pre-pandemic life either. I did manage several trips over to the West side of the state to chase some species both new and old. My ladies accompanied me on a few of them. Beaches were explored, hikes were taken, and perfectly nice sunsets shots were ruthlessly photobombed. 
Driftwood bridge over a small creek near Westport, WA.
Weirdly strait rock formations on the beach.
We were disappointed to find no bears at all in this hollowed out log.
Mushroom-covered logs are always fun.
Two of my favorite people. Crazy that they're both teenagers now.
Shenanigans. I just wanted a nice scenery shot showing the sunset. But nooooo.
On one such excursion, I had my first encounter with a European Green Crab.
While quite colorful, these little crabs are an unwanted invasive species in Washington.

      And of course no childhood is complete without at least one trip to the Olympic Game Farm. My kids didn't believe me when I said we were going to "go get licked by a buffalo", but no lies were told there!

Elk Kisses, 9/10, enthusiastic but a bit sloppy.
Yak kisses, 1/10, this dude was way to into it. Just no.
Bison kisses, 7/10, good enthusiasm but a bison-size tic-tac would have done wonders for this guy.
Bring wet wipes if you go. Bison drool does have a certain unfortunate aroma to it.


      As for the fishing portion of the post: West Coast bottom fishing is one of my all time favorite things to do. I tried out a few different charters and caught mostly the standard stuff, mostly Black Rockfish and Lingcod.

Black Rockfish, by far the most common catch on virtually all bottom fishing trips in Washington and Oregon.
I got a photo upgrade for Brown Rockfish with this decent sized specimen. I've caught many of these, but almost all of them have been juveniles.
Quilback Rockfish. Another photo upgrade.


      One technique I've always wanted to try was catching flatfish then using them for Lingcod bait. On a trip in April out of Westport, I got to try it. We motored out to the fishing grounds and first started fishing for the bait. Being a species guy, this was just as fun for me as the "actual" fishing.

Most of the "bait" we pulled up were Pacific Sanddabs like this one. Not a new one, but definitely a photo upgrade here.
I also pulled up a few of these. Butter Sole, species 138!

      Once we had enough flatfish for everyone to use, we hooked them up and held on tight. The Lingcod (my all time favorite species) were large and cooperative.

The coolest fish out there if you ask me.

     At this point in the blog, I should introduce my friend Bret. He's another species hunting guy who lives near the Puget Sound, so we fish for a lot of the same stuff. We've compared notes a few times and shared spots and tips for a few species. Go check out Bret's YouTube channel "Peeling Line". He's got cool stuff on there. Bret will be making appearances in a few upcoming blog posts, so you two faithful readers, stay tuned!

     Anyway, Bret gave me a particularly exciting hot tip in May about a Tubesnout spot in the Seattle area. If you're not a species hunter, I'm sure I just lost you there when I said hot tip and Tubesnout in the same sentence; but if you're still reading, you're my kind of people! These tiny fish with even tinier mouths are not particularly hard to find at many of the piers in Puget Sound, but I had not been able to trick one into biting, despite numerous attempts. So when he posted a picture of one he had actually caught, I was definitely intrigued. After getting the details and some tips, I realized I was pretty time-limited that weekend, and only had one day free. I didn't want to miss out on the "hot bite" though so it would have to be a looong day trip. Four hours in the car each way makes for a long day even if you don't stop to fish much. I won't pretend there was some epic battle, or that I had trouble harpooning the beast and hauling it over the rail. Basically I spent most of the morning not catching anything, then on one of the last casts before I had to leave, I reeled in a fish I didn't realize was on the line. Luckily, this totally counts! Definitely worth the 8+ hrs in the car that day for a cool new species.

Species 139! Tiny yes, but this was actually one of my favorite catches of the year. They look just like stretched out stickleback.
I mean, just look at that smile.
The front view of the beast. I promise there's a fish there.

      On another weekend, Mrs Bryanlikestofish and I had to go back to Seattle to pick up our kids from the airport on their way back from their extended stay with grandparents in Ohio. There was an afternoon free to fish, so I met Bret at a spot where I hoped to catch more Starry Flounder (see this post for my first Starry Flounder). He had caught both right eye and left eye specimens, so I wanted to do the same. And sure enough, it didn't take long this time to catch several examples of both kinds. My daughter astutely pointed out that this is not unlike catching the Alolan version of a pokemon. She's not wrong. Gotta catch em all!

Puget Sound is fun because it contains a population of both left eyed (top) and right eyed (bottom) Starry Flounder. The distinction is based on the side of their face where their eyes are positioned. Most species of flatfish are either right or left eyed, but not usually both.

      The trip was going pretty well up till this point. Fish were caught and the weather was nice. But things were about to take a turn for the worse, hard. I'm a pretty curious fellow, so I like to try and get a closer look at interesting things in the water when I can. On the end of the pier, there were quite a few tubeworms and various kinds of seaweed etc. visible just below the surface. So I bent over to check it out. A perfectly normal thing to do right? What I failed to take into account (see also: dumbest thing I've ever done) was the fact that I was wearing a t-shirt with a breast pocket, and in that breast pocket were my AirPods and (more importantly) the key fob to my car.

     Just as I spotted a particularly interesting anemone, I apparently bent just a hair too far over, and I heard the most ominous "bloop, bloop" sound I have ever heard. I of course immediately spotted the cause of the sound, and went strait to a 10 on the "oh crap" scale. If anyone is wondering if AirPods or key fobs float at all, I'm here to tell you that they do not. They both sink, quickly and without hesitation. They had both simultaneously fallen out of my pocket and had gone very quickly to the bottom of Puget Sound.

      For the first two seconds, I was just mad because both items were not cheap to replace. But as the third second ticked by, my stomach sank and it dawned on me that I was very much stuck here. After some choice expletives and rapidly trying to figure out how I would even be able to get my car home, I weighed my options. It was too late in the day to get to a car dealership to buy a new key fob. Would I have to tow the car to a dealership in the morning? Would they be open on a Sunday? Would my kids just decide to stay in Ohio where nobody throws their car keys in the ocean?? 

     Brittany was about an hour away in the hotel, but I didn't know if she had even brought her set of car keys on the trip; and this was not a phone call I was looking forward to. Something along the lines of "hi honey, I just dropped $500 in the ocean and now I'm stuck here with a car that I can't start". Finally I bit the bullet, tucked my tail between my legs, and called her. Thankfully she did in fact have her keys with her, so there was hope; they were just an hour away, without traffic. 

     We formulated a plan, but then Bret, in an amazing display of generosity, offered to drive me to the hotel to get the spare key and back to pick up my car that night. There was even a pier near my hotel that he wanted to fish while we were over there, so we could kill two birds with one stone, sort of. After stopping by the hotel for the key and apologizing to my wife for the first of many times, we went to Des Moines Pier for an evening of fishing and he even caught hist first Spotted Ratfish there, so at least there was something in it for him, other than the obvious heaps of good karma of course.

     It's almost a year later as I'm typing this, and it's almost to the point where I can laugh about the whole thing, but if I'm honest, my pride still stings from this one. I'm just glad Brittany and her spare key were only an hour away, and Bret was there and willing to help out. Bret if you ever throw your keys in the ocean, call me. I owe you one!

The replacement of the one that's still sitting in Puget Sound somewhere. Is this what the panic button is for??

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