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Scuba diving in Puget Sound is an amazing experience, and the main reason is the wide variety of marine life we have to offer. Here are 5 rock star fish (and where to find them) that make Puget Sound scuba diving so great:
(Sebastes maliger) These members of the Rockfish family are solitary and like to hang out close to the bottom, on or near rocks and boulders. They like chasing after Spot prawn and small crabs for food and can be easily identified by their mottled brown and yellow pattern. Look for Quillback Rockfish when diving at Three Tree Point.
(Nautichthys oculofasciatus) Named for their elongated dorsal fin, Sailfin Sculpin are nocturnal and can be commonly found during night dives at Alki Seacrest Park (Cove 2) in West Seattle. They range in color from yellow-brown to yellow-grey with dark bands on the body and unusual scales that have a velvety texture. Sailfin Sculpin migrate up to the intertidal zone in late winter and early spring to spawn.
(Oxylebius pictus) Like Clown fish in the South Pacific, Painted Greenling (especially juveniles) have a symbiotic relationship with fish-eating anemone and will hide from predators in their stinging tentacles. Painted Greenling are easy to find day or night at Redondo Beach.
(Hemilepidotus hemilepidotus) These beautiful fish are members of the sculpin family and can be found resting near rocky areas. Use a dive light to see its brilliant red coloring, but be careful not to touch one as they have poisonous spines that can injure a diver. A good dive site to see one is Alki Junk Yard in West Seattle.
(Ophiodon elongatus) These can be some of the biggest fish that a diver will see in Puget Sound, growing up to 5 feet in length and weighing in at 130 pounds. The largest example in Puget Sound can be fount at Edmonds Underwater Park. Lingcod can be very territorial (especially during egg season) and will charge and even bump into a diver that gets too close. Lingcod will eat almost anything, including Rockfish and even small Giant pacific octopus. In turn, Lingcod are eaten by Harbor seals and California sea lions.
Giant Pacific Octopus on Eggs by Steve Zedekar
Spring in the Pacific Northwest means that our female giant Pacific octopus are tending to their eggs. Divers can see this behavior at many of our most popular dive sites, including Redondo Beach, Three Tree Point, and Alki Seacrest Park (Cove 2).
The giant Pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini), also known as the North Pacific giant octopus is the largest species of octopus in the world and can weight up to 150 pounds and can have an arm span up to 20 feet. The largest ever measured weighed about 600 pounds and stretched 30 feet across! Unfortunately, they are also short lived with a life span of 2-3 years.
After about two years, the female will seek out a male for her one time to reproduce and lay eggs. Once she finds a male, he will deposit a sperm packet into the female’s mantle. The female will then store the sperm packet until she is ready to fertilize eggs. The Seattle Aquarium has observed a female waiting seven months between mating and laying fertilized eggs. A typical female giant Pacific octopus can lay between 120,000 and 400,000 eggs.
Once the eggs have been laid, the female attaches them to a hard surface. She continuously blows nutrient rich water over the eggs, fanning and grooming them to remove algae and other growths. While she is tending to her eggs (typically around 6 months) the does not leave the den to hunt or eat. After the incubation period, the eggs hatch and tiny baby giant Pacific octopus leave the nest to and begin a period where they float freely in the ocean.
For the female giant Pacific octopus, she will die shortly after her eggs hatch. In the video below, skip to about 0:35 seconds to see a female tend and groom her eggs.
August has been an incredibly busy month for us here at Seattle Dive Tours! PADI Instructor Richard and PADI Divemasters Chris, Chen and Brian have been working hard to show all of our divers the beautiful marine life around Seattle and Puget Sound.
Over in West Seattle, across Elliott Bay from Downtown, a very large GPO (Giant pacific octopus) has taken up residence under a small sunken boat at Seacrest Park. Our divers have had a great time taking a peek at this Puget Sound native in its natural habitat while also checking out the While-lined dirona Nudibranch that has been seen in increasing numbers. Redondo Beach (just South of Seattle) has also experienced an increase in GPO numbers, in addition to the smaller Red octopus.
Late summer and fall are also the best times to experience bioluminescence in Puget Sound during night dives. Towards the end of a night dive during our safety stop, we will circle around and point our dive lights towards our chests to block out all light. Then we will wave our hands around to see the thousands of beautiful glowing dots in the water.
Seal pup mania has hit Puget Sound this month as well. Recently weaned harbor seal pups have been coming ashore all over the Seattle area to rest and warm up before resuming their foraging activities. As always, it’s important to not disturb harbor seal pups, and at Seattle Dive Tours we have been reporting harbor seal pup sightings to our local NOAA Marine Mammal Stranding Network volunteer group, Seal Sitters.
One of our Seattle Dive Tours divers, Norwegian Claes-Gøran Bye, posted this video from his recent guided scuba diving tour with us at Redondo Beach, WA. Looking at the footage, I found Giant Pacific octopus, Plumose anemone, Sunflower star, Copper rockfish, Giant barnacle, Northern kelp crab, and Spiny pinkstar. If you can identify anything else, leave it in the comments section below of let us know on our Facebook page.
We had a busy weekend with scuba diving tours both Saturday and Sunday. Our Saturday tour featured two local divers plus a third diver from the United Kingdom. We also had our newest Divemaster, David Sisson, assisting. On Sunday our tour had another 3 divers, two from Lindblad Expeditions who were on break before heading back to Alaska to lead adventure tours.
Both days we were at Redondo Beach just south of Seattle. We had excellent conditions with partly sunny skies and comfortable temperatures. Currents were very mild this weekend and we were able to time our dives for perfect slack conditions. Divemaster Brian Hull made his special chocolate brownies for our surface interval snack.
Our scuba divers were treated to sightings of both a Giant pacific octopus in it’s den, and also a smaller Red octopus out hunting in the open. Divers also saw lots of Copper rockfish, a Crescent gunnel, a Wolf eel, and lots of other fish & invertebrates. A great weekend of diving, now we are ready to head into the week with even more scuba diving tours in the Pacific Northwest.