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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.
Another of our favorite dive sites in Puget Sound, and one of the best dive sites in the Seattle area, is Three Tree Point. The site is also an important seal pup haul out. Seal pups need to haul out on the beach, or off shore platform, to rest and warm up during the day. Last June, we posted about Seattle videographer Ethan Janson and his Kickstarter project to make a film about the seal pups of Three Tree Point. Now Ethan has made another video featuring cute seal pups trying to haul out onto a surfboard anchored off shore, and using a GoPro camera to record the results.
Spent a beautiful day yesterday at a dive site called Three Tree Point in Burien, WA, just south of Seattle. I was certifying my Divemaster candidates for their Search and Recovery diver. Visibility in the Puget Sound is starting to improve, now at about 20′ or so.
Three Tree Point is a popular spot for seal pups in the late summer and fall. Local sport and action photographer Ethan Janson has some great videos of the pups from last fall. While his Kickstarter campaign was unsuccessful, you can still contact him directly to help with future efforts.