Saltwater Fish, Pacific Northwest
The pacific northwest waters are just full of life. The variety of Saltwater Fish here is overwhelming. From the salmon to the coral, from the jellyfish to the crabs. It’s awesome to observe. Tidal pools are a great place to start.
The green penpoint gunnel comes in various shades of green or brown. It is commonly seen up to20 cm long, though it can reach up to 45 cm in length. You can recognize this little one by the dark bar below each eye.
The green penpoint gunnel can be found along the shoreline areas of the pacific northwest coast, usually in the shallows. It can sometimes even be found in tidal pools, or look in eelgrass beds, sea lettuce beds, or in stands of kelp. It will take on the color of the vegetation around it. In the winter, when there are few plants, it will hide under rocks and in crevasses, it can breathe air when it is out of the water and can remain out of the water as long as it stays wet. During the warmer months when plant life is in abundance, they will be a green color.
There are three color phases of these fish. These phases are partly the result of their feed, there is a green phase, a brown phase, and a red phase. The larvae do not begin to get color until they settle to the bottom and begin to feed. Green penpoint gunnels feed on small crustaceans and mollusks.
The black prickleback is a small fish with a small head and pointed oblique mouth. It has a long dorsal fin that runs into its tail fin giving the illusion of having a full body fin. The tail fin is rounded and joins with the anal fin. It has no ventral fins and pectoral fins are very small. It looks like an eel.
The black prickleback is a small fish with a small head and pointed oblique mouth. It has a long dorsal fin that runs into its tail fin giving the illusion of having a full body fin. The tail fin is rounded and joins with the anal fin. It has no ventral fins and pectoral fins are very small. It is a favorite meal for the Great Blue Heron.
It has 4 lateral lines with many branches running down its body along with a black face mask. Its color is reddish brown to black with 3 very black lines running back from its eyes, each outlined with a light margin. Its tail has a conspicuous white bar. The black Prickleback adult can get up to 40 cm in length.
They can be found from Alaska to Southern California including all of the BC Coast. The black prickleback is one of several kinds of fish commonly found beneath rocks in the intertidal zone. These fish seem to be able to remain out of water in cool and moist spots for a considerable period of time between tides. The black prickleback is often mistaken for an eel.
Black Prickleback feed on a variety of small animals and some even eat algae. They are in turn consumed by predatory fishes and birds, in particular, the great blue heron.
Sometimes a great blue heron will bite into one that is almost too big, they can have quite a struggle getting it down. The video on the page shows a heron struggling to consume one. It was quite fascinating to watch, you can see the fish trying to swim back up its throat. Eventually, the fish was eaten, the bird went back to fishing and life went on. Just goes to show what can be seen on the beach if you keep your eyes open and look around.
Another of our famous Saltwater Fish species is the Coho Salmon, they are sometimes called bluebacks because of their bluish coloring on their backs. The Coho has white gums, black tongues and a few spots on the upper portion of their bodies and silver colored tails. They have a wide tail base. Bright silver with a metallic blue dorsal surface.
The Red Irish Lord fish is a thickly built fish with a long, wide body, very large head and a big mouth. The body of the red Irish lord is mostly red, with white, brown and black mottling. It has a large head and bulging eyes. It has up to 12 dorsal spines, 20 dorsal soft rays, and 35 vertebrae. The distinguishing features of this species are; it has a continuous dorsal fin notched after the third spine and again between the spinous and soft rays, the nostrils do not have fleshy flaps, and the preopercular spines are comparatively small. A stripe of scales four or five wide below the dorsal fin is followed by an unscaled area to the lateral line, then a second band of scales beneath the lateral line.
They are a dull to brilliant red color on the dorsal surface and are mottled with a brownish red color on the ventral surface. There are pale rusty color to black color spots all over. The red Irish lord can change its color to match its surroundings.
They can be found from Alaska to Northern California including all of the Pacific Northwest. Look for them in tidal pools at low tide. They can be found at depths that reach 275 meters but prefers more shallow locations where it hides among the various other forms of sea life. They can become almost invisible when they are still, its a very cool fish to spot, quite beautiful.
These colorful fish lay their eggs in intertidal areas during the spring. Adults feed on crabs, barnacles, and mussels.
Wolf Eels are one of the more interesting species found in the pacific northwest waters. Wolf eels are easy to identify, when young, their coloration is a burnt orange spotted look that gradually changes into a dominant grey for males and brown for females.
One of my favorite shallow saltwater fish is the grunt sculpin. It is a small fish with a very large head, high forehead and a long snout ending in a small mouth. The eyes are small and deep set. A strange looking little fellow.
They are a creamy yellow on the back and sides with brown blotches on the head and narrow brown bars running downward and forward on the body. There are red on the first part of the dorsal, tail, anal and pectoral fins. There is orange on the ventral fins and lower rays of the pectoral fins. There is a black spot the base of each ray of the pectoral fin.
They can be found from Alaska to Northern California including all of the Pacific Northwest. Though the grunt sculpin is a relatively common fish on the coast of Vancouver Island, you will hardly ever see them. The grunt sculpin prefers shallow water along rocky shores, although it has been seen at 90 fathoms.
It got its name because sometimes when the fish is removed from the water, it makes a grunting sound.
The fish that live in our seas are there if you look. Just take a beach walk to see what you can see, you will be amazed.