[Tweeters] Fishing With Binoculars

Jeff Gibson gibsondesign at msn.com
Sat Jul 16 09:30:34 PDT 2016

Way back in my youth I fished using traditional methods - like a hook on a line and that sort of thing. These days I'm fishing with binoculars.

Fishing with binoculars isn't always easy. Sometimes the water is murky, sometimes the surface is too rippled, or rough, and sometimes there's not enough light, or too much glare. But some days things work out fine and you can see cool fishy things going on under the surface with binoculars. Calm water and good light is the best.
Close-focusing binoculars are key - mine are 8x and focus down to about five-and-a- half feet. Close enough to identify an amazing array of very small things, including fish. And of course you can get very close looks at very big things too.
Port Townsend, blessed with clear waters, is a good spot for fish watching, and the pier and float at the Marine Science Center at Fort Worden is an especially good viewing spot. I fish with binoculars there a lot. The other day I had an exciting (to me) fish sighting there -the Sablefish - lifer fish for me.
Although there are around 253 species of fish in the Salish Sea, many are down too deep to view with binoculars, and the adult Sablefish is one of 'em - it can live clear down to the deepest depths of the Sound. Can get pretty big too (almost 4 ft long) and can also get really old - like around 100 years old. Probably never gonna see one see one of those old-timers with binoculars, but I lucked out the other day seeing some young ones near the surface.
You see, by tide and wave action, a dense mat of kelp and other sea algae had floated inside the pier right next to the dock - it was like a small floating reef for all these small fish, providing a good hideout. But most of these fish were unfamiliar to me (at least I knew what they weren't, which is always a good start in ID of anything).
So it took some real sleuthing to figure out what they were. I started out by going to the Burke Museum's "Fish of Puget Sound" website, which helped narrow things down. Then got some confirmation of the whole " young sometimes seen near floating kelp" thing I was seeing, in the 650 page book "Certainly More Than You Want to Know About The Fishes of The Pacific Coast" by Milton S. Love, a wonderful and aptly named book, full of fish lore. But not really a field ID guide. So I googled "sablefish in puget sound" and found photo's of young Sablefish , and was feeling better about my fish ID.
Still a bit uncertain though, I went down to the dock the next day, and luckily the kelp mat and young fish ( from 2 to 5 inches long) were still there and with help from a book at the Science Center (Lamb and Edgell's "Coastal Fishes of the Pacific NW" - a useful field guide) I was finally able to confirm all the appropriate fins (fish ID is a lot about fins). Yup, Sablefish!
By now some of you may want to give this post the same title as Milton Love's book, but I would like to add one more point, and that is that Fishing with binoculars is a poor way to catch anything to eat. It turns out that Sablefish is a highly prized fish for eating - a very tasty , and expensive, fish. Quite oily, it apparently is a favorite food of Sperm Whales, and Orcas - even whales want that dose of omega 3 , I guess. I hope to eat a Sablefish someday myself, at least once anyhoo.
Jeff Gibsonwatching fish inPort Townsend Wa

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