Sunday, June 10, 2012

Barracuda: A Fish Tale

Last month when we were on the North Shore swimming with my turtle friends my world was rocked.

Now I thought I knew my ocean.  Thought I knew what possible dangers lurk in my waters.

I know about sharks, and in our two years of living here and being in the water nearly daily I have only had one encounter with a shark, and I totally missed it. But this isn't a shark tale, it's a fish tale.

I also know about eels, I have many close encounters with these sneaky little beasts and to be honest, I'm more apt to get bit by an eel than a shark.

So back to my tale.

I was swimming near the shore, in shallow water only about six feet deep. The visibility was crap the currents pulling up all the seaweed and sand making the water a silty mess. Just what the turtles love, tiny bits of tasty morsels floating near the shore. It is unfortunate that what brings these creatures to this beach is the very same thing that makes the visibility so bad.

So I had just entered the water, it was my first snorkel of the day, I was excited to get some new photos of my turtle friends. A few yards from shore I immediately see something I rarely see, a large school of Ulua the very large fish all fishermen hope to come across, raced right around me. I immediately pop my head up and yell to my son on shore to bring the spear, maybe he'll catch us dinner.

When I put my face back in the water I see a head of one of the Ulua, floating near the bottom, tendrils of blood hoover close to it.  Now I did not immediately put two and two together. My first thought was a fisherman had thrown his scraps into the ocean. But it only took a split second for that to change.

To my right I see in the murky darkness the tail of the largest creature I have ever encountered in the ocean. It seemed to slither away from me cutting the water with its gigantic tail fins. I immediately gasped, surfaced and instinctively flung myself onto my back trying to distance myself from the creature. My husband had seen it too. I was speechless. Rattled.

I knew it wasn't a shark, the tail fins were all wrong, they were vaguely familiar though, but at the time I couldn't quite place it. They were silvery with a large black dot.

The girth of the creature is what was so frightening.  It was at least two and a half feet thick, thicker than me, a lot thicker than me.

The length of the creature (of what I saw slowly slithering away from me) was at least four feet long, and mind you I did not see it's face.

Thank God Almighty, I did not see it's face.

I was rattled. I got out of the water shaken and confused. What the hell was that thing?  It looked like something from river monsters. What kind of fish gets that big? I mean it was REALLY big.

A Behemoth.

I realized from the safety of the shore that the creature was hunting and that is why the school of Ulua swam right through me, they were being pursued. I had stumbled into the middle of the Behemoth's lunch.

When I got home I thumbed through my book on Hawaiian Fish looking for that tail fin. I know that tail fin.

 And then I found it: Barracuda.  It was a Barracuda.

I had seen Barracuda before, hovering in the distance at the end of the pipes at Electric Beach. But they weren't as big as this. I didn't know they could get as big as this.

It turns out the Great Barracuda can grow to 6 feet. "These powerful predators are often found in shallow water close to shore, especially in early morning or late afternoon."

Barracudas do occasionally attack humans, especially in the middle of feeding frenzy.

We went to North Shore yesterday.  When I was packing our lunch I was thinking about my fish encounter. I have to say I was a little leery to get back in the water.  Once again visibility was crap. But my turtle friends were there and yes lurking in the brackish water I did see those tell-tale fins of silver and black, but they were much smaller, not nearly the size of the Behemoth from before.

Yes I can share my ocean with you, just tell your really big brother to stay away, okay?

1 comment:

  1. That is freaking scary.

    I visited Hawaii once and couldn't stand to go snorkeling more than once because I don't like it when the fish touch me.

    Seeing something like that is scary enough that I don't want to even go to the beach here in Florida.