Decades ago Marla had a sweet old German shepherd named Maddie. As with every other dog she’s ever owned, Marla walked Maddie through the neighborhood at least daily. One day, passing a certain house a few blocks from home, Maddie spotted a rabbit and got the chance to excitedly chase it until she came to the end of her leash. This was apparently a big event for her. For years afterward she’d linger when she passed that house, in hope of seeing the rabbit again. Sadly, she never did.
I’m something like Maddie when it comes to unusual reef fish. I’ll return over and over, sometimes for years, to spots where I’d seen something special like a Leaf Scorpionfish or a Gargantuan Blenny. Sometimes it pays off. We first encountered Leaf Scorpionfish among the rocks near the Mahukona dock in November 2016. We went back to look for it a few days later and it was gone. From then on we made a habit of scanning the area for this fish on most of our Mahukona snorkels. Our perseverance paid off in July 2017 when we saw not one, but three Leafs dispersed near the dock. These, too, disappeared within a few days. One reappeared for a short time later in the summer and disappeared again. So after two discrete successes we naturally continued surveying the area, with no luck until last week, when a single, ivory-colored Leaf Scorpion appeared just a few feet from the swim ladder. A day later it was accompanied by another, smaller, darker specimen—maybe a mate. A day after that both were gone. I wonder where to these sedentary, relatively immobile fish disappear to for months on end. My guess is that they’re just hunkered down deep in the reef, safe from the prying eyes of us two-leggers.