Monthly Archives: July 2017

Lanai’s friendly fish

Last week Marla, Wendy, and I spent a night on the sweet island of Lanai to celebrate Wendy’s birthday.  We stayed at the Hotel Lanai in sleepy Lanai City, the only town on the island.  The delightful little hotel was built in 1923, and while it has recently been refurbished it retains the feel of old Hawaii.  We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, the Lanai City Bar and Grill, and all three of us agreed that this place was among the best restaurants we’ve been to anywhere.  Given our diverse tastes, this is quite an accomplishment.  We highly recommend both the hotel and the restaurant.

Anyway, on to the fish.  In our day and a half on the island we snorkeled three times at Hulopoe Beach.  Marla and I had been there once before and the fishwatching really impressed us.  Fish diversity here is not as great as at many Kohala snorkeling spots, but fish abundance is great, and, more importantly, the fish here are really friendly.  Largely because Hulopoe Bay is a protected from spearfishing, the fish swim right up to snorkelers.  Here are some:

Spectacled parrotfish are quite common at Hulopeo Beach, as they are at Mahukona.  But those at Mahukona are much harder to photograph than this especially friendly terminal male. Water was about twenty feet deep here.

Swinging by for a bite of coral and flashing those bright yellow pelvic fins.

This bluefin trevally spent several minutes darting around a coral head, hunting for small fish in coordination with a whitemouth moray and two peacock groupers while I watched.

Paletail unicornfish are abundant and tame in Hulopoe Bay. The two scalpels near the tail are apparent here. The scalpels are extremely sharp and are used to deter would-be predators.  Unicornfish (some of which lack horns) differ from the closely related surgeonfish in having two scalpels on each side versus just one in the surgeonfish.  Check out the lips—looks kind of like the fish is duck-lipping for a selfie.

Three leafs

Last November I posted about seeing a leaf scorpionfish at Mahukona.  It was the first I’d seen in hundreds of snorkels over nearly a decade.  A few months later I came across another at Keokea Beach Park.  Then just last week Marla and I saw three of these fascinating fish within a ten meter radius at nearly the same location I’d seen the first one.  Are they getting more common, are we just getting better at spotting them, or is this group sighting just a coincidence?  Probably a combination of the last two.

On last week’s sighting, Marla spotted the first leaf scorpion just a few feet from the dock and called me over for a look.  This fish was much more conspicuously colored than the leaf scorpionfish I’d seen before—a cream color that verged into either pale green or pink, depending on the lighting.  It took us a couple of minutes to discover that there was another, more cryptically colored individual just one or two feet away.  I spent several minutes trying to get a decent photo—leaf scorpions tend to remain stationary, making them good photo subjects; but they tend to station themselves in crevices with poor lighting, which makes them poor photo subjects—while Marla moved on.  It took her just a minute to find a third leaf scorpion just a few yards from the first two.

Leaf scorpions are known to remain at the same location for months at a time.  We came back for a look a couple days after our first encounter, but could only find the pale individual.

Look at that eye!  And check out the modified, leg-like pectoral fin.  This adaptation to life on the bottom (as opposed to up in the water column like most fish) is also found in other families of fish, notably the frogfish, which the leaf scorpion superficially resembles.  These modified fins foreshadow fish’s tetrapod descendants.  

The two leaf scorpions side by side.  Wonder what made them both choose this spot.