Thursday, October 15, 2009

Croaker's Back!

About sixteen years ago, water in my home port warmed due to several years’ El Niño warming. This changed the ecosystem of Marina Del Rey – The perch and bass died, there was a massive algae bloom (commonly known as “red tide,” the algae consume most of the dissolved oxygen in the water, suffocating all animals that breathe water.) and the marina was filled with moon jellyfish. One of the casualties was a favorite of mine: The croaker bass.
I first heard about this fish when I bought my cruising boat. A friend told me I’d be in trouble with the girls because of it and there was not a thing I could do about it. You see, at night, the croaker makes a sound like a muffled fart – A second and a half long, separated by about six seconds. You can’t hear it unless your head is in the water or you are in a boat in the water. It’s fun following the progress of the fish as it swims under the boat and you can tell exactly where it is, as it croaks. They are territorial fish and you can tell just where their home and favorite routes to swim are by listeing to them.
One night, at the end of dinner on my boat, the croaker let one rip, right under me. I was immediately blamed by my girl, of course. My explanation was ridiculous (And was interrupted several more times by the fish, adding indignity to my problems!), which esclated my problems from a social faux-pas to dishonesty and we eventually agreed to forget it. Several months later, she heard the croaker when I wasn’t aboard and was charmed and amazed with following the fish’s progress. And yes, she aplolgized, explaning that it was a completely ridiculous story, anyway. I had enjoyed telling my friends the story and still do!
Global warming devastated marine life in Southern California, those years – Kelp could barely grow and without the basics, much of the rich marine life died – I remember dives that were simply tragic: A few wimpy fish trying to hide around a sick, scrawny kelp plant, three feet long, instead of schools of fish in a thick forest of kelp up to sixty feet deep.
After several years, El Niño and La Niña returned to normal and the jellyfish in the marina died off (At their peak, they literally packed the water.). And a couple of weeks ago, I heard my friend the croaker fish! I heard him again last night and tonight, giving me hope that he’s made his home beneath my boat.
No, I didn’t fart: It was the fish that lives under my boat. Honest! So tell me, gals – You’d believe that, wouldn’t you?

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