Last night as I watched the sun tuck behind the embankment of New Jersey, a fisherman beside me on the end of Pier 5 reeled this fish out of the dark water. He thought it was a Sea Robin, but I didn’t. It wasn’t that weird. Some research reveals it to be an Oyster Toadfish (Opsanus tau), a species with a high tolerance for hanging out in the bottom murk of polluted, junk-filled waters. Also known as oyster-cracker, ugly fish, mother-in-law fish, etc. It doesn’t have scales, but rather a slimy skin, hence the allusion to toads. The strong jaws are good for cracking oysters and other shellfish, but they will eat anything they can get. They are also known as a vocal species: males make “foghorn” like noises to attract females.
The bright yellow is the lure. Having maimed the 8″ long creature for sport, the fisherman extracted the hook and threw it back in.
I was enjoying the life above the Duckweed (Lemnaceae) recently, marveling that I’ve never seen so many Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera).There were also a few Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis), making more Blue Dashers.A damselfly of unknown provenance was depositing eggs.
And then, along the edge of the lake, some disturbance from below. There was an agitated simmering, not quite bubbling. I wondered what it might be. Then, rising, a mass of little black fish, tightly clumped together at the surface, swarming over each other, some half out of the water momentarily. They were feasting on something. The individual fish visible on the edges of this mass had serious whiskers, barbels, making me think of some kind of catfish. What the hell, I took the plunge.I’m taking a semi-wild guess that these are Black Bullheads (Ameiurus melas); what do you think?The barbels are flush to the sides here.As an added benefit of my open-handed catch and release, the underside of the Duckweed, some of the smallest flowering plants anywhere, is revealed as purple.
Gasping at the surface near the pier, this fish was in trouble. Or so I thought. But it seemed to successfully dive back into the deeps, so it might have been feeding at something I couldn’t see on the surface. About 14″ long: what is it? And here, soon after low tide way up the Gowanus, a school of much smaller killifish, perhaps Mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus).
Published August 20, 2013
Tags: Brooklyn, fish, Gowanus
Signs of life in the Superfund Gowanus, which has a weird milky jade color (and, oy, the stink!) this time of year.
Published April 4, 2013
Art Culture Politics
Nature is everywhere, and representations of nature are likewise. This is one of Deborah Brown’s mosaics at Houston Street, part of a work called “Platform Diving,” which envisions the station underwater — not so hard to do anymore — with turtles, dolphins, and this octopus swimming through the old rattle and roll.This I found in the unisex bathroom in Cornelius on Vanderbilt. There is, in fact, a fish called the Pogge: it’s Agonus cataphractus, a small fish found in British waters. When such prints are untimely ripped from books, a lot of the context vanishes, but the untrusty old innernets can help.
Published August 30, 2012
Tags: fish, Nantucket
D’oh! Forgot to take my camera when we took Nora to the Maria Mitchell Aquarium. Next time. But in the meantime, on the porch of the MMA administrative building, next to the whale bone, I found this dessicated Summer Flounder (Paralichthys dentatus), classic example of a flatfish with both its eyes on the top side. The eyes to the left, as well as the eye-like patterns on the body, identify it. Other flounders like the Winter have their eyes on the right side. Flat fish are born with their eyes on opposite sides; the “other” eye migrates to the dominant side as these fish grow. According to members of the U.S. House Committee on Science, this is because they looked cross-eyed at God and were cursed forever approximately 6,000 years ago.And this is what the underside (right-hand side in the Summer’s case; starboard to the sailor) looks like. They can change the color and pattern on their topside to match the ocean habitat below them (sandy, muddy, etc.), but their underside is quite plain. No need for camo. you will only see this side when you pull it out of the water, and as a major commercial fish, they are pulled. This was a youngster, about five inches long; they can get up to 20 inches and 3 pounds. Found up and down the East Coast, especially between Massachusetts to the Carolinas. They have a very wavy swimming motion, like ribbon in the water.
Right. But what was it doing on the porch? Rather fishy…. This brings to mind Thoreau’s notion that “some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.” Hell of a line, but what the hell does it mean? What is it evidence of? Milk that’s been diluted, that’s what, in this case with water from the local trout stream. Before gummerment started its dangblang interferrin’ with things like health and safety, interference of course demanded by an enraged populace, adulterators of milk tried to get away with whatever they could. Remember that both Prospect Park and Central Park had diaries in their early days so children could get fresh milk at a time when other sources were iffy at best. American history is being repeated as tragic farce in China, where the murderous rampages of unregulated capitalism have resulted in poisoned milk, poisoned toys, etc.