Observations Of Other Critters In The EUWP

Cabezon Nesting - 3/13/11

During a regular lingcod census dive on 3/13/2011, Ken Collins observed a large cabezon guarding a huge clutch of eggs. The following are Ken's comments and photos. Copyright 2011 Ken Collins.

Cabezon are the largest members of the sculpin family. Although they can reach a length of nearly 100 cm (forty inches) long, the ones seen in the Edmonds Underwater Park are generally less than 75 cm (30 inches). They spawn in the EUWP from late November to April, often laying several egg masses on top of each other. This practice makes it hard to count egg masses or to observe how long an individual egg mass lasts.

The nests are often located on top of tall objects and are guarded by the male fish (as is true for many fish species including lingcod). Pound for Pound (or perhaps ounce for ounce), male cabezon guarding eggs are far more aggressive than are lingcod. Divers in the park are often harrassed and attacked by male cabezon with attacks often consisting of the fish ramming the diver, and especially ramming the diver's head.

On March 13, I was examining the features located in the central portion of the park, west of Northern Lights way, observing lingcod and looking for new lingocd nests. There had been a cabezon nest on the SW corner grate on one feautre for a while and I had been watching out for the guard fish.

When I swam over to take a look at the nest, I found that the egg mass had grown in size. I have seen some big cabezon nests in my day, but was unprepared for the collection currently at this site. We're talking 1.5 M long, maybe .75M wide, and pretty thick. The guard fish is pretty large as well. The nest consists of egg masses laid at several different times. I didn't count the individual egg masses.

I didn't try to get too close to the fish or eggs for better photos and tried to avoid arousing the ire of the fish. I didn't get as old as I am by being reckless. Diving among Great Whites, "ok". Sewing the mouth of a dying gray whale shut like the Makah used to do, "I'm there". But tussling with a male cabezon on eggs, that's just crazy.

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