On November 21, 2010 Ken Collins was treated to the sight of a strange fish swimming through the algae at a depth of 25 feet. Ken with his ever ready camera was able to catch a couple of great shots of the fish - note the coonstripe shrimp on the right hand side of the photo.
Ken reports: “I was carrying out a lingcod census survey near the Cathedrals, located in the central part of the EUWP, when I came upon this gorgeous fish – an adult quillfish as I later learned. It undulated as it moved and swam slowly, a bit like a snake but in mid-water. It did not alter it's behavior when I approached and seemed unafraid of me. I estimated its length at 30 cm. I'm the first to admit that I'm not the best fish ID person bobbing in the Sound, but even I can spot an oddball when I see one. As always, you see the neatest things when you are lowest on air, so I was unable to watch for long”.
Kirby Johnson - who reports he is still waiting for the initiation fee, membership fee, dues, handling fee, and cover charge that accompany this honor - promptly initiated Ken into the “Royal Order of the Quillfish”. Kirby was the first of the Lingcod Census Group to report seeing a quillfish within the EUWP.
The quillfish (Ptilichthys goodei) is a small rarely observed fish of the northern Pacific. It is the sole member of the Family Ptilichthyidae, one of the smallest families of fish. Quillfish are found from Japan to the Bering Sea in the northwestern Pacific and from the Bering Sea down the west coast of North America to central Oregon, in the northeastern Pacific
Little is know about this rarely observed species that lives on or near the bottom at depths up to 360m (www.fishbase.org). It ranges in size up to 40 cm long, with adults having a reported average length of 34 cm. The species has most commonly been observed at night when it has been attracted to lights either above or below the water surface. This small fish is thought to spend its days near the ocean floor or even buried under sand or mud and then come up to the surface at night.
It is easily recognized from its long slender shape, prominent, projecting low jaw and a row of small spines in front of the dorsal fin. Another of the “Once Seen Never Forgotten” fish species. Keep a look out for it, especially on night dives while you are ascending and doing your safety stop