This morning was the first in a great set of minus tides.
- 6/29, -0.4 at 7:43AM
- 6/30, -1.6 at 8:36AM
- 7/1, -2.5 at 9:27AM
- 7/2, -3.1 at 10:16AM
- 7/3, -3.4 at 11:03AM
- 7/4, -3.2 at 11:50AM
- 7/5, -2.7 at 12:35PM
- 7/6, -1.7 at 1:20PM
- 7/7, -0.5 at 2:04PM
Remember that these are predictions for Seattle and can vary depending on geography and weather. Should get you in the ballpark though. Kitsap Beach Naturalists will be on several beaches at different times over the next week if you can take advantage of the great critter stories they have to share.
When you head out to explore the beaches, keep a few things in mind to protect and respect those who call the beach home.
- tread lightly and walk more than run (you stay safer and see more cool stuff when you’re walking anyway),
- look around the edges of eelgrass and kelp beds instead of tramping through them,
- explore mostly under rocks that are smaller than your head and return them to the way you found them,
- refill any holes you dig, and
- remember, shellfish license or not, it’s illegal to take most living sea creatures off the beach, including shore crabs, hermit crabs, sea stars, sand dollars, snails, etc.
In the big rock category, if you do turn over a large rock this time of year, you may find male plainfin midshipman (Porichthys notatus) guarding pea-sized yellow eggs that are attached to the underside of the rock. It’s a really cool thing to see, but over-handling of the fish and awkward replacement of a heavy rock may be tough on the fish and it’s progeny. If you do get a good look at one, maybe stick to the “rocks smaller than your head” rule and leave the rest of the large rocks be.
These amazing deeper water fish have light producing spots called photophores under their head to attract prey, and some seriously sharp teeth with which to munch them. Each late spring/summer, they rise up to the intertidal to stake out nests under large solid objects and make grunting noises to attract the ladies (the reason they’re sometimes called croakers).
Plainfin midshipman are important predators, but also fall prey to seals and sea lions and can be a very important part of eagles’ diet. It’s not unusual to find the bodies of eviscerated midshipman far from the shoreline, delivered there by an eagle or crow. They are also sometimes abundant bycatch in commercial shrimp trawls.
For those of you who have been drooling for dungeness since Christmas… The recreational crab season opens this Sunday, July 1st, for much of Puget Sound and lasts until September 3rd. Blain/Bellingham/San Juans are the exceptions with a slightly later start and close to the season. You can only crab Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. I guess Tuesday and Wednesday is the crab weekend.
You’re still measuring between where the outermost points meet the carapace. In Puget Sound, you’re looking for up to 5 male Dungeness that measure at least 6.25″, and up to 6 red rock crabs of either sex that are at least 5″. Make sure their shells are hard and that you record your Dungeness. For crab sexing, you can check out an earlier post, and for lots of great information including gear and regulations, see WDFW’s excellent recreational crab site.
Enjoy the holiday week and the excellent tides, and our intertidal treasures!
Jeff Adams is a Washington Sea Grant Marine Water Quality Specialist, affiliated with the University of Washington’s College of the Environment, and based in Bremerton. You can follow his Sea Life blog, SalishSeaLife tweets, FaceBook and video posts, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 360-337-4619.