Category Archives: Seaweeds

This blog is a Kitsap Sun reader blog. The Kitsap Sun neither edits nor previews reader blog posts. Their content is the sole creation and responsibility of the readers who produce them. Reader bloggers are asked to adhere to our reader blog agreement. If you have a concern or would like to start a reader blog of your own, please contact sunnews@kitsapsun.com.

Drawn from the deep

Public entrance to the Bremerton Marina. Photo: Jeff Adams

OK, so we’re unlikely to witness the rise of a leviathan, but tomorrow evening (Saturday 2/18 from 7:30-8:30), you can join Kitsap Beach Naturalists, along with me and my WSU Kitsap Extension colleague Peg Tillery at the Bremerton Marina (map). We’re taking a break from the night time low tides to explore the subtidal and free-swimming life that can be enjoyed on almost any floating dock, at any time. Night time on a dock can bring even more sea life to the surface with the aid of a bright light.

You never know what might respond to lights pointed into the water at night. Ever watched squid jiggers at work – often in the cold, often in the wet, always in the dark? Their porcupine lures rise and sink through the water in or around a column of bright light. Schools of squid are attracted by the lights and often can’t help but embrace that brightly colored tube, entangling themselves in the lure’s spiny skirt. The jiggers are taking advantage of the many-armed tasty’s attraction to light.

Opalescent or market squid (Loligo opalescens) near the surface at Bremerton Marina. Photo: Washington Sea Grant

What else will be attracted to the light? Many creatures spend the daylight hours below the photic zone – the top layer of the water where there’s enough light to support plant growth but also enough to be easily seen by predators. Every evening they come to the surface to feed under the safety of darkness, then return to the deep as the sun rises.

The spring blooms are yet to arrive but some small organisms and even some jellies still float around near the surface. Imagine you’re a tiny copepod (about as long as the thickness of a dime) and you’re happily filtering tiny particles out of the water. Leviathan being something of a matter of scale, the hairs near your cycloptic eye may rise in fear as dusk settles in and from below swims an torpedo-shaped arrow worm (Sagitta elegans). It’s 40 times your size (about the length of a football field compared to a tall human) with rows of hooked hunting spines on either side its head (ironically not unlike the squid jig). Yikes! … Back to your human self, just shake off your imagination and remember the arrow worm’s only an inch and a half or so long.

Northwest ugly clam (Entodesma navicula) on the Bremerton Marina docks. Photo: Washington Sea Grant

No guarantees on what we’ll see swimming in the water, but there’s always a spectacular show to take in on the submerged areas of the dock.

Most animals and plants on the docks don’t move through the open water and rely on the hard surfaces of the dock to give them a strong foothold that they would otherwise only find from rocks below the exchanging tide. Among these will be seaweeds, chitons, anemones, crabs, barnacles, stars, cucumbers, urchins, slugs and squirts… and (my personal favorite) the ugly clam.

Plumose anemones (Metridium) and green false jingle (Pododesmus macroschisma) adorning a pipe at the Bremerton Marina. Photo: Jeff Adams

Clams on a floating dock you may ask? This is no ordinary clam. In a natural environment, you’d find the ugly clam (Entodesma navicula) growing out of a crevice or between rocks, it’s shell deforming to fit its surroundings. It’s far easier to find these clams on docks where they are frequent inhabitants.

Another bivalve that lives on docks an form fits to its home is the false jingle shell (Pododesmus macroschisma). It’s bottom shell has a hole through which it attaches to it’s substrate. It also has bright orange lips that you can see while it’s feeding.

Speaking of lips, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see a scallop or two flashing their bright smile.

Smiling scallop at the Bremerton Marina. Photo: Washington Sea Grant

Like the squid jiggers, it’s likely to be cold, wet, and dark, so bring flashlights or headlamps (something with a strap so it doesn’t fall in the water). Life jackets are a good idea for kids. Wear warm, waterproof clothes so you can even get down on belly if you like and get a closer look off the dock.

If you can’t join us tomorrow, go to the public docks nearest you any time they’re open. If you see something cool, let me know and even send a picture. I love that stuff and am happy to let you know more about what you found!

We’ll also be doing this again, so if you’d like to be kept in the loop, please contact me or Lisa Rillie 360-337-7157 x 3244 or lrillie@co.kitsap.wa.us. Happy dock exploring!

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 jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.

Terrific Tides and Historical Harper

Harper fishing pier on the right and ferry "dolphin" on the left. The dolphin was removed in 2009 shortly after this picture was taken. Jeff Adams

Along with the amazing sea life you might encounter around the Kitsap Peninsula, the Salish Sea and beyond, I also want to periodically highlight some beaches that host our saltwater bounty.

The area of South Kitsap from the Harper pier, south into a pocket estuary is a great place to watch birds, dive, reflect on history and our shoreline fingerprint, launch a boat, and explore the beach. The area uncovered by a low tide is a real hodgepodge of public and private ownership, but the boat launch and fishing pier are readily identifiable public access points.

Harper has a history well worth noting. The fishing pier stands were the ferry system linked Kitsap to Vashon and West Seattle until the early 1960′s. Until their 2009 removal, a remnant of the ferry dock (a cluster of deteriorating creosote pilings called a dolphin) could be seen at the end of the pier.

The Harper pier is frequented by divers and anglers alike. For divers, there are even a couple wrecked boats to explore beyond the pier. The sport plumose anemones, kelp crabs, barnacles and other piling fare to enjoy. Divers also find abundant lures, lines, bottles and mobile phones lost by the piers other regular users. It’s also a great place to see birds and get a great view of the Central Puget Sound.

A pile of brick from one of the Harper Clay Products brick dump areas. Jeff Adams

A fascinating history lies on the beach near the boat launch, and just under the surface. The Harper Clay Products Company started making bricks from nearby clay in the late 1800′s (click here for some great old photos and maps). The good bricks can still be seen in Pioneer Square buildings in Seattle and in the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia. The discarded bricks, however, are abundant near the boat launch as one of the “brick dump” areas used by the factory. The bricks wind up supporting barnacles, rockweed and some other animals that live on hard surfaces, though in the areas where they’re piled deeply, they don’t do any favors for the mudflat organisms that would have been there in their absence.

A rich pocket estuary and salt marsh lies to the south of the boat launch and road. The culvert that feeds this area is the subject of restoration interest, with the intent of broadening the salt marsh habitat to its historic extent.

As for this week’s great low tides…
Our first -3 tides of the season are today and tomorrow. Excellent mid-day minus tides continue through Sunday. As a bonus, it looks like we’re even in for a few sunny days.

A layer of discarded Harper bricks can be seen on the eroded edge of the boat launch. Picklweed and grass now grow on top. Jeff Adams

5/17, -3.0 at 11:30am, Tuesday (better hurry:)
5/18, -3.2 at 12:10pm, Wednesday
5/19, -2.9 at 1:00pm, Thursday
5/20, -2.3 @ 1:40pm, Friday
5/21, -1.3 @ 2:30pm, Saturday
5/22, -0.2 @ 3:15pm, Sunday

Head out to Harper or your favorite walking, birding, shellfishing, trash cleaning, beachcombing, all around breathtaking beach to enjoy the low tides and maybe a bit of sunny and sixty for a change. Time to trade knee boots for sandals? Cheers! JEff

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 and videos, email to jaws@uw.edu or call at 360-337-4619.