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Saturday, December 15 , 2018, 11:58 am | Fair 63º


David Bacon

Captain’s Log: Froth and Fury of Ocean Predators off Ellwood

The power and efficiency of top oceanic predators made me whistle softly and stare in awe of their froth and fury during a fishing trip offshore from Ellwood.

My charter passengers had caught full limits of huge rockfish — including seemingly early-Jurassic period red snapper and copper rockfish, along with some large lingcod — and we decided to troll offshore in a long arc on the way back towards harbor to see what pelagic fish we might encounter.

About five miles offshore, we saw a large-scale feeding event on the surface, and we were headed in that direction.

While skirting the churning water, we had grandstand seating to view a pod of a thousand common dolphins and a half-dozen humpback whales reduce a shoal of sardines from three miles long to nearly nothing left.

Millions of critter lives were taken by just over a thousand large pelagic predators in an hour of absolute carnage.

The dolphins were impressive as they performed a well-rehearsed and time-honored pattern of corralling the baitfish and taking turns feeding savagely.

Those dolphins and whales knew each other’s feeding patterns so well that they could work together in perfect death-dealing harmony, gorging themselves until there was so little of the shoal of sardines left that they couldn’t be corralled.

The few that survived could be said to have severe PTSD, but really it was just another day in the reality of the food chain.

During the whole time, there were hardly any words spoken among my crew or passengers because the primordial scene defied words. Our eyes were wide and our breathing was quick and ragged as if we were swimming in the midst of that struggle for life ourselves.

We filleted our limit of fish and thanked heavens for the courage, cunning and ferocity our ancestors who already killed our way to our momentarily lofty position in the food chain.

May it be a long time before we again have to survive such fierce feeding frenzies.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit softininc.blogspot.com to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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