Saturday, December 16 , 2017, 3:49 am | Smoke 54º


Captain’s Log: Tide Pool Drama Plays Out In Real Life or Death

I love to watch tide pools after a high tide leaves water in them and begins to ebb. I tend to watch quietly and motionlessly so that sea life behaves normally and I get to observe and learn from it.\

One time recently, while I sat very still watching for tide pool activity, a wave broke into the tide pool and deposited a small fish, which looked to be a very young barred surf perch about the size of a half-dollar coin.

When the wave receded, the fish did a quick swim-about looking for a way back to open water. No escape routes were available and the fish calmed down to await an opportunity.

Near the other side of the pool, about 4 feet away, a rock appeared to move.

Surprised, my eyes darted to the movement and I immediately recognized a small octopus, which had been holding perfectly still and doing a fantastic job of imitating a rock. The fish didn’t notice and continued exploring.

When the octopus moved twice more and the fish didn’t notice, I realized the octopus was employing brilliant stealth tactics. It would wait until the fish was facing directly away, quickly move about 6 inches closer and transform again into a rock.

After several minutes, the stealthy predator was within a foot of the perch and I just knew the scene was about to get wild.

At that point, I was not having much faith in that perch which seemed to have no problems with a rock that kept moving closer. That kind of behavior will get a critter removed from the gene pool.

Just as the little perch was turning away from the octopus again — and was I was holding my breath in anticipation of blazing life-and-death action — a large set of swells came in.

A wave broke into the tide pool, creating an avenue of exit of which the perch took quick advantage, with the octopus hot on its tail.

The perch got lucky with perfect timing from Ma Nature, and the hungry octopus went back to the other side of the tide pool and assumed its rock-disguise again to await another predatory opportunity.

I wasn’t worried about the octopus at all. It is a smart and resourceful predator, which I hold in equally high esteem as a coyote on land — another true master of predation.

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

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click here to get started >

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >