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Gluttony on the high seas – surface feeding humpbacks and dolphins

2015 07-16 SB Channel

Today’s trip tally came in at 9 humpback whales and 2000 long-beaked common dolphins, however the numbers to not tell much about what we saw. Read on…

This trip was a 100pm to 530 pm afternoon trip. By 137 pm Captain Dave had us on approach to a very productive hot spot area about 8 miles south of Hope Ranch. Some small and medium large and very dense bait balls full of northern anchovies were observed through an area that was perhaps a quarter of a mile square.   The region was found at a distance due to the abundance of elegant terns fluttering and crashing on the bait.   Soon we were closely watching 8 very hungry humpback whales feeding both above and below the surface on these fish.   At least 1,000 #dolphins plus several dozen California sea lions were also feasting. Several very dramatic instanced of vertical lunge feeding by the #whales were observed whereby the surface of the ocean would boil with thousands of anchovies as they jumped together and seemed to raise the sea level with their foamy splashing. Soon the tips of the whales rostrums and then their wide open gaping mouths would break the surface sending most, but not all of the anchovy population into their gular pouches. Many anchovies got lucky and escaped, only to re-form the bait ball again.

On one occasion the bait ball came up to the Condor Express and hid underneath the boat.   Dolphins and sea lions were still on the attack.   Also, something I’ve written about before, in each case of lunge feeding the whales did not continue to attack the same bait ball very long. Instead, they left much of it intact and swam away to a new ball of anchovies. This seemed to me to be sustainable fishing in action.

Later we took a tour of the west end of Santa Cruz Island including a look inside the world-famous Painted Cave. The whole trip was bright and sunny with very little swells or wind. On the way home we found a 1,000-strong nursery pod of common dolphins and one more humpback about 4 miles outside the Harbor. What a day !

You never know what Mother Nature has in store. Bob Perry Condor Express

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