Chum Salmon: Oncorhunchus keta
Ranging from northern California to Northwest Alaska this salmon grows to a length of three feet. Their usual weight is a range of eight to eighteen pounds but they can grow to thirty. Different from other west coast salmon because of it’s lack of black spots, though at times they can appear speckled. The Chum used to be known as the dog salmon and wasn’t very popular until other salmon stocks dwindled. Now ironically, over fishing is its greatest threat. In the middle salmon is one of their food sources:
Surf Smelt: Hypomesus pretiosus
These fish grow up to 10” (25cm) and are found from Prince William Sound in Alaska to Long Beach California.They feed on small crustaceans and spawn off beaches during daylight hours. I remember fishing night smelt (Spirinchus starksi) with my brothers when we were really young. We waded out into the ocean with a net right as it got dark and hundreds of fish would swim into it.
The common Purple or Ochre Star: Pisaster ochraceus
These sea stars in the left Chum are a common sight throughout the Pacific Northwest. They have a voracious appetite for shellfish. They position themselves over the shell and using their tube feet, they pull and pull until the two muscles holding the shell together tire and start to gape. The sea star then slips its stomach from itself into the shellfish. The stomach then secretes digestive enzymes, softening the tissues. At this point the star extends its bag-shaped stomach farther into the open spaces and digests the animal right inside its own shell. This process takes two or three days.
Sea Nettle: Cyanea capillata
Pictured in the right hand fish these bell shaped jellyfish sting so don’t touch even when you see them stranded on the beach dead or alive. Eight clusters of tentacles extend from the bell and each cluster has a hundred tentacles which may trail two meters in length. These tentacles contain stinging cells which are used to capture planktonic prey, small fish and crustaceans. Also appearing in this chum are:
Plumose Anemone: Metridium senile
This anemone occurs subtidally or hides in protected places under ledges and caves out of the wave action. These Plumose are really long, reaching 50 to 60cm when they are extended. Known as a “sea flower” it is quite beautiful when under water at high tide when it expands fully to reveal its snowy-white or orange tentacles.