Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


Sea Lions

California sea lions used to visit Vancouver Island every spring and stay for the summer, following the salmon up the coast and back down to California. But in recent years many have set up residence on Vancouver Island. Why do all that traveling when the food supply is fairly constant here?

The Steller’s sea lion, named for the same man who studied the Steller’s jay, is another type of sea lion that visits our coast, usually farther north.

From these photos, I can’t tell which is which, or even whether there are both kinds of sea lions here. I do know that California sea lions, averaging about 220 lbs. (females) and about 700+ lbs. (males) are much smaller than the Steller’s sea lions which can weigh on average 580 lbs. (females) and almost 1200 lbs. (males). The males quite often weigh much more than that.

Their loud barking carries a long way across the water, as they sun themselves and socialize.

Not enough room on the raft? Make your own raft of bodies.


Sea lions don’t target humans who might be in the water with them, but they have been known to nip them when they get too close, and a nip with those huge teeth would not be funny.

Enemies of sea lions are mainly sharks and killer whales.

Picture by Pat G.

I’m surprised these sea lions seem so calm when the coastal ferry, Salish Orca, motors past, especially when it has pictures of the killers on its hull.

Here is a video taken by a friend. You can hear a couple of short sea lion barks (or coughs) near the end of the clip.

The sea lion couple were both rather large,

Bubba was nearly the size of a barge.

Grace, oh my darling, you’re getting so fat,

Can’t you lose weight and be sleek as a cat?


Bubba, my dear, it’s a way to keep warm,

And can’t you express yourself better, with charm?

Because after all, you are chubby, dear Bubba,

Don’t bother saying, it’s only your blubber.


Clumsy on land, Grace is propped on her flippers,

Slips in the water to eat several kippers,

Gliding around as her breakfast she nips,

Bubba’s in awe of her grace as she dips.


Twirls like a dancer in water ballet,

Bubba is speechless with nothing to say.

Slips in beside her, his flipper he waves,

Swims up to kiss her, this dancer he craves.


Let me protect you, my dear, you look pale, 

I’ll keep watch for trouble, a shark or a whale,

We’ll stay safe together, of you I’ll take care,

And fight off the enemy boldly, I swear.



Grace floats around looking up at the sky,

Bubba is wondering, lets out a sigh,

How did I not see the beauty at hand?

Grace, I’m your servant, your wish my command.





It’s good to have a hobby. In the case of the Captain, fly fishing is no longer just a hobby, it’s … well … to use his father’s words, “an obsession.”  But when you’re obsessed with something, and you do it a lot, you get to be good at it.  Fishing from the beach in the fall when the cohos are hovering nearby, is one of the big thrills of the Captain’s life.

Photo by Ken Thorne

Here is a coho, thumbing his nose at the Cap, just after the line has been laid. Chances are good that this very salmon might swim near where the Cap has gently landed a fly he has tied. The coho won’t be able to help himself. He’ll snap at the fly and then wonder why he is being  dragged slowly towards the shore, no matter how hard he fights to swim the other way.

Photo by Ken Thorne

But things are not always so easy. Sometimes the Cap arrives at his favourite beach to find that it is already occupied. It’s a family having a picnic. Mama Bear is near the shore, easily turning over 70+-pound rocks with one flick of her wrist, to expose little rock crabs that scurry for cover after they get over the shock of the sudden daylight. Mama Bear grunts for her two cubs to come have breakfast. See the second cub way over on the right, by the big log?

This day, the Cap putters on a little farther in his skiff to find another beach. Mama Bear can get a bit tetchy over unexpected company coming near her cubs.

This photo was taken by the Cap with his point-and-click Fuji. A bit blurry, but it’s the best that tiny camera can do.

The Cap gets up very early to take his place on the beach, but apparently bears get up even earlier, and since they are bigger than he is, he abides by the well-known saying, “Discretion is the better part of valor.”


I Can’t Bear it

If only that fisherman would catch a fish, I could help him lose it – maybe steal it away from him.

I can smell the fish jumping.

But he’s not a great fisherman or he’d have one by now.

Oh, I give up. I might as well go catch my own someplace where I can have peace and quiet.

Just thought I’d show my face though – “fly the flag” a bit – so he wouldn’t think about coming ashore to fish. They do that sometimes.

Gotta claim my territory.

I couldn’t bear it if he took my fish right from under my nose.


*Pics taken by the Captain with his little Fuji and shaky wet hands.


Will You Be My Chum?

We have five species of salmon on the Pacific coast. Some, like the chinook, sockeye, and coho are highly prized. The other two, pink and chum, are also delicious when they are in their prime. The pink has softer flesh and is good in a barbecue or steamed, smoked, or canned, while the chum is mostly used for canning and smoking. It is also being used for its roe.

After spending four years in the ocean, the chums will swim up a river to spawn. On their way from the ocean to the river,  chums go through  dramatic changes in the shape of their body. The head features change so the jaws are more curved and pronounced, the males growing teeth that serve them in their aggression and dominance over other males. This toothy look has earned them the nickname “dog salmon.”

The flesh also begins to break down, enabling patches of fungus to grow on the skin.

Here is one that has those patches all over its body. What was once a silvery salmon is now looking more like a barely living fish cadaver.

The chums make their way upstream, often in pairs. The female lays her eggs in a gravel bed and the male fertilizes them. Then, exhausted from their long journey, they waste away and die, littering the banks of the river and getting hung up on rocks and log jams.

Of course, in nature, not much goes to waste. Usually the eagles occupy these trees that overlook the river, but now they are the resting place for seagulls who have gorged themselves on the stinking flesh of the chum salmon.

There they are at the dinner table on the far left side of the stream.

On the opposite shore, to my disgust, I see fishermen throwing lures into the river in hopes of snagging the dying, putrid chums which are too exhausted to take the bait anymore.  A month ago, some of these chums might  still have made a tasty meal, but now? If you don’t want to eat carrion, why torture these dying fish?   Fishing is a fine sport, but this???  This has nothing more to do with fishing. I don’t know what to make of it. Words fail me!

Below is a 13-second video of the salmon on the other side of the bridge from which these pictures were taken. The chums are most likely already spawned out but are still going through the motions until they exhaust themselves. You may notice that most of them are paired up. The noise in the video is, unfortunately, made by the cars going by on the bridge behind me.


Bucket Head


Did you ever catch two fish with one hook? Sometimes these freak things happen. This greedy lingcod was not satisfied to eat a salmon but had to bite at the fisherman’s lure for dessert before he even took the time to finish his main meal. If I didn’t have the photo for proof  you might well say that this is just a fish story.img718This is Captain Gary’s first boat, from many years ago. It was old even then. Older than the “captain.” But the things that boat saw were interesting nonetheless.

The opposite scenario to this one, of “two fish for one,” also happened (more than once) but I don’t have a photo of it. A salmon is jerking the fishing line. The deckhand pulls it aboard and in the time between the salmon announcing his presence and when the deckhand pulls him aboard, only the front half of the fish is left. The rest has become breakfast for a sea lion or a shark. The tooth marks on the fish’s half body tell the story.

Take a look at Captain Gary’s cap and tell me if you think fishing is a bloody job. CSI would have fun with that blood spatter.