Anyone who has done SCUBA or snorkeling knows what an exciting world it is under the sea. I love to see and be amazed by all the creatures and colors and scenes that you don’t see above the water. On any dive or snorkel I may see something I’ve never seen or even heard of before. So while off on another hunting trip hoping to find fresh fish for dinner I experienced something I have never experienced before. The visibility on this particular day was not the greatest. The water was murky so I could only see about 15 feet, but anything past 6 or 7 got blurry. Rocks and fish were shadows and hard to differentiate.
On one of my descents to find fish, a four foot long moray eel swam from between some rocks on the ocean floor. He didn’t swim towards me, but to see something that large and close caught me off guard and startled me. I’m always a little nervous when I’m hunting because I know the blood and sounds an injured fish make can attract a larger predator. Especially one larger than me.
Anyone who has seen a moray eel knows how ferocious they look. Snake like body, large jaws and visible teeth. It can be intimidating. Call me a wimp if you like, but I’m still intimidated.
Photo borrowed from TCS Keys Field Guide
I have seen many moray on dives and snorkels and marveled at their size and graceful movement. I’ve even followed them around and watched their behavior as they interact with their environment.
I watched this eel continue to swim away as long as I could as I floated back to the surface for another breath. Thinking that would be the last I would see of him, I was glad to have the opportunity to enjoy him, even if it did startle me.
Meanwhile I had spotted a small alcove with an overhang in the rocks along the wall. Fish tend to hang out in these little alcoves, so it definitely required further investigation. I dove down again and came up slowly on the spot. As I was focused intently on whether there were any hunt-able fish in there, this eel popped up in front of me and swam across my field of vision. It startled me again, so I yelled at the eel and told him to leave me alone. He swam off unfazed by my gesture.
On my next descent I was again approaching the alcove focused on possible dinner when I felt something bump the back of my arm. Irritated by the distraction, I turned face to face with that same eel swimming around me and checking me out. Okay I admit it, I screamed like a child, swam backwards and towards the surface and poked my spear gun at the eel to scare him away. Which it did. He swam away in a hurry, but not before he had convinced me that I need to leave the area.
I swam around the corner to a spot about thirty yards away and continued to hunt for fish. The visibility was still lousy, so I still needed to dive down to get any kind of look at the wildlife below. As I did one descent, I was swimming along the bottom and spotted a shadow up ahead. At this point I couldn’t tell if it was a rock or a fish, so I watched it as I swam closer. When I got close enough to see it clearly, well you guessed it, the eel. This curious creature had followed me. I yelled at it again and swam to the surface and straight back to the dinghy where I loaded up and left the area.
I dinghy to the other side of the bay, about a mile away, dive down, and within 3 minutes, guess what? an eel swims towards me. Luckily this was not the same one, and was not so curious. After I yelled at it and shook my spear gun at it, it left and that was the last I saw of it. I continued on and successfully brought home dinner.