Friday, March 23, 2012
I drifted in the clear waters of Alexander Springs between two large patches of emergent vegetation. I saw a silver glint out of the corner of my eye. I turned and there in front of me was a foot long Atlantic needle fish. The silver tube reflected off the quiet surface. The fish stayed with me, not afraid, not tame, but as curious about me as I was about it. It was a little unnerving as we got close enough to each other so I could clearly make out the numerous sharp teeth filling its beak. The needle fish took a few stabs at some mosquito fish, then swam off, not interested in me anymore. A blanket of small fish hovered over the thick algal mat that covered the bottom and darted as small golden dots against the green algae. Sunnies and bass also came slightly away from cover to investigate and I enjoyed watching them as they watched me. All of these fish seemed to be sentient beings, feeling in some way even though we often think that fish and “lower” don’t feel or sense. But there seemed to be a real sense of curiosity about these fish. Maybe they do sense and feel. Maybe we just can’t understand it in our terms. Either way deciphering fish behavior is fascinating and makes snorkeling that much more interesting.