Emerald Sea Photography
The Pacific Spiny Lumpsucker (eumicrotremus orbis) is a very small and very entertaining little fish that can be found throughout the shallower waters of the Pacific Northwest, with a range that includes Alaska and the Northwestern Pacific to Japan. The largest recorded Lumpsucker was five inches in length, but the most of the lumpies that divers see are about the size of a quarter.
Usually located in eel grass beds at night, these comical fish are a member of the snailfish family and have a modified pelvic fin that works as a suction disk. This disk is used to attach the fish to rocks, shells and blades of eel grass. When disturbed, the fish hovers about, changing directions aimlessly like a tiny helicopter. This inefficient swimming behavior is very fun to observe and often becomes the highlight of a night dive in our cold waters.
Pacific Spiny Lumpsuckers rely on their excellent camouflage to escape detection by predators, which also makes them very difficult to find for divers. They feed primarily on small crustaceans, worms and mollusks that are found in the sandy or muddy bottoms that they prefer.
The lumpsuckers that I have observed do not seem very afraid of divers and will often swim right up to the lens port of your camera. So close in fact that you are no longer able to focus on the cute little guys. Its hard not to laugh at their ungainly swimming and they are often observed opening and closing their mouths repeatedly like they are gasping for air after a long, hard swim.
If you'd like to see a few of these magnificent little critters, a night dive at Redondo with some time spent searching in the eel grass beds should be on your list of excellent dives in Puget Sound.