We've been experiencing some interesting fall weather here in Newport. In October, high pressure and light offshore winds created some mild, warm days with calm seas. We experienced this first hand during our October Elakha cruise.
Heading out to NH-25, we noticed right away how clear the water was with our secchi disk reading 11 m. At the shelf stations, our plankton nets were full of a yellowish material that has made plankton sorting difficult. Could this be more of those interesting phaeodarians we encountered during our September cruise aboard the Bell Shimada. It was a beautiful evening with displays of bioluminescence from an abundant ctenophore, Beroe sp.
More recently, our quarterly CoOp research cruise returned last weekend from sampling the Newport Line out to NH-85 aboard the F/V Michele Ann.
Beam trawling for Juvenile Flatfish was relatively smooth compared to the rest of the year. The crew of the Michele Ann were efficient and kept us gaining time between stations. Our winch wire counter failed right at the start, but our captain was able to troubleshoot and fix it in under 20 min. Commercial fishermen seem to fix anything that breaks.
We caught the usual fish species in lower abundance, which is common for this time of year. A handful of flat fish species, some sculpins, poachers, and a couple skates. Pyrosomes have been an issue in our catch since 2017, but they have been absent in the nearshore for the past few months. They could be back next year, but for now, it is great to not have to pick them out of the samples.
One noteworthy catch were the high numbers of juvenile Dungeness crabs. The nearshore stations on the Newport line (NH-3 and NH-5) have produced high numbers all year. Earlier in the year, we collected dime-sized, newly settled crabs. Now we are seeing crabs that are about the size of a silver dollar. It has been about the same volume every month, just larger and fewer crabs. There was a hypoxic event in this area in September, and it appears many of the crabs survived, as catches were high in October and November.
A couple storms occurred in late October so we were excited to get out and sample to see if the copepod community had transitioned to a winter community- signaling the fall transition. As the coastal winds shift direction, we encounter a different community of copepods from predominantly northern taxa to more southern taxa in our NH-5 plankton samples. October and November samples were full of interesting zooplankton, such as larval Polychaetes and barnacle nauplii, and northern copepods were still dominant signaling that the fall transition had not occurred yet.
We will contiune to track the fall transition on future cruises.