Great Barracuda - Sphyraena barracuda

Great Barracuda - Sphyraena barracuda

June 11, 2013

Ospreys are cool.

I've been following this pair of Ospreys as a way to fill my head with happy distractions and to find hope and light in the face of so much bad news. The Chesapeake Conservancy Osprey Webcam has become my favorite reality TV show. It's real, it's natural, and it's unaffected. It is the opposite of MTV, SPIKE, and all the other mind-numbing black holes.

Enjoy. Be real. Do real.

 To learn more about the Chesapeake Conservancy, please CLICK HERE. Cheers!


Repeat after me: "Don't eat farm-raised Salmon."

May 9, 2013


I should start saving cartoons... this one hits it.
Happy Friday, visitors!
Go Fishing :)

April 18, 2013

Would you do this to your Cats or Dogs?

I hate this practice.
Stringing, hanging, or pegging dead fishes just plain goes against my moral center.
It's embarrassing...
Congratulations. You caught dinner.
Now show some humility.
And some humanity.
(Photo via Facebook. A deep well of offensive images...)

Octopuses Really ARE Cool ~!

Every once in a while I'm reminded that there are other creatures besides fishes that deserve the 'COOL' label.
Yep, Octopuses are cool.

April 14, 2013


I just finished my taxes.
I should be depressed... I'm being taxed for working!
But right now I'm actually quite happy.
After getting over the amount due and the accompanying self-pity, I logged onto FB and pulled up this photo:

It dawned on me:
My net-worth is not measured in dollars.
Intangibles can't be measured...

Take my money, government.
Please use it well.

But this can never be taxed or taken, because it's immeasurable.

April 12, 2013

Saving Shad

Boy Howdy.
Seems like I go through long droughts of no news, no news... then, tons of NEWS!

This is great!
A well-organized and planned effort to re-establish the pre-existing shad fishery in the Delaware River. The results of these efforts will also benefit the Atlantic Bight and beyond. While I have not had one-on-one conversations, it's pretty obvious that these folks are determined to undo huge obstacles.

Shad and their brethren need to spawn. Until such time as the dams come down and the rivers run free and clean, it appears to me that the Delaware River Shad Fishermen's Association are willing to transport the fish one, two, three, and four at a time. So that the fish can do just that... spawn.

Below is a fellow named Phil Papineau with a net-full of the future. We have never met and may never will. Regardless, he has my deep thanks and admiration.
Way to go.
That is so cool.


Bragging on a Good Thing

Bragging on my cohort and coauthor, Luiz Rocha, Ichthyologist and Curator at the California Academy of Sciences. He is not only a gifted scientist, but also a passionate educator and conservationist.

To visit Luiz's California Academy of Sciences' page, please CLICK HERE.

April 10, 2013

Fishing for Litter - Scotland

This is great.
Rather than turning their backs on a problem that is pre-existing, ongoing, and might seem overwhelming -- these fishermen have adopted a positive attitude and taken up the cause.
Our oceans have become our dumping grounds. Out of sight out of mind, as they say. But for those who make their livings on the water, the problem is never out of sight.
My hat off to the folks who thought up this initiative, and to the fishermen who are making it happen.

Wouldn't it be fabulous if this program goes GLOBAL?

April 1, 2013

Ripples into Waves

I received this photo today from Dr. Donald Orth who teaches Ichthyology at Virginia Tech.
Needless to say, it made my day... week... month! It's tremendously rewarding to see my work help others with their work. These terrific students are the future!

It will remind me why I invested 5.5 years into A Field Guide to Coastal Fishes - from Maine to Texas, any why I'm investing another 4 into its Pacific counterpart. It will also serve as big motivation to keep on illustrating, to stay focused, and to remember the big picture:

Conservation, education, preservation.

Virginia Tech Ichthyology

March 26, 2013

Cordell Bank - a sound investment

I love this!
A simple concept set to simple music and illustrated in simple fashion.

Water > phytoplankton > krill > fish > bigger fish > even BIGGER fish.

Krill are one of the most important links in the chain.

But let's not forget: the chain really starts with water. Keep it clean, folks!

March 22, 2013

How Do I Count the Ways?

This evening I received a copy of my book so that I could personalize it as a send-off for a student who is moving on to greater things.
When I opened the cover I was blown away.

THIS is why I spent 5.5 years constructing the book, and why I'm investing another 4 more years into it's West Coast companion... the book means something. It's doing good work.

The student's name is Rachael, and I've never met her.
But, she's used my book and used it well. Clearly.

I've written my best in my best scrawl in the lower corner left specially for me.
Oh my handwriting is horrible!
("Stick to painting, cousin.")

I hope she's one of many stewards of the future.
Signs point that way...
Cheers, Rachael!

March 15, 2013

Fishy Friday - Sculpins DON'T Rock

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know, I know.
I'm on the record as saying that I love all fishes. It's true.
But for Pete's sake, I'm allowed to get tired of certain families of fishes, no? I'm only human, yes?

Having finished illustrating ALL of the Rockfishes for our upcoming book (see post below), I quickly moved on to Sculpins.

Ugh. Sculpins.
Most are small. All are cryptic. Many have numerous color variants in addition to sexually dimorphic male and female forms. Most rarely, if ever, get themselves off the bottom long enough to show off their pelvic and anal fins. Additionally, they are one of the most diverse and successful groups of fishes on Earth... There are 93 (93!) species of Sculpins from Alaska to California. If you include related fishes such as Grunt Sculpin, Sea Ravens, Poachers, and Fathead Sculpins, the number inflates to 132 species.

So, how do I attack the whole lot without going out of my mind? One complicated illustration at a time.

Below is the Crested Sculpin which is not even a Sculpin -- it's a Sea Raven. This painting is in the final stages of illustration, is about life-size, and took no less than 13 hours to complete. No wonder, it's more exasperatingly complex than any Cottid ever hoped to be.

Man oh man, am I looking forward to illustrating good 'ole boring Perciforms!

OK, end of rant.
On to another...

March 3, 2013

Fins in Motion

Cut a piece of paper into a long, narrow strip.
Fold in half.
Hold the ends of the paper in your fingertips with the apex of the fold pointing up.
The folded paper should look like a tall, skinny tent.

Now, move your fingers up and down in opposite directions:
Right side down, left side up.
Your finger motion recreates the muscle motion at the ray base, moving the ray back and forth.

Now imagine 20 or 30 rays all in sync like a line of chorus girls... undulating.

And THAT is how many fish propel themselves.

Cool, huh?

February 17, 2013

Work, Fate, Accomplishment...

Executive Editor, Vince Burke, and Bebby Bors, Senior Production Editor, JHUPress
I firmly believe that if you work hard, invest fully in your goal, keep your nose clean, and mix it up with like-minded and similarly-driven people, good things are bound to happen.

Yes, fate steps in now and again: a right turn here, a left turn there... luck, chance, stars aligning. However randomly paths seem to meander, paths DO cross. Paths can cross in wonderful ways and result in wonderful accomplishments. If you're lucky?

Above is a photo of my fantabulous executive editor, Vince Burke, and my equally fantabulous production editor, Debby Bors. They stand in the entry hall of the Johns Hopkins University Press holding our latest achievement: A Field Guide to Fishes of the Chesapeake Bay. Behind them are shelves and shelves of other note-worthy books and numerous awards our nation's oldest university press has amassed.

Some five years ago I had an idea: revamp the out-dated and out-of-print Fishes of Chesapeake Bay. I posed the idea to Vince not knowing that he ALREADY had plans to do the same. He made phone calls, set up meetings, and ba-da-bing, ba-da-bong: the team of Murdy, Musick, and Kells was assembled; the proposal was written; the contracts were signed. Soon thereafter we began work on a current, comprehensive, and much-needed guide to fishes of one the of the largest estuaries in North America. The paths of many determined people had crossed.

It's hard to describe how fulfilling it is to see years of past work come to fruition many months later and long after the project was put to bed. Every one had moved on to other projects, other work, new goals. Suddenly... surprise! It's in print! Look what we did!

It was no accident. Stars aligned for a reason.

Fish on.

February 7, 2013

Tarpon Rock...

For no other reason than sharing the gorgeousness of Tarpon...

Fishy Friends

I have lots of cool friends. Many share my fish-geeky tendencies, others do not. Yet those who do not still have an appreciation for my passion, just as I have an appreciation for theirs. That's what friends do! They get behind each other, cheer, commiserate, and share the challenges, failures, and successes.
Even though I may never go fishing with some of my friends, it doesn't matter... and never will.

This is my friend Carlin. I've known her for over 25 years. We are very different, but very alike. We both love nature. We both love our families. We're both sensitive and creative. Neither of us cares about high-falutin' cocktail parties or pretentious fund-raisers - we'd rather wear our torn blue jeans and make an anonymous donation. We're comfortable in our own skin. I know who I am, she knows who she is, and we don't worry about impressing.

Carlin has more energy than a hurricane and is busier than a damselfish. She owns one of the most original, successful, and eclectic shops in town: C&A Camp. She poured her soul into making just so. It reflects her unique blend of whit and diversity. It oozes with enthusiam, as does she.

When she got ahold of my book she flipped her lid. It struck her in her heart. She saw the passion I'd poured into it. And true to form, she had to share it with her close core of passionate compatriots. So she bought a box full of books and found some time to meet me so we could personalize them before she sent them off to places far and wide.

Here she sits in her make-shift office writing heart-felt notes in my heart-wrent book. God bless her.

One of my mini goals is to get her into a boat with me and take her fishing. It will probably never come to pass, but that's OK. We are bound by deeper ties.

February 1, 2013

Fish boy goes skiing

So, my son is my best fishing bud. I taught him at a very early age, and thank goodness he still likes fishing with me. It's a copasetic and competitive deal. He can out-fish me when he tries and there's a lot of "Who got more?" or, "Who's fish was bigger?" But we always have a great time and don't really care about the score. Keeping score just makes it more interesting.

Anyway, he's now a student at Montana State University. He's a long way away from the ocean. And yet, he rode his bike miles and miles, then hiked a few more to go fishing for trout. When the season turned and the snow started to fall, he hung up the fly rod and bought a season pass to Bridger Bowl - the ginormous ski resort outside of Bozeman.

Big mountains. Steep runs. Deep passes and drop-offs. Lots of snow.

Thus, his latest and greatest back-flip into snow that will evaporate or melt into water which will eventually find its way to the ocean. So we can catch more fish. Together.

January 24, 2013


Straight-forward and to-the-point.
Time to take reverse-action!
Reduce, reuse, recycle.
Conserve, preserve, protect...

January 22, 2013


Your child, your children... strangled, left to suffocate, die, and rot.
Mother sharks have no vote, no say about how we treat their offspring.
We are obligated to speak and do for them what they can't do for themselves.


Saving Animals (whether they know it or not!)

When ever given the opportunity to rescue an animal, I take the chance - even if it means putting myself at risk. Some folks are simply predisposed to act when an animal is in need.

Some of the animals I've rescued seem oblivious. Others are frightened. Still others seem to know that I'm helping... they relax and allow me to handle them without fighting back.

In this video the dolphin clearly seems to know that the divers are trying to help. The animal repeatedly returns to the diver and turns itself so the diver can work on removing the fishing line. The only logical conclusion for this behavior? The dolphin knows it's hurt, and knows the diver is helping. Intelligent thinking...

January 14, 2013

Even Embryos Know

Evolution is so cool.
Fishes have developed a multitude of ways to detect prey and avoid being detected by predators:
Sight, smell, taste, sound, vibration... electrical current.
Turns out even embryonic sharks have ways to sense if a possible predator is near.
Another argument to support shark conservation... We've only just begun to understand them. And clearly, there is still much to be learned.

January 3, 2013

Two Kinds of Bears

Every once and again someone creates a video that is all at once goofy, spoofy, and funny while also being educational. Enjoy!