What fish are these, what is this behavior

Have never seen this beore out here on Totten Inlet:
Would someone know what fish and behavior is occurring in these attached photos? These were taken on Totten Inlet this morning, Sunday 2/21/2010 at approximately 7:00 am. These schools were not like the Herring schools that we typically see in the Spring. That is, we could not see a fish in these new schools actually break water, just the swirls and water disturbances. We could tell that there were hundreds of individual swirls leading us to think that they were caused by small fish. However, the individual water disturbances were greater in size than what the newly hatched Herring usually cause.

The schools were in about 30 to 40 feet of water and ranged from about 200 feet to about 200 yards from shore. They occurred for about an hour and disappeared. We saw no preditors after them.
Attached are the photos of these occurrences’ that we took this morning as the tide was coming in to a high scheduled for about 10:00 am.



MA-9 Beach Stalker
Great photos Stephen. In the past I've cast into dimpling baitfish schools like that one and pulled out 6-7 inch herring. Maybe they weren't breaking the surface because they were feeding unmolested by salmon? When they feed on the surface they make a distinct popping/crackling noise with all those mouths opening and closing.
This time last year we were catching coho in the area with 1/2 dozen 6"-7" herring in their bellies, so they're definitely common this time of year. I didn't see any when out on Friday, but I didn't go into Totten, either.
Thank you guys, that makes sence. After I posted the message a seal showed up right in the area where the schools were seen. And, this beach is Herring spawning ground according to the WDFW "Forage Fish" report that I just found. Thanks again, Stephen

Milt Roe

Active Member
Don't rule out anchovies - Herring are usually fairly well dispersed when feeding. Herring ball up when they are being chased by predators. Anchovies tend to school up like that when feeding, and there are a lot of anchovies in that particular area. Looking down on a school of anchovies, you can see the silver relections of their gill plates.
A local WDFW biologist suggested that it was either Herring or possibly Sand Lance or Surf Smelt preparing for spawning. I had better get the boat launched and try to get in the middle of the next schooling. Thank you, Stephen