Reef culture and social media may not be the likeliest of pairings, but it’s safe to say that in recent years the movement toward a more internet savvy environment has definitely taken a footing. You’re now hard pressed to find wholesalers or store vendors without a Facebook account, and many authorities in ichthyology even carry out riveting discussions on said platform. Instagram is also not spared from the tentacles of reef culture, and although not as widely used, it does come with some interesting user profiles.
Wes Shinego is an army officer stationed in Hawaii that spends his free time catching and releasing the local reef fish in his area. His signature pickle jar and ocean background pictures are peppered neatly in his instagram account, and provides a whimsical and rather interesting insight into the shore fishes of Hawaii.
Wes chases after his fish without any diving equipment sans a snorkel, a pair of US Diver Sea Lion Fins, a small 8 inch diameter scoop net and a mask. He carries with him a small mesh bag and that iconic pickle jar, and free dives up to 50ft with a single breath. He notes that some fishes are easier caught by hand, and he abandons his little scoop net in such situations. Wes’ catch and release hobby is both fun and educational, and by focusing his activities on patch reef, rocky ledges and bouldered areas, he minimises damage to live coral.
Wes shares with us some tips on hand catching fish. A good swimmer in pursuit of a surgeonfish or Moorish Idol can exhaust the subject within minutes, and the fatigued fish almost always swims toward the substrate to hide and recover. The tired fish in its hiding spot provides an easy target for hand picking, but it doesn’t always work. Sometimes they find themselves wedged inside a tight crevice, and in such instances, Wes only catches it if his fingers are nimble enough to fit. After photographing it in his jar, he releases his subjects back to the same area where he catches them.
In true Hawaiian fashion, we kept a look out for the endemics and true enough, we saw Anampses cuvier, Macropharyngodon geoffroy, Labroides phthirophagus, the relict Chaetodon fremblii and many more all sitting nicely in pickle jars awaiting photo taking.
It’s really fascinating to see the different shore species peppered in this instagram account. Beautiful butterflyfishes such as Forcipiger flavissimus, Chaetodon ornatissimus and that lovely C. quadrimaculatus may not be too difficult to catch, but those fast swimming Macropharyngodon geoffroy and cryptic Pseudocheilinus tetrataenia definitely require some skill. We can’t help but smile imagining Wes swimming about a patch reef with his snorkel and pickle jar trying to catch some able bodied fish.
Wes also notes the availability of certain fishes depending on the season, and recognises them as they grow into adolescent fish.. He reported that 2014 saw a higher recruitment of juvenile fish, and indeed this corresponded to what we saw in the aquarium trade as well. 2014 alone saw more juvenile Chaetodon tinkeri available to the hobby than any other year.
If you’re bored with all the #foodporn #OOTD and #nomakeupnofilter hashtags, then check out @WESHINEGO’s instagram account for an interesting change. It’s always fun to see what he’ll #catchandrelease next. I wish I had a hobby half as fun as his.