Guides Corner: Needlefish Encounter
By Jack Wilde
On a snorkel among the corals, you see so many fish, over the reef, in the reef, and over the sandy bottom, that it is very easy to forget to look up. But just under the surface of the water lurks an odd and interesting fish, the needlefish. Needlefish are well-named, being long and thin with a sharply-pointed beak. They use the shiny undersurface of the water to hide from predators as they move about in search of tiny prey.
We were paddling at night, a small group of kayakers rounding Half Moon Caye under a moonless sky. At one point, we had to cling close to shore to avoid a shallow patch reef. A school of needlefish, several hundred strong had chosen that same location to hide out from nocturnal predators, and our little flotilla passed right through them. Suddenly they were in a panic and dashed madly about in all directions. Needlefish are sprinters, and often jump out of the water to confuse their enemies. We had fish jumping onto and over the decks of our kayaks, crashing into the hulls and even one or two landed in the cockpit of a surprised kayaker. It was all over in a couple of minutes, but during that brief encounter we were amazed and amused by this Lilliputian assault on our fleet of night paddlers.