Northern Anchovy    Engraulis mordax

Looking like a monster from the deep, this fish is really a small Puget Sound bait-fish, the Northern Anchovy.  It can be easily differentiated from Herring by it’s large mouth.

Like herring, the Northern Anchovy is a plankton feeder.  The filtering devices in front of the gills (seen pointing forward inside the mouth in the photograph) along with the large gaping mouth strains the water catching small animals and plants, although it will also use its excellent eyes to locate and grab individual food items.  If you are lucky enough to find a school near the surface, watch them open their mouths in synchrony as they slowly move through the water feeding.

Northern Anchovy are eaten by larger marine carnivores such as Ling cod, salmon, sea birds and marine mammals.

At 5.5 inches long this individual is just about mature.  Spawning occurs in summer with the eggs hatching in 2-4 days.  When the young reach an inch long in a month or so they resemble the adult. Life span is around 7 years.

Usually they stay deep during the day to avoid predators, raising to near the surface at night to feed.