The following stories and information is being shared in the hopes that others may benefit from this information.
Cabezon Roe Toxicity
6/19/14, Brian Ishida posted to Cencal and CDFG:
Yes, it is very true. Years ago I gave my neighbor a cab. They consumed everything. A week later he came over demanding why I gave him a "spoiled" fish that landed he and his wife in the ER with vomiting and cramps. I thought every fisherman knew that the roe was toxic. I have told this story to many since.
And, from this post not very well known even to the CDFG. But they should check their own publications as this toxicity was reported in 1951 by their scientists (Hubbs and Wick, pp. 195, https://archive.org/stream/californiafishga37_2cali#page/194/mode/2up. The suspect toxin as I recall scouring the literature was also reported in the gar in Florida and China.
TOXICITY OF THE ROE OF THE CABEZON,
SCORPAENICHTHYS MARMORATUS 1
By Carl L. Htjbbs and Arne N. Wick
Scripps Institution of Oceanography (University of
California) and Scripps Metabolic Clinic
An unhappy gastronomic experience of the senior author and his
wife and laboratory experiments by the junior author indicate rather
definitely that there is some toxic constituent in the roe of the cahezon,
Scorpat nichthys marmoratus Girard, a large cottid fish of western North
On .January 14, 1!>23, a ripe adult female cahezon, 440 mm. in
standard length, caught during the day in a tidepool on Point Lobos,
Monterey County, California, was eaten for supper. The senior author
and his wife partook of the roe while her parents and a young child ate
the flesh. Those who ate the flesh were not discomforted in the least, nor
have we heard of anyone having been poisoned by eating this common
food and game fish. The two who ate the eggs awoke in misery about four
hours afterward and were violently ill throughout the rest of the night,
with rapidly alternating chills and fever and with frequent vomiting and
diarrhea. There was, however, no marked prostration, fainting, dizziness,
or paralysis. Both were left very w T eak in the morning but gradually
recovered during the day, with no residual or recurrent symptoms. No
medical attention was received.
This experience, related to fellow ichthyologists, was the basis for
the statement by Walford (1931, p. 127), that "although the flesh is of
excellent quality the roe is said to be poisonous," and for the following
remarks by Schultz (1948, p. 68) :
"Also, it is definitely known that the eggs of certain fishes are
poisonous, although the fishes themselves are not. (Dr. Hubbs became
very sick after eating some eggs of a United States Pacific Coast
marine sculpin.) "
When a very large female collected at the Scripps Institution reef by
Jack Prodanovich on December 23, 194f), was found to be full of nearly
ripe roe, a long desire for an experimental test of the toxicity of the roe
w r as reactivated. The ovaries were promptly hard-frozen. They were kept
in that condition for nine months, until the experiments were run.
The experimental results (Table 1) confirmed the experience re-
counted above. A portion of the roe (77 g.) and 50 ml. of water were
homogenized for five minutes in a Waring Blendor. The mixture was fed
orally to 12 male albino rats and to two guinea pigs. The animals had in
addition their regular food at all times. Pour rats and one guinea pig
1 Contribution from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, New Series, No. 506,
and from the Scripps Metabolic Clinic. Submitted for publication, November, 1950.
Recipe for Disaster
With an end-of-season lobster dive only a couple of days away, I was glad to accept an offer to borrow a BC from a friend of mine, since I had not yet replaced my own. Due to time constraints I did not have the opportunity to test it out with my tank and regulator. After a near-sleepless night, and a long drive south, we boarded the dive boat, and began setting up our gear. That was when I realized that the power inflator quick disconnect was a different size on my first stage regulator hose than on my borrowed BC. Fortunately, we had arrived early in the afternoon, and I was able to make it to the dive shop with the intention of buying a new power inflator hose. Unfortunately, it was pointed out to me that my 25-year-old first stage would not accommodate the connector on the new hose. So, I asked for a rental regulator—not noticing that there was no compass on the console. I was able to get a couple hours of rest, before we made the not-so-smooth crossing to Catalina.
We dropped anchor on the lee side of the island in mild seas with little wind. The conditions were promising for a night assault on the local bug population. After familiarizing myself with the location of the cummerbund buckle, the chest strap snap, the two ditch snaps for the two 5# weights of the integrated weight system, the power inflator/air release (left hand side of BC), and the upper and lower pull cord air releases, I was ready to jump in to what was reported as being 45 feet of depth. As I approached the bottom at 71 feet I felt as if I had already pumped an inordinate amount of air into my BC to no avail. In a matter of minutes I found a higher spot on the reef at 60 feet, and tried to navigate in one general direction. Soon I realized I was swimming in circles, and that the BC was most likely not holding air. As I approached my safety stop at 13 feet with 700 PSI, I was still operating the left hand side power inflator and right side shoulder air release cord, thinking the air release valve may have been sticking. I had to use my dive light both to read my computer on my right wrist, and locate the power inflator button on the left side. Every time I switched the light from one hand to the other, I was inadvertently dropping 10-20 feet. By the time I successfully completed a five-minute safety stop, my tank was on empty. I surfaced about 20 yards from the stern.
I began kicking for the boat. After a couple of minutes, I realized that there was a small current, and that I wasn’t making any progress. I also realized I was tiring. Deciding to step on it, I began a full, all-out swim for the boat. A minute later, breathing heavily, I checked my progress again. Nothing. I was exhausted, and my judgment was cloudy. I called for help, not knowing if anyone had heard me. My gear pulled me under once, and I swallowed water. I struggled to find the weight release, and finally ditched one of the 5# weights. I couldn’t find the other. Then I doffed the BC, holding it in my one hand as I struggled to uncouple my dive sausage and light from it—before jettisoning the tank and BC.
As it turned out, help arrived before I let go of the BC. I was able to pass it up, along with my 18# weight belt, before pulling myself out of the ocean. I laid down in the skiff for a few minutes, still breathing heavily.
Once back on board, I filled the BC with air, and it promptly deflated on its own. I filled it again, and that time it held air without leaking. I checked the air release valve for foreign debris, but the valve was clean and did not stick. As I was donning the BC before a daytime dive the next morning, I noticed that the air release draw cord had wrapped under the shoulder strap. I wondered if that was the case the night before, and that the tension thus created was holding the valve in an open position from the time of my decent.
I also wondered why I didn’t release my weight belt once I surfaced. There are a number of lessons I learned from this near disaster. Primarily, to be extremely familiar with every aspect of all your dive gear. Secondly, exhaustion can lead to cloudy decisions, which can have a negative impact on your lifespan. I vividly recall going from a state of casual alarm regarding the malfunctioning BC, to full alert (considering ditching the integrated weight system on the BC), to near panic and poor decision by the time I doffed the BC (I should have jettisoned the weight belt first thing).
Submitted by Tom Krebs
Reluctant Cave Diving
This incident occurred at Santa Barbara Island nearly six years ago. It was narrated to me by the diver involved, who is a young, excellent free diver. If you have been diving the Channel Islands for any length of time, you are bound to hear stories about the numerous caves, and how divers die in them regularly. I never took these stories to heart, until I heard this one. As a skinny child, I recall having nightmares of being crushed by big women (might have started when one of my aunts threatened to sit on me). Now, to my claustrophobia you can add paranoia.
My friend, Matt, was at SBI in search of lobster. He decided to use SCUBA on this particular dive. With a full tank he dove near the island shoreline, and immediately found the dark opening to one of the numerous caves. As he approached the opening with his dive light, he noticed that it looked devoid of life, and that the rocks there it were sandblasted. Before he could decide whether to enter it, he was sucked into it by the surge.
There are stories of caves/tunnels that pass to the other side of the island. I’m not sure about that, but Matt was caught up in a one way surge that took him head over heels 80 feet in a matter of seconds. As he was clawing at the rocks, both of his dive gloves were ripped off. His journey through the cave was arrested only after his tank slammed between two rocks and became jammed. Even then the water was still rushing at him like a tidal surge, although it had subsided somewhat.
By this time he was able to dislodge his tank—all the while struggling to keep his mask on his face and his hood on his head. He was fortunate not to have lost his dive light. Eventually, he made it out of the cave with only 300 PSI in his tank.
Before he made his ascent, he noticed two long antennae protruding from under a nearby rock, and he snagged a 10# bug. Coming from anyone else I would have trouble believing the end, but Matt is not given to bragging, and there were others on board to verify that. He summed everything up by telling me that had he been free diving on that dive, he would not have made it out.
In conclusion, his story put the brakes on my desire to hunt bugs in caves, and I took it seriously when the captain walked around the boat admonishing everyone to avoid entering caves.
Submitted by Tom Krebs
I remember one of my cave moments at Carrington Point Santa Rosa Island. There is a big cave complex and it gets hit with a long swell. Diving along the mouth opening and grottos, again lots of smooth moonscape. I swam towards some huge antennae and was sucked in. Tumbling like lost in space and bouncing off boulders. I came to stop in total darkness when the surge let up. I was thinking this was it. Then I spied a huge bug. I grabbed for it between 2 boulders. Buried shoulder deep another surge and my arm was stuck. My mask came off and I felt my arm would be ripped from my shoulder. Finally got my arm loose. Mask back on and narrowly escaped. I still get pretty nervous around cave mouths. My shoulder still hurts 30 years later.
Submitted by Dave Clutts
On Feb 15, 2015, Norcal Skin Divers had a club dive at Corral street in Monterey. I paired up with Lou G. and we headed up toward Otter Cover to dive. A couple of dives and a whale passing between us later, Lou wanted to head back toward the launch site as he had been suffering from a cold and was having some sinus issues. I dove with him a bit out front until he decided to jet back in. I decided to keep diving solo and run out to where Patrick and Sean and a few others were diving on the inside of the south point area in open water.
Upon arriving, I asked how they had done and what was being seen. After that I passed a little south past them and decided to do a couple spot dives and instead of anchoring, I tied my 60’ float line to my kayak and 90cm Rob Allen and decide to spot dive while towing the kayak. Dropped on a nice olive on the 1st dive, and by the time I regrouped, I had floated away in the current, which was moving good that day. Visibility all day was really good approximately 25-40ft depending where you were.
I decided then to do a closer towards shore dive, so I hopped back on the kayak and paddled toward shore until I could see bottom. I then jumped in using the previous tow configuration (gun, float line, kayak) and came to an area where it looked good, so I dove and saw some olives, schooling fish and a sheep head. Feeling like this may be a good spot, I dove again looking for the sheep head and noticed a nice ling dart off, so I decided “Hell, this should be a great spot to fill up on some fish for the tourney. I’ll anchor here and work this area”.
As I floated to the surface (head facing shore, fins ocean side), I turned to grab my float line to bring my kayak back to me and I saw the head of a GWS coming up behind me slowly, right at my fins!!! I’m looking right at this monster!! I instinctively yelled, no, Screamed into my snorkel “SHIIIIIIIIT!!!!!!!” The GWS swerved away slowly and headed away from me. I kept my mask under the surface to keep eyes on it while I frantically pulled at my float line to try to get my kayak closer to me to get out of the water. By this time the shark had made a 180 degree turn and was coming right back toward me, his nose aimed at my chest! It was coming straight for me!!!! Not fast, but steady.
By this time I had a hand on the kayak but all I could do was extend my left arm out which was holding my Rob 90cm (loaded) and extend it toward the nose of the shark and hoped for the best. I just wanted to keep it in front of me and as it was coming toward me I had only the intention of poking in the snout to turn it, not to shoot. As it came damn near the end of the spear shaft, it did a 90 degree turn to my left (got a great broadside view of it), did another 90 degree turn away from me so now I’m looking from its tail to its head. The massive girth on this thing was impressive!
As it was swimming away, I had my hand still on my kayak, waiting to determine the best time to launch myself into my kayak. I had my head in still watching it swim away when it turned right about 30’ away as I saw again at the outline of it near the edge of visibility, I decided now was the time and I got my scared butt into my kayak. I scrambled in (almost rolling it!!) and grabbed my paddle and I booked it hard out of there. Never saw the shark again. I paddled back toward the landing and saw Patrick and Sean floating on their kayaks. I told them I had an encounter. Patrick booked it to warn Aaron and Sean and I went back in.
I estimated that the GWS was between 10-12’ long. We were in about 25-30ft of water. I am convinced that had I not turned around at the moment I did, it was going to bump me or bite me to see what I was. Crap. Dumb luck.
I am getting back in the water next weekend, although I may be a bit twitchy for a few dives, I am not going to stop like I always said I would if I ever saw one……
Thankful to still be here,
Submitted by Jeff Fornes
I drove up to Van Damme with one of my friends on Saturday morning. We got there before the Sun was over the hill, so the beach was still in the shade. There were a lot of people there already and I looked around and did not see anyone from our club or the dive shop. Since I have never had much luck finding decent abs at Van Damme, we decided to drive up to big river to launch there.
I won't go into the details but I will say I came close to making my final dive attempt there in the surf. It was probably one of the worst situations I have put myself in and I had no business being there. I am lucky to be here and lucky that I did not lose my less experienced dive buddy who was relying on me to make the decision on whether it was safe for us to launch there or not. I made a bad decision.
Once we finally made it past the breaking waves, I knew there was no way we were going to be able to go back through there, so now I had to figure out what in the heck we were going to do. We decided that I would need to paddle to Van Damme to get my kayak back to shore. Unfortunately my buddy could barely make any progress on the board and there was absolutely no way he could make the trek around the corner and down to Van Damme, so we would need to split up and go different directions. I took his weight belt in my kayak and tried to bail as much water out as I could with only a small sponge :/
My buddy could not get back to the mouth of the river due to the strong current so he ended up going to the cliff on the south end of the cove and climbing the jagged rocks to safety. He stashed the board and his dive gear on the cliffside and made his way to the highway. He got my car and headed to meet me in Van Damme where I paddled roughly 4 miles, staying very far away from the shore so that I would not get pushed into the rocks or the breakers. The swell was so high at this point that when a set came through I was either looking at the tops of the cliffs or I was so deep in the trough that I could not see land. When I got to Van Damme it seemed to be breaking all the way across the reef line and I wasn't sure how I would be able to get into the cove. Luckily I waited until there seemed to be a calm period and made it through without any trouble.
I stopped for about 15 minutes and grabbed the first 3 abs I saw (and a crusty old weight belt that must have been underwater over a year) and went to shore.
We spent over an hour cleaning gear, packing stuff up, and basically being thankful for being alive :) I never did see anyone I knew so I was not able to measure my clinker abs :D
I did learn a lot from my experience, and I am writing this so others will hopefully learn from my mistake- which was to ignore my past experience with rough water and let the greed of big abs outweigh my judgement.
I will end this on a positive note- we stopped on the way home and ate ribs at the Hamburger Ranch BBQ place in Cloverdale. That place is awesome!!
Submitted by Brian Mathews