Did someone say underwater flash mob? Kevin Biskaborn, a wildlife photographer, shot this video of a school of emerald shiners on Lake Simcoe’s Kempenfelt Bay earlier this season. “There was a patch of water that looked like it was boiling,” recalls Biskaborn. “Looking closer, the disturbance was actually millions of tiny fish struggling to avoid loons hunting from below and seagulls diving from above.”
Even though we can’t see the predators, “the school’s avoidance behaviour does indeed demonstrate that they’re being chased,” says Wil Wegman, the Hooked on Fishing columnist for Lake Simcoe Living and a member of the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame. “The cool thing about a true schooling fish like the emerald shiner is that there is no independent behaviour among the individuals as they swim,” he says. Fish that stray from the group—because they’re weak, or injured, for example—are predator magnets. “If you stray, you get nabbed.”
Lake Simcoe has one of the province’s most vibrant emerald shiner populations, says Wegman. But seeing such a large school of the minnows—never mind capturing it on film—is rare. And incredible.
Biskaborn sure thought so. The scene was “unlike anything I had filmed before,” he says. “It was hard to believe it came from a lake in Ontario, rather than an ocean.”