"It's just fish, fish, fish!"
David Checkley studies fish for a living, and even he was at a loss for words when trying to describe swimming with millions of anchovies off the coast of San Diego Tuesday (July 8).
The school of fish measured about 50 feet (15 meters) wide and 325 feet (100 m) long, and could have contained anywhere from 1 million to 100 million fish, he said.
No one knows why the anchovies came so close to shore, Checkley said. The fish typically prefer cool water, and San Diego's surf hit 74 degrees Fahrenheit (23 degrees Celsius). Anchovy eat small zooplankton, and Checkley said it's unlikely they were searching for food close to shore. The sheer size of the group also means the fish would have quickly gobbled through any food, he added. [Photos: The Freakiest-Looking Fish]
"Schools like this exist throughout the region, but I don't know why they butted up right against the surf," he said. "A school this size and this immensity, it's rather difficult to know why."
Checkley, a professor in the integrative oceanography division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, was one of several Scripps scientists who jumped in the surf and swam with the anchovies on Tuesday.