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Jewels of the Mediterranean winter: the John Dory

When everybody thinks about the best dive sites around the world, the Mediterranean Sea never appears. It doesn’t have warm waters, coral reefs or exotic fish. Nevertheless, for European divers, it has some attractive places like the Spanish “Costa Brava”. As I live near Barcelona, this is my main diving area, in which I had some of my best dives.

During winter, you can bet the waters won’t be crystal clear and tropical warm. Usually, there's low visibility (less than 5 m) and really cold water, 11-13ºC (38-40F), so drysuits are heavily recommended. Besides, there’s a lot less life compared to the summer. That would discourage most divers, and only some locals dive all the year.

But for those who dare to dive during winter, the sea may reward them with some of its hidden jewels. One of them is a very special fish, the John Dory (Zeus faber).

John Dory

There’s a legend that says that this spot is Saint Peters thumbprint, hence the John Dory's other name, Saint Peter.

It also has 10 long spines on its dorsal fin; the first ones are separated and especially long, so they really catch the eye when deployed, especially in the young small specimens because they are larger in proportion to the body length.

In fact, they might even be as long as the fish itself.

John Dory around a lost gill net

How to Spot Them?

John dories seem to have a, sometimes unhealthy, attraction to any conspicuous item, so it’s easy to see them around forgotten nets, sunken trees, etc, although in some places you can see them at very shallow depths, they tend to prefer deeper waters.

In some places you can find them below 18 m but sometimes you have to descend to 40 m, into colder waters, to find them.

It’s not easy to spot them; they are very elusive critters. But this isn't their unique problem.

You can look straight at one a meter away and it renders you invisible until you get much closer, and then it feels impelled to move away. The John Dory is one of the greats masters of stealth. In winter green waters, the stripes along its body fuse with the sea grass prairies or algae-covered rocks. Its slight color changes improve its stealth design.

Juvenile john Dory

As long as they trust in their own ability to remain unseen, you can approach them, however, they are very shy fish, so you’ll always see them from behind and from a minimal safety distance.

If you want to photograph these animals, a fisheye wouldn’t be the best option. A standard zoom lens is the most reasonable choice, like the 17-70 mm.

A 100 mm can also render very good portraits from a reasonable distance.

How to shoot them?

My favorite lens choice? A surprising one: The fisheye. Although you have to be REALLY close in order to get decent results, it can render the most spectacular shots, and allows you to show the environment. You always have to approach John Dories slowly in order to find the safety distance and try to keep it.

Forget the hurries, and wait for the John to give you its best shot.

If you’re lucky enough, you can see them yawn- one of the most spectaculars yawns I’ve ever seen.

Most fish have very different personalities, even at an individual level, so if you dive several times, you can eventually find a curious individual that can almost touch your dome. LOTS of patience, bad shots, and unsuccessful dives will be required; however, all your efforts will be worthwhile.

Have you ever seen the John Dory? Any tips on spotting them or getting a great capture?

Published Dec. 21,
2014

TAGS

Marine Life

John Dory

Countries

Other

Saint Peter's Fish

Winter





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Much like a facebook page - you need to first have a personal account through which you can login and manage the business page.

After creating a personal account, you will be directed to 'My Dive Shop' section where you can claim existing listing or create a new one.

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