Don’t tread on me! Poisonous seasnakes in So Cal

A yellow-bellied seasnake like the one pictured was found along the Ventura County shoreline in Southern California.

A yellow-bellied seasnake like the one pictured was found along the Ventura County shoreline in Southern California. Photo via Wikipedia.

Kayak fishermen who like to beach launch to reach California hot spots should watch their step!

Unusually warm ocean waters that have pushed exotic tropical species like blue marlin and wahoo into Southern California waters brought another visitor to the California coast when a poisonous yellow-bellied seasnake was washed up on a Ventura County beach on Thursday, Oct. 15.

The venomous creatures, also known as pelagic seasnakes, are extremely rare in this part of the Pacific Ocean. The last time a yellow-bellied seasnake was spotted in Southern California was during the El Niño event of 1982/83, one of the strongest of the decadal warm water events. Water temperatures in the Southern California Bight have averaged 75 degrees since late July. The hot water is the result of a combination of the hot water “blob” in the North Pacific caused by four years of extreme drought in the West and a persistently El Niño event currently found in the tropics and expected to last into the winter.

The pelagic seasnake spawns in warm water and is known to aggregate in large surface concentrations during spawning activity. The snake found on the beach in Ventura was in poor condition and died before it arrived at a local animal treatment center. Yellow-bellied seasnakes use their venom to prey on fishes.

Seasnakes will not bite unless they are aggravated. Seasnakes are helpless when stranded on the sand, which is definitely an aggravated situation. There are no recorded human deaths from seasnake venom, thanks in large part to effective antivenoms readily available in parts of the world where the snakes are common. Since that does not include Southern California, anyone who spots a seasnake is urged to leave the snake alone, contact local authorities and if possible take photographs and make note of the GPS location. The information will prove valuable as California marine biologists are geared up to take advantage of the data that will be available during what many call an upcoming “Godzilla” El Niño.

Don’t miss out on all the great fishing to be had out of your kayak this fall. Just “tread lightly” and have fun.

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