Red Tide happens a lot, but the Lingulodinium polyedrum bacteria isn’t always present in them. This time, it’s there, and that’s the cause of the Red Tide Glow moving up the coast from San Diego since Monday.
The Lingulodinium polyedrum– often abbreviated as “L. polyedra”, but best known by its gangsta-rap name “L-Po”– is a bacteria which releases a bioluminescent glow when it is disturbed. If you have ever walked on a beach and left behind footprints that temporarily glow for about a second afterward, or waived a stick into the harbor and seen traces of this unforgettable blue hue, the culprit is probably “DJ L-Po”. When we are very lucky, enough of these bad boys get together in a sludge and get disturbed by the natural waves of the ocean and freak out by the billions, releasing the glow seen in the photo above.
This week, we have been treated to such a masterpiece of nature.
On Monday, this was being seen from San Diego to La Jolla. Yesterday, the northern tip was reaching into Carlsbad, near Oceanside. If this keeps its course (which– as oceanlovers know– it probably won’t), this event could reach into Newport tonight or this weekend. But the big question is “how long will it last”. Typically, these events see their strongest points of glow for only about 3-5 days, so there is a real possibility of all the little L-Po’s dying out before they reach our shores, but I cannot stress enough: this is not an event to miss. If you’ve seen it before, you know it. If you haven’t: Trust me. It ain’t.
Here’s an incredible Youtube video of it occurring off our coastline just a few years back: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fvob6L8q3I8
With a WSW swell coming in, look for the beaches facing the directions most likely to receive waves, because remember: agitation is what gets these little guys to put on a show, and waves are a perfect mechanism for that.
The odds are that it will continue moving up the coast, but the ocean is an unpredictable beast, so you may need to do some scouting. Last night’s glow was incredible… and hopefully the magic lasts just a few more days!
Special thanks to Captain David Quesada, Captain John Fischer, Captain Jeff Markland, Captain Hunter Stroman, and veteran fisherman Paul Rodriguez jr for their help in this article– and many thanks to Jamie Kwast for the initial tip that this was occurring!