Dive Report: Sea Sons Halibut Hunt at Santa Cruz & Santa Rosa Islands

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Posted by Chris on June 24, 2008 at 10:28:03:

Last Thursday night June 19, 2008, I drove to the Peace to join the Sea Sons on their annual halibut hunt. The boat was originally scheduled to depart at midnight go to San Nicolas Island, but the Navy closed it, as they often do these days, and we departed at 3 AM for Santa Cruz Island.

In all my years of diving I had never gone on a halibut hunt, so this was new to me. The dive sites are mostly sand so most of the sites were new to me since they are not places they normally take most people on sightseeing , photo, and lobster hunting trips.

Our first dive on Friday morning Captain Fidel the east end of Santa Cruz Island. Both David Vilhauer and Brad Nelson found nice fish, I saw thousands of hermit crabs gathered together in one spot in the sand, but no halibut.

The next two dives were at Santa Rosa Island. The third dive was a drift dive where the boat dropped us off and then anchored about 350 yards down current. I was thankful I had my dive tracker this dive so I could home in on the boat without surfacing. Several people got fish, I saw none.

The fourth dive was back at Santa Cruz. I saw a very large halibut on this dive, but it swam away before I was in range for a shot. I also saw the biggest moon snail I had ever seen.

The fifth dive was on the front side of Cruz. I saw no halibut but on coming back to the boat I saw the biggest Melibe leonine nudibranchs I had ever seen on some bull kelp. The largest one appeared to be capturing and filtering water to feed on plankton.

Because I was having problems clearing during ascent I choose to sit out the sixth dive in Arch cove. It turned out that this was the most productive dive of the trip. David Vilhauer came back with the biggest fish of the trip, a 36 lb. fish. Mike smith also got a nice one. Several other fish came aboard as well.

David Vilhauer with 36 lb. halibut & Sea Son Mike Smith with his fish

After the dive Captain Fidel moved the boat to a small cove for dinner and to spend the night. It had been in the high 70’s all day. Then at sunset a warm wind came up and the temperature shot up to 90 °F. It was so hot I could not sleep in the bunk room and moved into the galley. A few tried sleeping on deck. The hot night continued until sunrise when it cooled back down to about 78 °F. Neither I nor anyone on the boat had experienced this before.

The next morning we returned for two more dives in Arch cove. On the second dive I took off for deeper water and found a series of reefs. There were several Black Sea Bass and one 300 lb. one chose to follow me in my halibut quest for a few minutes.

The next dive was at a small sandy bay a bit East on the front side of Santa Cruz. I saw a few very small halibut, quite a few batrays, and a variety of crabs including elbow crabs, globe crabs, moss crabs, brown rock crabs, sheep crabs, and hermit crabs.

We then moved even farther East to a smaller bay. John Higgins and I talked about how he had not even seen a fish the whole trip, and I complained that I had only seen one and not had a shot at it. On the last dive both John Higgins and I went off the bow. I could see him for the first 15 minutes of the dive as we headed in the same general direction. We eventually ended up in apart. Again I saw nothing, but this time John returned with a 30 lb. fish. David also got his fourth fish of the trip.

David Vilhauer & Sea Son John Higgins with a 30 lb. halibut

Even though I did not get a fish I enjoyed the diving and the freedom of swimming without a BC and seeing huge areas of each dive site. Each dive I swam almost constantly for 45 to 60 minutes and covered vast areas looking for halibut and seeing the sites. The visibility varied from 15 feet to 60 feet, and the temperature varied from 53 °F to 62 °F. The mostly sand dive sites were very interesting, especially when taken in as a whole. It was a great trip that I really enjoyed, so much so I plan to do it again next year.

Click here to see all of the pictures from the Sea Sons Halibut Hunt

©2008 Chris Grossman

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