Catalina Tired Dive

After lots of traffic and a typical boat thing of a dead battery was solved, we were heading out across San Pedro Harbor. Near Angels Gate was a car carrier ship that looked like a gigantic building. We couldn't tell what it was doing, but from its positioning, we assumed it was just getting under way. The green spot of the Angels Gate lighthouse washed across it a couple of times a minute. We couldn't tell if it was moving or just starting to move, but you have to be extremely careful of ships like that both because they are so huge and also because they are so fast. As we got closer, we could see that surprisingly, it was still not moving or even appearing to get under way. Soon we were outside the breakwater in smooth water heading for Catalina. The forecast was for calm, with some fog and drizzles. Right now it was clear with a very bright half moon.

Since we were a bit late getting off, we decided to go to the Pyramid rather than explore a new spot near Church Rock as we had discussed. It was a spot we both knew well. The option was Isthmus High Spot, but this late in the season, the lobsters were likely to be shallower anyway. We anchored in close and hit the water. I wanted to try out my other lens, so I had my camera along. It's not any help when lobster diving, but it shouldn't be too much in the way, floating over my shoulder most of the time.

The water was warm and clear. I went west, Lem went east. This is a spot we both knew in detail. I went down at the first kelp bed and dumped out some abalone scraps I had saved. The plan was to check it on the way back to the boat. It had never worked in the past, but I wanted to try again.

I like to swim right against the shore here when I can and the surge wasn't bad, but the kelp was thicker than usual. The tide was low, so the water level was at the level of a band of short laminarea kelp. I was staying along the bottom at 10 or 15 feet, looking for lobsters on the rock face under them. I was traveling through macrocystis kelp, inside of rocks covered with bright green eel grass. I really wasn't seeing much other than some shorts and some fish. I wasn't bothering the shorts, but a few seemed to be panicking as I passed and I kept feeling them bump into me as they jetted away. I took some pictures of a couple of them as I went along.

I saw a group together and one looked legal so I swatted him before he started moving. With all the shorts I was seeing, I expected to see more legals. All the bugs I was seeing were on the rock face, but closer to the bottom in the short red algae.

Then about two feet under the surface, I saw the smallest moray eel I had ever seen. It was about 18 inches long and moving along the rocks down the reef. I felt bad flashing him with the camera, but I sure hope the pics came out. That was really something to see. Cute little bugger.


I was looking up all the way to the surface and out into the rocks away from the island wall and didn't see much. I was going into small shallow surgy inlets between the rocks. I just wasn't seeing much legal. I figured I would go deeper on the way back, but I wanted to travel as far as I could shallow before turning around.

A few things were becoming evident as I went along. I had just gotten over a bit of flu, so I had used some Afrin to clear my head. After the last time, I had promised myself that I would remember not to take antihistamines ever again while diving. They get me incredibly high, but I didn't remember why I didn't like Afrin unless needed. I was remembering now. The drip down my throat tasted disgusting and was making me a bit nauseated. Also the camera was being more of a problem than I expected. The extra weight of the lens was making the camera neutral, so it wasn't floating above me. When I wasn't holding it, it was following behind my shoulder. I had taken the camera with me lobster hunting before, but not in kelp this thick or in this much surge. I really needed both hands for good mobility. It was a hassle.

A snail out cruising the Kelp Hiway

I went up to look for the boat and finally turned back. I went back down to about 18 feet so that I was outside the eel grass and headed back quickly. Along the way, there were some shorts and a maybe that I grabbed and put in my bag. I always put my light between my legs so that it won't float up into my face, then close my eyes and put the lobster in the bag by feel. It seems the easiest way. I really didn't see that many fish, though I was taking pictures to use up the roll whenever I saw anything of interest.

I felt fairly miserable, so though I came up perfectly in line with the boat, I only swam past the outer reef quickly and didn't really look for the abalone scraps. Lem was coming from the other direction just after me. He had 5 nice legals and I ended up with two. That was a lot of work and I had no intention of bringing my camera with me any more that night.

We went east to the Isthmus to anchor for the night. Lem wasn't feeling that good and wanted to call it a night. He was still a bit illish himself anyway and had mostly wanted just to get wet. We anchored near Little Cove for the night. I've gotten a couple of bugs most dives there anyway, so I figured I would do one tank and sleep. I was already tired anyway.

I swam in to the kelp and went down. I immediately came to some large rocks at about 20 feet and there were big bugs everywhere. The only problem was that they were way under those large rocks. These bugs are probably hunted more here than almost anywhere else and they were cagey. They moved back as soon as they saw the light and they had a long way to go back between and under these big rocks. I was making some good grabs, but they were making better dodges. I got some antennas and even some legs, but could not get anymore than that. I was basically not even trying to hold on if I only got hold of an antennae, because that was not going to get me a lobster. I was keeping the light extremely close so as not to give warning, but they were still just way down in their holes. I was moving close enough to the rocks that I put my console behind my shoulder so it wouldn't bang on the rocks. I dumped air until I was fairly negative, because any grabs were down as far as I could reach. What also made this interesting was that there were a fair number of sculpin around. This went on for a while before I got to the deep ledges that I knew were closer to Big Cove. There were a lot of fish to see as well as a couple horned sharks, but the cove is a reserve, so I turned around at the big ledges at the point. I figured it was time to look shallow and I did find some shorts, but nothing interesting.

There was a shallow wash ledge against the cliff so I hauled out to take a breather. It was a beautiful starry night and the moon had just set. It was clear enough that Palos Verdes was clearly visible. I try to never forget how special this is or take it for granted and stayed there in the light surge taking in the night. I always remember that such is life that this may never happen again. There were no shooting stars tonight though and it was time to keep moving.

Swimming along the shore, I was seeing a number of shorts, but nothing real interesting. It made sense that there were shorts and very big lobsters. An area like this has a right of passage. Shorts are safe, but once a lobster is legal sized it had better be fairly paranoid and stay that way or it's going to get caught.

After going south as far as I wanted, I went deeper to look in the big rocks again. Sure enough, they were there, but if anything they were deeper in the cracks. All you see are these big legs moving back. Then I came over a rock and there was a big one between some rocks, but not far enough back to be out of reach. He didn't move, so I hesitated (not a good idea) to try to figure a decent angle. I finally just reached in as far as I could and got a death grip on one horn. He fought. I held. I had room to get another hand in on his other horn and that was that. He has lost then. I held him by the horns in one hand and tried to get him in my bag. He wanted nothing to do with it and was big enough to protest. Eventually I stopped trying long enough to unfold my bag that had been turned in so it wouldn't catch as I swam. Then I did a quick jam to get him in, but still had to work a while to close the bag. I couldn't believe it. Nice bug. I figured it was at least 4 pounds.

She's got him licked

I kept moving on, with a bit of an adrenaline boost now, but there were no more big volunteers. This time when I turned back, I stayed at about 10 feet to check the middle area I had not covered. At one point, I saw one in a small flat crack. I could only get some fingers in, but that was enough to pin it. I got some fingers of my other hand on its horns and like it or not, I had it. It definitely felt like a legal, but just so. Well, that big bug didn't want to move away from the top of my bag no matter how much I shook it. I opened it just enough to shove the other one in all the way. I closed the bag, but not before I felt it jet sideways right out the side of the bag. I didn't even look for it.

I swam past the reef over the sand until I was at 42 feet and shut off my light. I slowly drifted up enjoying the bioluminescent light show. With no moon up, it was so black that the bioluminescence was brilliant. At the surface, the boat was only about 20 feet away.

I was tired and really hadn't planned on another tank, but hey, those were some big bugs. I had to try for another. Besides, I had another bag of abalone trimmings. I figured that I would swim over the rocks dropping pieces, then come back a bit later and see if any of those big ones were tempted. The bug I had, weighed in at 4.7 pounds and I had definitely seen much bigger in the rocks. As far as nitrogen load, there was really no need for a surface interval and there was no point in putting it off, so I geared up again immediately and headed back in. I went down near the boat, over the sand and sure enough, right away there was a nice bug in the sand. I was careful since he had a lot of room and could go in any direction. Since I was barely spotting him with the edge of my light, he didn't know which way to go and I nailed him. That was a great way to start a dive. I went closer to shore and moved over the big rocks dropping out pieces of ab. I also hoped the lobster would be more inclined to be out now that the moon was down. Way down in a space between rocks, I saw one lobster that had to be at least 9 pounds, maybe bigger.

Nice Bugs

To make a long dive into a short story, I saw a number of shorts, but even in the big rocks, the lobsters were further back in their holes than before. I didn't even grab for anything. It was a beautiful dive and I saw a lot of critters, but at the end of it I was dead tired and grateful for the hot shower on the boat. After I dressed, I went out to enjoy the stars. The Belt of Orion brought up one end of the brilliant stars of the zodiac, in the cloud of light that is the Milky Way.

Lem came half awake to ask how it had gone. He was surprised I had used both tanks. So was I, but I had to try.

Enjoy the diving, seahunt

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