Diving The Pacific Northwest

By Pablo Pizarro
Seattle, Washington USA

This last weekend seven spearo brothers from our Northern part of the country gathered at the Northwest-most corner of the contiguous United States (the lower 48). We had been rallied together by a superb diver in our midst to dive what could possibly be the last "good dive" of the year up in Neah Bay, Washington. Neah Bay sits in the heart of the Makah Nation. It is reknown for it's winter storms, frigid seas, bountiful fish and boundless natural beauty.

As all the campgrounds are closed for the season, we made arrangements to camp on a local woman's land. Arriving at Neah Bay in the dark, we finally found the camping site after driving around unfamiliar dirt roads and making several u-turns. A large fire greeted us as well as the hearty welcome of some of the other divers already assembled there. A blood thawing cup of hot chocolate, glorios scenery and one more spearo showing up that next morning set us on our way to the boat ramp in town. We all where exited about what might lay ahead underwater, but maybe silently concerned about the icey wind blowing through as we donned our wetsuits. There wasn't a cloud in the sky.

Two boats - one a 16ft inflatable and the other a 17ft Whaler carried 3 and 4 towards our destination. Cruising out of the jettie protected bay we turned to go around Waadah Island at the mouth of the bay and begin our run to Tatoosh Island. Tatoosh sits at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca - the inlet from the Pacific into the Puget Sound and Seattle. It is also the dividing waters between the USA and Canada. The seas where white capping and following as we slammed ahead. The whaler quickly out-distanced us. I remember feeling gratitude for not being in that boat, the ride in the inflatable was gut-spilling enough. As we approached Tatoosh Island we noticed the Whaler had split off and headed toward Duncan rock, a craggy chunk of rock rising up from 100 fathoms. Needless to say this unprotected shallow seemed "extreme" and us in the inflatable openly questioned diving there as the spray from the windward side of the rock hit us in the face. One spearo friend of mine new to the group had wide open eyes as he watched another in his boat gear up to jump in. The whaler planned on keeping a live boatman on board while the other three dove. We planned to get the hell out of there even though we didn't want to divide up the group. Our boat high-tailed it towards Tatoosh in search of calmer waters in the lee. Coming out of the spray we motered into a blissful calm bay. The flat water beckoned as we took off life jackets, rain gear and put on our weight belts and readied our flags and floats. We radioed to the crazies over at the rock what we had found and jumped in. I think the first one in yelled "awesome conditions" - that doesn't begin to describe what was underneath. For you all lucky enough to have more than 40 feet of visibility on a regular basis, you don't know how precious we consider anything more than 20 feet. The bouldery bottom littered with caves and drop-offs anchored a aquamarine water column filled in places with healthy kelp forests and schools of fat black rockfish. Before too long the whaler showed up and that triggered my competetive nature and I stopped frolicking around like a fat sealion enjoying the scenery. Even though for us it was breathtaking. Pretty soon I started hearing the unmistakable sounds of spearguns thwacking. I returned for the "good enough" lingcod I had let pass a little while ago. Bam! He thought he had tricked me and moved away from where I had first seen him. From now only the fatest fish would do.

Even though the water temperature locked firmly at 46 degrees, I couldn't get out of the water. I shot three more fish (10 rockfish limit), all what I considered to be good sized black rockfish. There where fish everywhere but I could not find the monster ling I really had come for. We don't get these underwater conditions very often and I just couldn't get enough. Russel, the driver of the inflatable came out the top spearo with a 20 lb or so lingcod shot - he asked that I mention this - with a JBL!

It was a great pleasure diving this spot and diving with these guys. A few spearo brothers and fewer sisters are coming together up here and a great clan of divers is starting to develope. I feel fortunate to be a part of this and look forward to diving with the larger community of spearos everywhere.

Pablo Pizarro

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