Palos Verdes Night

Copy Right 2002

I had a fun day of diving the other night. Tim on the Great Escape had told me that lobster diving off of Palos Verdes was excellent Considering that I hadn't dove there in 30 years, I figured it was time to go back. The boat was very roomy with only 20 divers. It's not a long trip and it was a nice flat night out there with fairly warm Santana winds blowing. We anchored just off of the Point Fermin Lighthouse. It was a very black night and I couldn't easily estimate how far we were from the cliffs.

I reached bottom in about 35 feet and headed directly for shore. I was hoping that the bugs were in shallow. When I got to the bottom the first thing I noticed was all the small purple urchins and the lack of kelp. The bottom relief looked good, the water was cold and the vis was very nice at well over 30 feet. Immediatly I saw a bug in the open, but it was obviously just a bit short. I continued in and was seeing a fair number of fish, especially perch, as well as lots of starfish. The bottom had some flat areas but mostly it was large rocks.

I saw one more bug in the open. It really didn't look quite legal, but I thought I had could use to do a practice grab. I got it perfectly, but I could feel in my hand that it couldn't be legal sized. It was gone. I just wasn't seeing any more bugs for a while but it was getting shallower and at about 23 feet I passed the thermocline. The water was a lot warmer and I finally started seeing some lobster. The whole area here was refrigerator sized and bigger boulders. I saw a near legal one jump off the side of a rock to dodge my light. If he had been legal, I probably could have swooped down and grabbed him just before he hit the bottom again, but I was still moving fast towards shore.

Then I saw a nice legal looking one under a ledge and got a clean grab at it. I kept the light pointed away from it so that it was barely lit up and made sure to grab a bit behind the body in case it moved. There was no chance... for me. I did horribly and never got a piece of it. It bounced back into the ledge and then bounced out underneith me. I played hot potato and never got near grabbing it. Flashing my light all around, there was no sign of it.

Great. Sometimes, how you do at the beginning of the season, is how you do for the rest.

I continued moving towards shore, but the terrain of large boulders looked promising enough that I was really looking. Also the big boulders were making it just a bit difficult to navigate consistantly in the direction I wanted to go. I was surprised I wasn't getting to shore yet. At one point I saw another light off to my left and figured it was another diver heading to shore as well. The rocks were huge and tended to run parellel to the shore. It was easy to think that I had reached the shore, but each time it would get deep on the other side. There was heavy seaweed and kelp growth towards the upper parts of the rocks. At one point I surfaced to see where I was and I was still a ways off shore. Basically, my compass seemed to be responding poorly. It's fairly old and by the end of the night I was figuring it was time for a replacement.

I wasn't seeing lobster, but I was finally very close to shore. The rocks came to the surface but there was still deep water between them. I was looking carefully, both on the bottom and also at the rocks. I figured the lobsters might be hanging out on the rock sides in the current or they might be hunkered down in the seaweeds on the top of the rocks, but I wasn't finding them anywhere. There were some sculpin, perch and lots of other life, but just no bug. It was rough just because the rocks were sticking so close to the surface and the small waves were rushing around them.

I was 50 feet from shore, staying past the surf, but working hard in the fast moving water and thick shallow water kelps. There was lots of life, but no lobster. That shallow, you use almost no air, but it is alot of work holding on near the top of the rocks and riding the surge through the spaces between them. I finally had had enough and was getting nausiated by all the sloshing around and looking at seaweed whipping around even faster to spin out my vision. I looked up to get a compass reading on the boat and then head out. It still wasn't easy because of how many rows of rocks right at the surface that I had to cross before I could comfortably get down into calmer water.

It was a long swim to the boat and I didn't feel like doing it on the surface, so I compassed out sort of fast, figuring that I'd use my remaining air somewhere nearer the boat that looked productive. Going around the huge rocks there, I had to look at my compass a lot to keep on course. The terrain was such that I could move efficiently by adding an occasional pull with my hand when ever I was passing a rock that stuck up.

Then I started seeing some more bugs. Shorts first, but where there are shorts, there are usually some legals. They were fairly out in the open, rather than staying in their holes. I started making grabs, unfortunately, I was still doing a horrible job and kept playing hot potato. I missed probably 3 legals and actually got only 1. I also became extremely concious of those urchins. I was bumping them with my ankles and knees. There were a lot of bugs around and I carefully noted that I was in about 21 feet of water.

Air was low and it was time to go. I headed out over the deeper rock under the thermocline, until it was time to surface. Nicely I was close enough to see the lights from the boat. I had not seen any lobster under the thermocline.

Tim moved the boat to the east and said that we would do the next 2 dives on the reef that ran under the boat from east to west. He said it was a very good reef and it had some scallops on it. Actually, I mis-understood a bit. I thought we were near 1/2 mile off shore and that this was a strip of offshore reef. In the dark, I didn't realize that we were probably no more than 160 yards offshore. As such, I didn't consider heading in shallow, until later. I went down in a bit more than 40 feet and headed behind the boat. I wanted to stay ahead of the rest of the divers in what I thought was a limited area, I quickly headed east, moving north to south and back, trying to get good coverage of the reef. It was cold.

Again, purple urchins were everywhere, but they are mostly somewhat small and again were mostly distributed about 10 inches apart. I had seen some Chestnut Coweries on the previous dive. This dive I saw them everywhere. There were lots of different fish around. None that would be worth spearfishing, but quite a variety of species. There was a lot to see, but no lobster.

Then I started finding huge rocks sticking up. These were bus sized. Big bus sized. I wasn't seeing much at the bottom, so I headed up them. They mostly had extremely thick seaweed and some kelps on top. I figured a lot of bugs could hide out up there especially because there were lots of cracks and cover on the tops of the rocks. It was actually very pretty on top with lots of diverse life including small stars, urchins and anemones. Here there were numerous big Red Urchins. As I had been told, there were some scallops as well. I saw one big one and since I had no iron, I had to yank it off the rock, but I figured it would make a nice snack.

Where I started, the water was about 35 feet deep. At the top of one of these flat rocks, it was only 13 feet deep. I was following the terrain up, down and around these big rocks and the reef was definately getting shallower. I finally figured out that I was getting closer to shore. The tops of the rocks didn't seem that productive, though I actually found a couple of lobster on top of the rocks that were hanging on the kelp. They were mostly short and hanging on the kelp makes for extremely difficult grabs. After a while I gave up on the top of the rocks and went back down. I was following the reef terrain, moving up shallower and when the bottom got near 20 feet, I started seeing bugs again. I grabbed a couple of shorts and lost some that might have been legal, but things were looking up. When you see a lobster, look around. They are social and there may be more. I found one in a little puka hole. It had only about a foot it could go in, but it was just short anyway. There was another that was trying to walk sideways away from me and I almost grabbed it, but I saw that if it walked about 2 feet further it would be in a bit of a crack against a rock. It was worth the wait. That made it an easy grab where it couldn't go anywhere.

This is where the lobster were. Unfortunately, my air was pretty near gone from the time spent deep earlier. I headed deeper, since I knew the boat was out there. Then I surfaced when it was time and was only about 200 feet from the boat.

I had still been feeling nausiated after the first dive, so I hadn't eat anything. This time I felt better and munched on the scallop I had gotten. I think they are best fresh.

Art said that the gate would be open for a while after tanks were full. A lot of divers were going to sit out the last dive, but I wanted to head in shallower where I had finally found something last tank. Pretty soon it was time to jump back in. This time, I headed north immediatly and soon got above the thermocline again. I looked between two rocks and there were 2 lobster laying almost head on to each other. One looked really nice They started backing up a bit, but didn't spook in my light. To get to them, I had to swim over the rocks and then back again and then below where they made an overhang. The smaller bug was still out in the open and I grabbed it, but the bigger one had moved back already. I tried to get to it, but it kept going back into its hole. I suspect that it was over 2 pounds.

The bottom had a mild slope, so even trying to stay at near 20 feet, it is a big dive area. Every so often I'd find a bug, sometimes not. It was a really dramatic bottom of big rocks with channels between them. Some of the channels I could go in. Some were just a bit small. There were lots of fish, cowries, turbin snails and lots of big Red Urchins. By now, I was in good form. If I saw a lobster, I would just dive on it and swat it to the bottom without any fumbling around. A lot were too short to consider going after, but a lot were worth checking. I was still kicking into more urchins than I should have.

Well, air was low, so I headed out some. I found one of the bigger rocks and went to the top to hang out a bit. It was 15 feet at the top, with thick seaweed growth on it. I looked it over for bugs and then spent a few minutes just taking a close look at the invertebrates growing on it while off-gassing a bit. Ths small hidden life you have to look close to see, is always delicately beautiful. When I came up, I had a bit of a swim to the boat. It was certainly time to change my kick and give some leg muscles a rest. I was frog kicking and using my hands to swim. The phlorescence was very bright and made up of particularly fine living 'particles'. Around my gloves it looked like green glowing gas.

Well, it was a lot of work, but so much fun. I got 6 nice legal bugs. Adam and his buddy had gone all the way to shore (a long swim) and had taken 5 legals. That was it for the trip. I should thank the crew of the Great Escape for a fun trip. They were extremely helpful at all times. What else made the trip good was that the people, the crew and especially the other divers, were a bunch of really fun people. They were there to dive and enjoy themselves. It was a happy, friendly crowd.

Enjoy the diving, seahunt Back To Home Page