Bug Opener

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Posted by seahunt on October 05, 1999 at 11:12:19:

We headed south from Mission Bay towards Point Loma to make our first
dive on the sewer pipe. That's better than it sounds. The sewer pipe
sticks out near three miles off shore in deep water and we were only
going about a mile out on it. It is covered with boulders, so it is
just like diving a large breakwall that sticks up off the bottom about
30 feet. It is some really good diving and loaded with life, but it is
mostly surrounded by flat rock with little to see and I have never seen
many legal lobsters there.
It was a calm, warm, clear night. Various other boats were visible for
miles including one cruise ship lit up like an entire city. The kelp
canopy is pretty heavy this year and the skipper gave a pretty complete
dive briefing about the spot, including instructions to be sure to save
enough air to swim back to the boat under the canopy.
We were in 30 feet of water above the pipe, which made it about 60 feet
to the bottom. I knew from experience that the south side is better and
judging the time of the season, I figured that there would be more bugs
towards shore.
The water was fairly warm and clear with at least 40 feet of
visibility. It was excellent conditions. I headed off real quick down
the side of the rocks and right away saw a nice, legal looking, bug in
the open. I grabbed it and stuffed it in my bag. That seemed an
auspicious start. I kept moving towards shore quickly, sometimes moving
to the bottom of the rocks, sometimes moving up the sides. I was moving
about as fast as I could see things with my light. There were lobsters
everywhere. Unfortunately, most were obviously short.
There were lots of other critters to see. There are lots of sculpin
(scorpion fish). I saw about a 6 pound male Sheepshead asleep in a
crack. There were a number of brilliant red kelp crabs bigger than my
spread hand. I saw a couple of large Garabaldis way back in their
holes. As always there are all the many smaller reef fish that stay
close to the rocks. They come in all kinds of strange forms and
colors, but I wasn't seeing any more legal bugs.
The kelp was quite thick. At one point I moved out over the flat rock
that extends on each side of the pipe to see if I could find any
lobster walking. The kelp was very thick and there was so much of it
loose on the bottom, that I really couldn't see much. I fairly quickly
went back to the rocks.
I decided to go to the other side of the pipe and see if it seemed any
better. As I got on to the top of the pipe, the surge got much
stronger. The top of the rocks are covered with coralline red algae.
On the other side, the shorter lamanaria algae grew pretty thick. I
like diving in those in the day, but at night they can make things more
difficult by limiting visibility in your light. The life was somewhat
different on that side, but it seemed like there were far fewer lobster
to be seen. After a little while, I crossed back to the south side.
I continued to shore and found two more bugs worth measuring, but
neither turned out to be legal. At a point, It seemed likes the lobster
were getting scarce. Up until then, I had been seeing from one to four
bugs every ten feet or so as I went from rock to rock. Now, I got to
where I just wasn't seeing any. Even though I had plenty of air left
before it was time to turn back, I decided that it was a better bet. It
is a pretty dive, but being the first day of lobster season, I was
disappointed. I figured I had air enough to get past the boat, even
though I knew that some divers had already gone that way. Before long,
I was encountering divers. Shining my light at their bags, I didn't see
any bugs. I figured I would come up and look for where the boat was so
that I would know which way to turn back when I did get low on air. I
went to the top of the pipe and spent a bit of time there essentially
at 25 feet and then made a slow ascent. Wouldn't you know it. I was at
the boat. It was only about 50 feet away across the kelp. Well, we were
going to do another dive in a spot that was supposed to be better, so I
signaled OK with my light and came on in.
We re-checked my one bug to make sure it was legal sized. As more
divers came aboard, a few had a bug or two to measure and though they
were all very close, none were legal. Before long it was time to go to
the next spot.
Lets stop this story right here. Suffice to say, the boat wouldn't
start for about an hour and a half and then only because I pushed the
button on the marine head and it seemed to clear the short in the
electrical system so that they managed to start the engine. Luckily
they had warm soup or the chill would have gotten to me. (I've got to
get a vest).
I've had worse trips and I've had far better trips. I did have fun and
was sure glad to get in a nice dive under good conditions. I was glad
that I got at least one legal lobster, but that only one was taken on
the boat is all to common in San Diego and many other places.
California is just over trapped by the commercial fishers and the sport
divers just don't stand much of a chance competing. Fish and Game was
at the dock. Even though it was obvious that I had the only bug, they
checked most everybody.
It was a beautiful night for a dive.

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