Catalina Frontside Bug Hunting Report (long)

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Posted by tleemay on November 15, 2004 at 11:35:20:

I just got home from two days travelling for work. I
spent some time at the Fisher Communications complex
in Seattle (across the street from the Space Needle).
I discovered while there that they employ quite a
number of divers on their engineering staff. I had some
great discussions comparing SoCal to NW diving. I have
done some great dives in the area, from Nanaimo to the
lower Sound islands like Widbey.

Some of the divers asked what's so special about diving
in relatively slack tide waters where there are no octopi
to play with or giant lings to shoot. I only mentioned the
fact that we do have lobster, and now is the time to
partake in that angle of the sport. I had 'em hooked as
I told the the stories of the big ones, and smaller ones,
that have either been brought back to the boat, caught
and released, or otherwise farmmed.

When I got home mid day Sunday, I was primed for a
night of lobster hunting. With the Santa Anna winds
blowing us around like a non-tailed kite into Bob Hope
International (BUR) Airport, my desire only heightened.
Got off the plane and called Greg. We were going to do
Cat' frontside tonight.

Called the Capt and confirmed what I already suspected,
the crossing was flat calm for them earlier that day. He
did throw in a monkey wrench though... the water was
green in spots.

We arrived at the island in calm weather and flat water
at 10:10 PM. Greg wanted to hit Johnson's Rock first.
When we were there a few weeks ago we did really
well. We plopped in and checked the anchor. Greg
managed to put us on the N ledge where the anchor
snagged cleanly. Did I mention he got a new anchor?
We bent the old one up the last couple trips. He now
had a mini Bruce knockoff to replace the old Danforth

The ledge we anchored to was full of small lobster
between 60 - 80 ft. We travelled the entire shelf on
both sides, but didn't see anything large enough to
bother with. After a 28 minute dive, we came up with
empty bags. Just as well. The vis here was 10ft or less
with HIDs, even as deep as we went. In fact, the vis
was uncharacteristicly worse the deeper you went.
Rain runoff is a bitch at times I suppose. We pulled
anchor (UGH!) and decided to move on down East to
a spot the Capt asked us to try. The only real highlight
on the dive was when Greg saw a WSB as we ascended.
I figured one was nearby, the chattering was loud. I
however did not see it.

We moved into the spot. I have dove here before for
bugs, but not at night. We set anchor and jumped in.
What a difference. The vis was easily 30'+ with lights,
but there was a slight downhill current. We just hung
below the boat between the anchor and open water
opting for deeper terrain.

Oh yeah... bugs!

They were of all sizes one would expect to find on the
frontside. We targeted the larger ones and did OK, 6
each with Greg's 4.25 lber the largest. They were pretty
easy to pick up since the sand and bull kelp combination
made them easy to see and snag. Greg did farm one
that he spent too much time chasing down. I think it was
bigger than his 4+ lber. Hmmm, need to keep this spot
a bit under the hat for now. We were in for 22 minutes,
but my calculations denoted we needed to do some
serious sit time... and so we did.

That Abulitas Mexican Hot Chocolate drink is awesome
stuff. Greg had brought a thermos full while I brought
a thermos full of dark french roast. Mixing the two was
absolutely great while we sat out for 70 minutes and
watched Married w/Children and M*A*S*H reruns on his
portable 12v TV.

We decided that we didn't want to push ourselves, or
travel much further than we already had for a couple
more lobsters, so we weighed in the possibility of doing
the last dive at the island, or hit PV on the way back.
We were already in the area, so we decided to stay...
next dive was going to be Yellowtail Point.

Well, it was going to be anyway. We monitored another
private boater talking to yet another about how poor
the vis was at Yellowtail. The VHF seemed to be abuzz
with two or three more other boats and their success
that evening. One was a local charter boat out of

Awww, let's just motor over to the Ithsmus and dive the
high spot and wall.

Set the anchor in the traditional 25' of water just off the
green buoy and jumped in. Checked the anchor and we
started to hunt. Nuthin', nuthin, nuthin! The vis was
about 15 to 20 ft at best with no current. No bugs
anywhere, but lots-o-batrays.

I suddenly had a cold shivver run down my spine. Not
from the cool water entereing my weysuit, but from the
bad memory I have from a certain dive at Cortez last
year during opening weekend. I clutched my game bag
all my moral fiber. I wasn't going to give it up, even
though it had no bugs in it yet.

I signaled to Greg that we should cruise the wall and
get a bit deeper. Over we went. Inside the crevices and
ledges we saw lobsters, but all shorts. I decided to do a
quick drop to the sand and check the situation down
there. Nuthin at first, but then I saw three within 8 - 10
feet of each other in the bull kelp. I targeted the larger
of the three and slipped him into my bag. Greg was able
to chase down and snag one of the other two. That's it,
we had a full boat - time to go back.

I was keeping a wary eye out for those thug-like
batrays. I just knew one would try and hit on me as I
swam back to the boat. As we swam under the boat,
I did notice a small bat ray chewing, or sucking, on
something on the bottom, but I paid little attention to
it as I ascended. Later on back on the boat, Greg said
he saw the feeding batray too. He said it was eating
either a lobster, or the molt of one.

What is that they say to make sure of if you are
entering the lion's den? Oh yeah; make sure the lions
have been well fed before you enter.

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