Trip Report - Santa Monica Bay - Wolf Eels - 10-15-05

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Posted by Patrick on October 16, 2005 at 15:44:31:

Another weekend and the MK crew (Andy, Dave, John and moi with Paul on driver duties) had their gear loaded aboard the boat and were underway for the launch ramp by 06:45. The weather this week had been awesome with blue skies, warm days, and clear sunny skies. Of course, come the weekend and S. California, becomes the recipient of a cut-off low from the Gulf of Alaska and the gentle, warm offshore winds fade away, replaced by “late night and early morning low clouds along the coast,” the phrase that rolls off weather forecasters tongues so sweetly for so much of the year. 80 degrees and blue skies are now 65 degrees and a quarter mile visibility in the fog. The swell that the forecast said will pickup, hasn’t yet, and the light breeze that isn’t doing much to move the fog, lightly ripples the water as we clear the MdR breakwater and lay in a course for our first jump. The first site is a deeper spot that has been amazingly productive in years past. Because it is somewhat deeper, choosing this spot seems to be going against the current, common wisdom that the bugs are in shallow. But if you don’t look, you don’t know

By 07:30 we’re at the site and the water looks like dark green broth. The area we’re diving is a line of smooth boulders, amazingly devoid of nooks and crannies, and usually not what you’d think of as a hot lobster spot. But often, early in the season, it becomes the hangout for perfect bugs – 3 to 6-pounders, with a fair number of bulls, 10-pounds-plus to be found. It is the boat rule and the personal promise of the MK crew that any bug around 10-pounds or bigger goes back. Sometimes if one of us needs a “macho” picture, a bull will be caught for the hero picture, but then returned. I often wonder if bugs communicate, and what kind of story those released big dudes tell when they get back.

Dave and I were to be the go-fers. Because of the depth, the site is big enough to enable two divers to work opposite directions around the boulders and not cross each other’s path. Dave would work clock-wise, and I’d work counter clock-wise, and we’d see what we would see. On entering the water, it seemed that we weren’t going to see much. Because of the early morning and the sun being so low, the fog, and the gunk in the water column, visibility was poor – limited to about 6-8 feet and very dark. At 80-feet it was like someone turned out the lights – just black aside from the beam of my light. At just over 100-feet the bottom came into view, and though it was darker than night dives I have made, the viz actually got slightly better. Except for the slight overhang where the boulders met the sand I could actually see without the light once my eyes adjusted to the dim darkness. To cut to the chase, the bugs weren’t really home, though Dave did find and take, three nice bugs, those were all he saw. I saw no bugs, but was pleased and surprised by the dive. During the course of it, I came across four Wolf eels out and about. They were small, perhaps 4-feet in length for the largest, and probably confused since this nice pile of rocks had no homey crevices for them to claim. I was totally surprised to find these guys at all let alone out and fully exposed. I’d seen a small one on the Star of Scotland last year, and others on some of our other wrecks – Johanna Smith, Hogan, and a couple of aircraft wrecks, but never that many in one area, and never, ever fully exposed. Not even at Cape Flattery or around Tatoosh Island and Can Rock. Another interesting experience in southern California diving…

When I came up and told the others about the wolf eel, I was pronounced delusional and making excuses for no bugs. Dave’s three lobster elicited enough interest to get John and Andy in the water. Their score – Bugs – 0, Wolf eel – 1. Andy saw one of the wolfies and I was once again allowed to handle sharp objects.

With slim picking’s in the north bay, the decision was made to run to Palos Verdes. By the time we got down to around Rocky Point, the sun was peeking out and the day was looking better. A series of jumps on the reefs produced a few bugs, and cold, clear water under about 20 feet of surface murk. Visibility of 35+ feet was found at most of the reefs we jumped, beginning inside Rocky Point and ending up outside Flat Rock. On one of the moves, while we were metering for our next spot, we heard a faint yell, and scanning around, saw a diver with his boat some distance away. We ran over to him, and as we did, the crew on his boat (which was several hundred yards away and had been headed away from the diver) saw what we were doing, turned and headed back to get their diver. No harm, no foul. Everybody safe.

On my last dive off Flat Rock I found a very nice (and expensive) fishing rod and reel, which made a nice close for another interesting day in the bay. A quick rinse in the solar shower and change into dry clothes and it was an easy trip back to the Marina. A stop for carne asada tacos and fried zucchini on the way home made boat and gear cleanup a lot easier to take.

I’ll be happy to return the fishing pole to the owner on proper ID of the equipment – otherwise it’ll go on eBay to support my diving habit…

Stay wet.

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