Dive Report: Malibu & Noodling Triggerfish

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Posted by Patrick on February 11, 2007 at 12:29:39:

Despite dire predictions from the weather prognosticators, Captain Andy – ever the optimist – planned for a Saturday dive. On arising at 0’dark-thirty and expecting the skies to be dark and pregnant with rain, I was pleasantly surprised to clearly see the moon and her escort of Jupiter through the pre-dawn scattered clouds. Even though the conditions didn’t look too bad, we opted to stay close to home and make yet another Santa Monica Bay trip. With the predicted west wind and swell, the ‘Bu and Paradise Cove would offer protection, plus if/when the weather did turn, on the run home it would be on our stern.

We were the only boat launching at the MdR ramp; it seems like the rest of the boating community actually believed the weather boffins and stayed abed. Immediately after clearing H Basin, I spotted a feral boat – a small sailboat had chaffed through its mooring lines was making a break for the high seas. I came alongside and Andy got a line on her. As we towed her over to the Sheriff’s-Harbor Patrol dock, Capt. Andy gave them a heads up call on channel 16. A quick drop off of the wayward sailboat and we were back in the channel surrounded by the female crew teams from UCLA.

I really love women with upper body strength!
The dredging continues at the North Jetty. At this point it looks as though they’ll dredge clear back to Pacific Avenue.

After a couple of weeks fiddling with my UW camera and new Ikelite strobe, I decided that today was the day I’d give it a shot, but first I’d check visibility. Our first dive site up above Malibu made me glad I’d decided to make the first dive sans camera. Surface conditions were superb and the upper 40-50 feet of the water column was at least 20-foot vis. But from 70-foot to the bottom, visibility was a dark, milky, hazy 4-5-feet. I spent the dive with my face very close to the rocks and crevices startling the local residents with my light. Swell sharks, sculpin Sand Bass, Chromis, calicos, Cabezon, sheephead, Cancer crabs and flea-sized lobster all were observed and startled.

In a quest for better conditions we headed down the coast to the Topanga artificial reefs for our next dive. Conditions were amazing – broken overcast with more sun than clouds, glassy, flat seas with small, long duration swells.

If only we could find some visibility. The selection of the second dive sport mirrored the first topside and on the bottom. Aside from the structure having heavier concentrations of Corynactis, the occupants were pretty much the same except for one thing. For some time we’ve been seeing Finescale Triggerfish (Balistes polylepis) in the area. There was often some doubt expressed by some divers who we told of these fairly common sightings, yet we were not inclined to spear one of these interesting creatures just to prove our point. They tend to be nervous and shy and usually are deeply ensconced in a cave or crevice; it is tough to spend any time with them. On my second dive of the day in 56-feet of water and 3-feet of visibility I came on one fully exposed lounging against a corner of rock. I watched him for a minute and he seemed okay with my presence. “Hummm… “I wonder…
In a spur of the moment idea, I reached over and took hold of his tail – and got it! He flipped around a bit, but in a moment I had him safely in a goody-bag.
Holy crap! I just caught a Triggerfish by hand!

Figuring there wasn’t much else that was going to happen on that dive I had decided to head on up, when my flash light beam reflected off something on the bottom. Looking closer, I saw it was a Tekna dive knife – My Tekna dive knife that I had lost last year. Much the worst for wear after a year’s submersion it was still a trippy find. Wow! Interesting dive for only 3-5 foot visibility.

For the last dive of the day at an adjacent rock pile, the visibility declined even further to less that 3-feet. Heading in conditions were beginning to pickup a bit with the wind, which had been easterly up until then, swinging around to the prevailing westerly and the seas beginning to build.

For a day that had been forecast as rainy, nasty and no diving, it turned into a nice, enlightening day full of diving.

I love Southern California diving!

Stay wet

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