I was strolling towards La Jolla one day in bug season last year
and I saw a bunch of lobster traps, in an area that I thought was
mostly sand. Hmmm. Well, I continued on and did a really fun dive at
La Jolla and picked up a few bugs. I then decided to go back to the
spot I had seen and find out what was down there.
I couldn't meter any structure, but went down anyway. It was about 60 feet and vis was such that I hit the sand about the time I saw it. I went just a ways and found a trail of broken concrete slabs that was about 10 feet wide and went on, who knows how far. I followed it and there were bugs everywhere, with nowhere to hide. Unfortunately, I only found one that was legal.
Well, this year I went out with the One Eyed Jack dive operation and they took us back there, only it was a bit further off shore. Here there was structure. Lots of it. Somebody had dumped a freeway there.
I had never gone out with One Eyed Jack and didn't know what to expect, though I had heard that they were fairly good outfit. They seemed like nice people and they had rental gear at the dock for the people that needed it. I was getting my HP tank filled and putting my gear in a tray under the seat as they said to, when I noticed that in all my careful 'first of the season' preparation, I had forgotten my big primary Pelican light. Oops. Dumb! Well, they said that they could come up with something.... Dumb, dumb, dumb.
The boat had a lot of divers for it's size. Luckily though, the way they organized things, that did not turn into a problem, as it easily could have.
Jay, who runs the operation and the boat that night, took us just a bit out of Mission Bay before he said '5 minutes to site'. OK. I started to finish gearing up and wondered where the heck he was headed for. He talked about the area a bit and told us that it runs north and south. The interesting thing was that how they made things more convenient was that for entries, you sit at the back above the swim step and they bring your tank to you and help you get it on. That seems to nicely solve any problems that the smaller boat might cause. I'm used to the larger ocean going charter boats to the islands. On those, you're generally on your own.
Jay had said that the previous night, the opening of lobster season was at midnight, that a few people had gotten limits...
I hit the sand bottom at 65 feet and there was a bug right in front of me... a bit short of course. Vis was fine, so I put a bit of air in my BC and went looking for this reef that was supposed to be down here. It was easy to find. Somewhere, someone had ended up with parts of a freeway they didn't want. Nicely enough, they disposed of it out here. These were huge pieces of bridge, roadway, railings and pillars, all jumbled together. I moved south quickly to try to get away from any other divers. It was beautiful diving. There were lots of fish and various crawling critters as well. There were also lots of clumps of strawberry colored Corynactis anemones on the lower sections of the reef and on the top flat sections, pink and brown Gorgonian sea fans grew thick.
I came up over a large piece of two lane roadway. It was in good shape. Even the lines on the road were easy to see. Of course, unlike most roadways that I have seen, this one had gorgonian fans growing on it. There was a hole in it about six inches across though and as I came to it, a bug climbed right out of the hole in front of me. Another short, but an interesting experience.
I was moving fast and staying low. As Jay had said, it is easy to find yourself fairly far under the structure. It's big. I kept seeing lobster and even measured a few. I just wasn't finding any legals, though I was enjoying the dive for its beauty. I started moving back towards the boat and somehow ended up between 2 divers that had some incredible lights. We were all trying to get out of each others way, but you do tend to follow the shape of the reef. As I looked out over the sand, I saw 2 sand bass resting on the bottom that must have been near 10 pounds a piece.
I had some air left (for me), but I found the anchor line and figured to call it a dive. I'll take an easy ride up. I held my light on my gauges for a minute to make them glow well for the ascent and then turned off my light. I was shaking the anchor chain to make the fluorescent critters give off their light. While I have seen them brighter, these were incredibly blue compared to the usual green.
The dive platform is convenient and both Kim, Jay's wife and Casey the deckhand, were helping people get their fins off and get back on the boat. They immediately got the empty tanks stowed and the regulators mounted on fresh tanks. Only a few legal bugs had been taken, so Jay was trying to figure out where to go to next. Kim was slinging some good hot chili with rolls and there was plenty of various liquids for thirst. We headed north towards La Jolla.
When we entered, I noticed that one diver's light was showing very blue water with good vis. We were told it was 40 feet and it looked good. When I got down some, vis didn't look quite so good and when I hit the rocks, it looked a bit nasty.
It was a reef made up of jumbled rocks, some of which stood up 5 feet. There was excellent day cover for lobsters, but they were out now. It was a pretty reef with lots of different types of kelp. One thing though, there was a nasty surge. Well, I always claim I like rough water. Now was a good time to find out the truth. Actually, just above the reef it was fairly calm and clear. Crawling on it, in and out of the rocks, it was rough with very little vis. There were so many bugs though, that it didn't matter. I was just holding on and looking for something worth measuring. I'd grab a likely looking victim, but how it fit in my hand said it was short. Close, but no banana. Many were recent molts and still very soft. These would grow very rapidly for a short time before their shell hardens again, but just now, short of stepping on them, they were short. There were enough bugs that, as I traveled over the reef, I would disturb one and it would go smacking into my body as it flipped away. I grabbed at one that looked legal and still don't know how I missed. I saw one nice, fairly accessible hole between some rocks that had about 9 lobsters in it. They weren't spooked, so I looked around for the biggest and while all were close to legal size, none were worth grabbing. I stayed down until I had no air. I figured that a legal one could be behind any rock. I just had to find it. When I surfaced, the swim to the boat was not long, but I was tired from the rough water. A few more bugs had been taken, but, that is a very few.
The boat is fairly fast so the trip back was pretty short, though there was time for me to hear some pretty funny stories. One guy had seen a 3 pounder in the open and pounced on it. It crumbled. It was the shell of a molt. He figured that some bugs had put it out to see what would happen and were laughing at him now.
It was a fun trip with some beautiful diving, but as I drove back along the docks, I couldn't help noticing the huge stacks of lobster traps waiting to be planted. There had already been many placed in the water. This had seemed like a typical San Diego lobster trip where there are numerous bugs, but they are all short. There are so many traps, that a bug is in and out of a trap 20 times before they are legal. The divers have very little chance competing with this many traps. The CA Fish and Game stopped restricting the number of traps that a commercial fisher could place, because they couldn't enforce it. It's sad. Really, I think that the size limit for the commercial fishers should be 1/8 inch larger than for the sport divers, because the sport divers really have almost no chance to compete. There were only about 7 bugs taken on the boat. That's about what one good trap can contain.
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