Early on Sunday morning I pulled into the parking lot of the Pebble Beach Golf Course Beach Club. Awaiting me in the parking lot was the rest of our small dive crew, BigJim, Sharkbait and Fuzz. The Northern California spearfishing community is a small one and our less than savory conditions routinely produce some truly talented divers. I was lucky to be diving with these guys.
The air temperature was in the mid 30s and our fingers grew numb as we wiped the frost from our yaks and set our gear up in preparation for the dive. With our kayaks loaded we began moving our cars from the loading area to the hedge row for day use parking. At this point BigJim made the sad mistake of leaving his kayak unattended, Sharkbait and Fuzz were quick to fill his hatches with large rocks taken from the beach. With our mouths shut we smirked and giggled as Jim struggled to pull his kayak down the beach and into the water, he even commented on how heavy his yak felt and asked if we had put something in it, innocently we feigned puzzled expressions and answered “of course not”. As we paddled the mile or so to the area we would explore we snickered and laughed asking Jim if he had gained weight, his kayak was riding awfully low. As if he hadn’t been picked on enough the three of us hitched our kayaks to Jim’s and had him tow us for a solid 15 minutes, he knew what was up but Jim being the good sport he is simply took the abuse, hehehe. When we got to our first site we tied off to the floating canopy and suited up, I laughed out loud when I saw the size of the rocks Nathan aka Sharkbait had loaded into Jim’s kayak, several of them were the size of a child’s head, he was not happy.
With wetsuits donned we entered the 50 degree water and began making drops to explore a large mesa like structure on the reef below. We could not have asked for better visibility, 35-40 feet from top to bottom. The first few drops we made were just below 50′, lingcod and schools of blue rockfish were everywhere. Nathan knew of a difficult to reach scallop he had seen before but could not take and he quickly found it again, this time he had brought a larger knife and he intended to cut it out while still in the shell. We both dropped down on the crack where the scallop was recessed I lit it up for him and as he went in to clean out the scallop he realized that someone had beaten him to it, the shell was already empty.
We continued exploring the base of the formation and Nathan spied the entrance to an interesting cave. I dropped down and saw a small dark area at the base of the formation, upon closer inspection it was the entrance to a large cavern. I entered and shined my light down one long passage and then another, I didn’t see any large fish and the feeling of being enclosed within rock beneath 60′ of water caused my heart rate to increase slightly, I looked around a final time and made my exit through another small opening in the cavern. On the surface Nathan and I remarked on the size and depth of the cave and how cool of a find it was. Shortly after we returned to our kayaks and we paddled further out to another area.
Here we found large lingcod everywhere. Fuzz dropped down on one hole and pointed it out to Nathan. As I made my drop down to 50′ I saw Nathan looking inside and thought I would take a look, deep in the back was the head of a massive lingcod. My immediate reaction was to load my polespear but my self control got the better of me and I remembered this was not my ling to shoot. On the surface we agreed Jim would have it, he had made it clear earlier he was hoping for a big ling. He went through his breathe up and when he dropped back down Nathan lit it up for him and Jim stoned that beast cold with a shot between the eyes. As he pulled it up from the surface we could tell this beast was going to be massive, we would later measure it at 38″ and 22# a very nice fish taken in relatively deep water. At the same spot I had decided to spear a 30″ ling. I had spotted him while Jim and Fuzz had been sizing up the monster in the cave. I stuck my little ling through the neck and into his gut, he spun like a screw gun and nearly disassembled my polespear in the process. Almost back at my yak and trying to get him on my stringer he began thrashing and I dropped both him and the spear. On almost no breathe up and in a panic I dropped down to 50′ and grabbed him, sitting next to him was another 30″ ling. Soon we moved on again and began searching new grounds.
Cruising the bottom of 40′ in a new area I was taking in the beautiful visibility when I spotted a large free swimming lingcod. I eased my way over and as I got close he turned broad side to me giving me a clear shot at his collar. In a flash I buried my flopper tip behind his neck and stunned him. He didn’t thrash and I grabbed him without struggle. This beast would measure 35″ and 18# another nice fish. I held up my fish and hollered for Jim and Nathan to turn their heads. Now limited on lings I turned my attention to simple things like blue rockfish and hole hunting cabezon. Suddenly Nathan made an ominous comment about believing there may be a sheepshead in the area, a fish I had been searching for over the past year. Only a few minutes later and Nathan found a large female sheep hiding out deep within a hole 35′ down. He quickly put me on it and with one drop to size up the hole and take a look at the sheep, I took a second drop and stretched back my 7′ gat-ku. I let loose and punched her through the stomach (and people say I don’t know how to treat a lady) she panicked, flipped out, and made a big scene. All the while I struggled with her holding on to my polespear and gently pulling her towards the hole’s entrance. As she neared the entrance my flopper tip pulled free from her gut and the fish floated completely unsecured. In a panic I grabbed the fish with one hand and the with the other I grabbed the loosed tip of my spear. Quickly I pushed the flopper tip deep into her back, grabbed her tight with both hands and swam for the surface. My downtime for that dive had been pushing 1:20. It was my first sheepshead and I was stoked!!!
We dove hours longer and explored many more spots but nothing topped the fish we had already found that morning. We all came back with heavy stringers of fish and shared celebratory microbrews at the beach. This concluded a great day diving.