My friends Adam and Kris hit me up a few days prior to Thursday to see if I would be available for a CenCal dive. A few others; Jake, Nick and Eric would join us as well. Our crew met up at the launch site just before 8am, the sun was out, the wind was down, the ocean was clear and glassy, all the trappings of an excellent day were present. Once our kayaks had been rigged to our liking and carried down to the water’s edge, we began our long paddle. I have paddled to this spot many times and rarely are conditions as ideal as they were this Thursday, on days such as this when the wind is calm and the ocean lays flat my kayak tracks true and I can stay tight to shore weaving between wash rocks and cutting through areas that are far to tumultuous on average days. What is usually a much longer paddle took no time at all as I cut corners and tracked along at a faster than normal pace.
To our disappointment a few commercial boats were working the area in which we had planned to dive. One boat in particular had taken what looked like fifty to one-hundred 3′ lengths of #8 rebar and tied 5 or 6 hooks to each length, a cheap plastic buoy and line marked the bar’s location for the boats return. The buoys were numbered as if to imply a commercial fishing license number, when I deferred to Adam on the matter he was under the impression it was legal. Most of the rebar traps were unattended to but several lings and one particularly large cabezon had been hooked. We dove our spot anyway seeing that the schooling fish were out in force and plenty of lingcod and cabezon hadn’t fallen victim to what in my view seemed like fishing techniques of questionable ethics. Adam aka “The Vermillion Whisperer” didn’t hesitate in living up to his moniker and quickly strung a bright red rockfish around his belt.
I wasn’t having particularly exceptional luck in the usual spot and after some time and a few fair sized fish we moved a short way down the road to the nearby point. The kelp was much thicker in this location and although the visibility outside the forest had been 30-40′ all day, the kelp forest surrounding the point blocked out much of the sun’s light, the steep drop off at this location also contributed to the gloom associated with a haunted forest from an old fairy tale. The fishing in this location, however, was exceptional. In a short period of time Adam, Kris and I all spotted vermillion. Kris and I chased a couple of the reds into holes down at 65′ and as we exhausted ourselves in futile efforts to extract said fish we cursed our misfortune while recuperating between drops on the surface. Occasionally vermillion are known to behave in a skittish manner on other occasions they behave boldly and with curiosity, two of these more outgoing vermillion found themselves skewered by my polespear and tied to my waist. Soon after my first successful vermillion kill I spotted a large male sheepshead who quickly bolted past a large female. I did my best to chase down the skittish fish and as I neared the end of my hold I closed the gap but not sufficiently and my loosed spear gently tapped the tale of the large male. I spent the rest of the day diving the area and never saw the beast of a fish again.
We spent some time diving the 50-60′ depth range and after adding a few smaller 19″ female sheep to my stringer Adam informed Kris, Jake and myself, that he Nick, and Eric would have to head back. Adam had crushed a couple nice vermillion, Eric had slew his first sheepshead, and Nick had done well with a variety of rockfish. With Adam gone some of the larger fish were now willing to show themselves. Kris and I moved into shallower water and after spotting a few respectable 30+” lings for Jake to have a go at, I spotted a the head of ling that I immediately knew to be a monster. Down at 35′ his large head poked out from a small hole and he opened and closed his cavernous mouth before he spotted me creeping over and became hesitant and skittish. Stoically I loaded my polespear and eased it into position, I let loose and in a stroke of perfection my spear’s point drove straight into that sweet spot that can be described as the top of an equilateral triangle of which the eyes form the base. The fish never struggled, never spun, and never twitched, it was a perfect stoning of a fish that would measure 39.75″ and weigh in excess of 30lbs. This would be my personal best lingcod and the largest fish I have taken to date. Kris would be haunted by the fact that he had been hunting an area only 50′ away and was actually working his way my direction, Kris is an excellent diver and had he passed over the hole only a few minutes prior to my arrival I don’t doubt he would have spotted and slaughtered that fish himself and it would be him gloating over the size of that fish and it would have been me quietly fighting feelings of envy. As it stands I got there first and I stoned that beast dead with a 7′ Gat-ku polespear, so the gloating is all mine, Kris will just have to make do with the world record knife-jaw he shot last month.
With my streak of mediocrity broken and one of my more impressive stringers to date, I paddled back to the launch in an excellent mood elated and exhausted.