Don't get excited, this happened two weeks ago but I've been so busy with the holidays I didn't get a chance to finish it till tonight.
The wind turned my house into a junk yard.
Three days of howling wind blew tumbleweeds into my front yard where they stacked up eight foot tall, my pool was full of dirt and leaves and the cleaner was choked up every hour where it would simply give up. I spent all day cleaning up the mess, pulling out thick tumbleweeds and smashing them one by one into little pieces, both of my garden and regular trash cans were completely filled with tiny tumbleweed sticks. The warm air howled and made it feel more like late summer than winter. There were still christmas trees to get and cards to write up as well.
But there was one ray of hope and it was this: when the santa anas blow that hard it typically clears up the water around the hard reefs. This would be a blessing from the 5' vis which plagued the various Oaks Reefs located around my dive areas.
During my break at work I ran up to the bluffs and looked over, now that the wind was subsiding the water had finally calmed and even though there was a little swell I immediately noticed a blue coloration. Hell ya! At lunch I grabbed my gear and jumped into the car and drove out to Oaks Reef. The water was cold but the visibility was the best I've had all year, easily 40' and much clearer than even Catalina lately. I could see schools of smelt rushing through the shallows and hoped I'd spy a halibut in the surf, unfortunately it was way too clear. I kicked over to the reef and was delighted to see a big school of sargo moving in and out of the rocks. Small lobster poked their antennae out and I started working each rockpile.
There were no legals to be found today, just a few shorts. I worked to the outside and saw a 24" white seabass moving in and out of the rocks, his banding dark from excitement of chasing the bait. It was encouraging to see. There were a lot of sandbass hanging around and I saw some gigantic black croaker in the holes as they nervously avoided the light. It didn't matter I didn't have a gun, just my light and bug bag. I thoroughly enjoyed watching the reef and in short time my lunch was over and I was headed back to work.
As soon as I could get freed from my hard labor, I grabbed my other set of gear and gave everyone the finger as I left and drove to another Oaks Reef. When I got there I was pleased to see I wouldn't have to fight for parking and as I looked over the cliff I noticed the swell was as predicted, very small with a long period. I suited up and grabbed everything and headed towards the shore.
It was dusk as I kicked lazily around, inspecting holes and trying to get through kelp. The kelp was especially thick as the low tide made it gather on the surface and it was a major PITA to get through. I only saw shorts for the first half hour, it looked like it was going to be a slow night and then I nabbed a decent one sitting just on the outside of it's cave. As i dropped down and lit up another I saw a fat tail and body, before the bug could move away I made a mental note where the bug was and dropped the light and made a grab for the head and the tail. The bug was big enough to be aproblem and it kicked all over and the sharp spines tore up my hands and then my wetsuit as I positioned it on my chest before dropping it in the bag. This particular Oaks reef is a high traffic area and I don't see a lot of big bugs here. I was delighted to have two nice bugs in the bag within an hour and even if the night ended there I would have been happy.
I saw small octopus moving silently around the bottom and moray eels with their mouth gaping. I saw big rockfish and goats holed up. There was only the sound of waves crashing on the shore, there were no boats out tonight and I was all alone. A lot of people don't really get the solitude of a solo dive and it's something that I really look forward to. When people ask me why I do it, I tell them because it turns off the world, I don't have to think about traffic, my work, or any other worries, it destresses me and calms my brain. I simply zone out on everything except for controlling my breathing, watching plankton light up as I extend my hands, and thinking where the bugs might be. I don't think or worry about anything that normally plagues my brain. I watch the lights twinkle in the distance and see the moon slowly rising above the horizon.
On another drop I saw what looked like a big antennae and sure enough saw a big bug being pushed out of his favorite spot by a monsterous sheephead trying to get some rest. I grabbed it by the side and repeated the process and had a fat 4 lber in the bag. I checked all over and then slowly started getting the bugs one by one. I had 6 and was headed back to shore confident I could find the 7th and sure enough on one drop saw a fat one scurrying back on the backside of a big boulder, I grabbed it as well and my bag was full. Woodys Mutiny Bug Bag and gauges are getting quite a work out this year.
On the way back I passed on a few legals that were just coming out of their holes. but I already had my limit. King Poseidon decided to not beat my ass and I was able to swim thru the rocks with a easy exit. Climbing back up the hill with a bag full of bugs proved challenging, but I made it in time and was in high spirits on my way back to my car. I rinsed off and changed into my dry clothes and headed home. The bugs weren't big compared to the monsters you guys get but it was a healthy mid twenty pound limit, the biggest shore dive limit of mine to date!
I shared some of them with my coworkers, but my kid has been bugging me for some of his favorite pesto lobster pasta and lobster miso soup so we also ate that for a few nights.
Get out there guys, we've still got a few months to go!
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