Our families camped at the beach together, affording John and I some time in the water on Saturday morning. Heavens was the only surf spot that was breaking but unfortunately had a contest being held there all morning. So hunting for lunch was the order of the day.
We swam out to the kelp forests about 200-300 meters offshore, enjoying 30′ visibility and pretty mellow currents. The kelp was anchored at about 50′-70′ deep, with most of the action about halfway down. Within minutes of getting there I spotted a good sized perch about 20′ below the surface. I drew my spear and dove, spooking it a little. But as I descended it stopped running. I took the shot…and missed high.
I was alerted with a hoot that John had found a more productive spot deeper out in the thickest part of the beds. A deep, dark aquatic forest with kelp covering most of the water’s surface, getting through it all proved challenging, gear and limbs constantly getting wrapped in kelp. Diving under it was easy enough but left one to surface by punching your head through a foot of it, getting snorkel and goggles wrapped in weeds. It was a slightly unnerving feeling having such thick vegetation above me during dives, but getting back through it for air proved easier than it looked. Beneath was a beautiful shaded world, crabs clinging to leaves, sunlight piercing the water in tight beams and spotlights, a dense and silent forest swaying in the swell.
We spotted a few calico bass; I saw John slip down into the dark after one as I turned and went my way to chase more perch. Soon John was back at the surface, proudly displaying a large perch on his spear, the calico having eluded him.
Twenty feet down I spotted a good calico heading into the kelp leaves. I took a breath, and dove. It initially saw me coming and fled but then paused as I got deeper, allowing me to approach. Spear outstretched as far as possible, I released. The fish was too quick and I was just a hair out of range; it turned just as the spear left my hand. When I surface John is hooting with another large perch on the spear.
After about 45 minutes I was done; my sinuses were not equalizing well or allowing me to get much deeper than 25 feet without too much pain. We left it at the two fish John shot and swam back in, schools of smaller fish trailing the scent of the catch on John’s stringer…which makes one wonder about the wisdom of swimming with wounded fish on your belt in deep waters not all that far from a recent Great White shark fatality. I suppose it adds to the “fun” factor.