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Catalina Island California

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Well-Known Member
May 30, 2002
I want to freedive spearfish Catilina Island from a kayak. What times of the year are best? I am from out of state and want to plan this trip. Any suggestions on where to find information would be appreciated. Thanks.
Catalina Island

Hi Dean,
Although I'm a California native, I have not been to Catalina..yet. I did find some websites that may help you. Sorry it's taken so long for you to get a reply. Read and enjoy :) Do check back on the Forum, as we have a strong contingent of freedivers here in Southern California!
Here are the links:
--and to check swell and wave reports, see:
and a favorite of mine:shows many shoredive sites for So Cal,
Hope this is of some help, and we will see you under the waves!
Not sure O can tell you the best time of year, but this time of year isn;t too bad. I was there the 19th of August. Although this is the peak of the tourist season, the island was relatively uncrowded (it being a week-day and such).

The scenery is beautiful and the diving was good, although the vis was less then spectacular (apparently So Cal is having unusually bad vis this year). At any rate, we found that we had to hop a few miles up the coast from Avalon to Torqua Springs in order to get the best underwater scenery. The island is quite large, and the coast has tons of coves and points, so its got to have better than 100 miles of diveable coastline.

I would recommend planning for at least an overnight stay. We had to do a little "Hawaii 5-0" action for about three miles to catch our evening ferry and were w/in seconds of missing it ... a bit of a drag after a day of diving, although we felt like heros when we made it.

A pair of Cressi Gara 2000 HF's await you on the bottom, probably in the neighborhood of Torqua Springs. If you find them, please send me a photo as I miss them quite a bit.

There is also some pretty good diving on the mainland, esp. if you leave from Dana Point (Salt Creek and Crystal Cove a bit to the north and La Jolla down there where OceanSwimmer lives -- an hour or so to the south).
I freedive at Catalina all the time, although spearfishing isn't my main activity.

I gather from my hunter confreres that they often start seeing white sea bass and sometimes yellowtail there around May for maybe a couple of months. Later in the summer the action tends to move to other of the Channel Islands.

I've dabbled a little in spearfishing at Catalina in winter, concentrating on kelp bass, also known as calicos. Although these aren't the big impressive trophy fish of WSB or yellowtail, they are quite tasty and many people view them as even more of a challenge to shoot because they're very skittish.

There are a lot of hunters on Mark Barville's freediver list
who are at Catalina all the time and can give you more info.

I tend to concentrate on photography
when I freedive (in fact the top picture on my home page is a typical kelp forest at Catalina).

Good luck!
Great shots Frank! I really like the Farnsworht Bank one. I tried giving you some karma but it won't let me.

It's been a while since I've been to Catalina, but I did a chunk of my instructor training there once upon a time.;)

The kelp beds were a blast to freedive in, and Lover's Cove, is it still called that, only allowed freedivng the last time I was there.

I did many dives in the marine park, NOT good for spearing, as well as some overnight boat dives on the other side of the island.
I also remeber diving the Suj-Jac when it was still intact and you could actually penetrate it.

I also had some nice dives with seals, or are they sealions?, around Bird rock on a night dive.

Water this time of year seemed fairly warm, but I might be used to a little cooler temps.

Hi Jon, yes, Lovers Cove is still the name of the little cove just to the southeast of Avalon (the opposite end of Avalon Bay from the underwater park at Casino Point). Casino Point is home to many open water scuba classes, and gametaking is not allowed, but we did some of our freedive training there when I took Kirk Krack's Performance Freediving clinic last spring. I swam around (but not in) the SuJac a couple of years back when I was more active in scuba.

As you note, scuba is not allowed in Lovers Cove -- only freediving or snorkeling. The only downside is that the glass-bottom boats and pseudo-submarines all cut a regular route through Lovers Cove, so you have to watch to keep from being run over. On the plus side they all dispense a lot of fish food, so there are lots of docile calicos, garibaldis, opaleyes etc in Lovers Cove.

I've had many encounters with both sea lions and harbor seals at Catalina. There's a cove out toward the west end where I've run into harbor seals about every time I've been there. One of them has a reputation as a lovelorn mammal that has tried to get up close and personal with several diver friends.

Early September is the time of just about the warmest water. Here's a chart some friends compiled comparing average temps at different depths to the temps from the nearest NOAA buoy.

On the back side of the island, I think there was a little town called the Isthmus?, I remember diving on some reefs, can't remeber what their names were, but I do remember the water being VERY clear and the current was flying!

I have dove it by both charter boat and taking the ferry over, to shore dive. How do you get around to the different spots? When you charter whom do you use? I think I remember being on a boat called the Atalntis. :confused:

It's been a while but I loved it when I was there.

The isthmus is where the island narrows down to only a half-mile width in the middle. Isthmus Cove is on the side facing the mainland, and Cat Harbor is on the far side. The town there is called Two Harbors. It's a nice alternative to Avalon (much more rustic).

There are basically three ways I go to Catalina, in about this order of frequency:

-- Take a charter from Long Beach/San Pedro for a three- or four-tank day at Catalina. My favorite boat is Ray Arntz's Sundiver, but the Great Escape is also a great boat, and there are several other good ones. If you have only half a day to spare you can take the Island Time over for a quick run to get in two tanks and be back by 1 p.m. Most passengers are on scuba, but I typically freedive and shoot pictures.

-- Take the Catalina Express to Two Harbors, then freedive off one of the local beaches *or* rent a kayak and go to one of many nearby coves. USC's Wrigley Marine Science Center is in Big Fisherman's Cove just outside of Two Harbors; this cove and the adjacent area are a reserve. It's the one and only place I've ever heard a white sea bass croak, and there's a Grand Central Station mob scene of big calicos and other fish underneath the marine center's pier.

-- Take the Catalina Express to Avalon, then freedive or scuba in Casino Point underwater park, or freedive from other nearby beach. I just got a new digital camera and am interested in polishing my chops on fish portraits (difficult to do with my previous camera, which was a rangefinder). So I'm thinking of going over to Casino Point in September to work on this.


Do I get a modeling fee for this?

Finally, most spearos I know tend to go over on private boats to give themselves the flexibility of running around to look for where the fish are.
The first time I was there, in 84', we also got to dive the wreck of the Prince Vallient. I am not sure how much of her is even left as she was beaten up back then.

One trip out there, on a dive charter boat, I remember very well because as we got out of the water from a night dive the captain yelled out" how do ya want your steaks done". I was pretty amazed as the most elaborate thing we offer on great lakes charter boats is "gold fish" crackers and soda.rofl

Last time I was there, in 94, we just dove off the point and lover's cove. It was fun and I think that now I have even seen pictures of stairs that lead right into the water- that would have been really nice!

Some other local (Wisconsin) dive buddies of mine were out there about a year ago on one of those 3 day trips, I think it was on the Peace or one of those boats. They even brought their scooters with them and had some really nice dives in the kelp zooming along with the sealions.

Casino Point would have been a nice place to do Kirk's clinic. We almost got run over by this boat, in the middle of a rain storm, when I did his clinic in Miami a couple of summer ago! We would do a lot of drift divng in 300'+ of water, so Mr. Fattah could get enough training depth;) , which meant that the rest of just saw blue at the bottom of our dives.:p

Doing the class on the point would make sure that everyone gets to see something.

Food on the local boats really varies. I think the Great Escape has a reputation for putting on some real gourmet meals -- Vietnamese wraps and whatnot. The Sundiver has just basic eats, but Ray is known for putting you on some really nice diving for whatever conditions are out there. Once a couple of years ago I went out for a day on the Peace to Anacapa at Christmastime, and the staff of one of the local shops that runs classes on the boat put together a complete turkey dinner with trimmings and so on.

Actually for the Performance Freediving clinic we only did the first day of ocean dives in the park at Casino Point. There are some sunken swim platforms at a depth of about 60 ft at the northern corner of the park, and we did our first round of free immersion dives there. Then the next day we went out on the King Neptune, a charter boat run by one of the shops in Avalon, and ran lines down in about 300 ft of water. There was quite a bit of current running, so we ended up letting the lines and PVC structures drift, and the boat live-boated it. Vis wasn't that great, so we only saw the first 20 ft or so of people's descent when we acted as surface safety. On the other hand there was a big-time parade of jellyfish going by -- I must have seen a half-dozen different species. The young DM had never seen a freediving class and apparently thought the whole idea was very nutty; "I just hope nobody dies," he kept muttering.
Anacapa was my very first ocean dive, back in 80' or 81'. It was also the first time I tried spearfishing, with a pole spear, and no one on the boat would tell me what the rubber loop on the back of it was for. :head Needless to say, I caught nothing and gave up on the whole idea of spearing fish until last year.

We did the same kind of thing with the floats, live boated, as the current was running pretty strong off of Miami- somthing aobut a "gulf stream".;)

DM's get worked up pretty easily. I was out a month ago freediving on this wreck in Lake Michigan and I swam down to the stern to take some pictures of the divers there, from another charter boat. When they got back to the surface they kept talking about a "guy with no tank". The captain explained that I was freediving. They said that they knew what "freediving" was but that I was "on the bottom, not the surface". They just don't think it was even possible. The wreck is actually not even that deep, 55'-95' deep, and the vis was easily 40' on that day.

Pezman and I were over there last week, we dove to the bottom of Casino Point, pulled ourselves down some buoy chains (my P.B.)!

I went over to the West End of Catalina at the beginning of this summer. On a Tuesday I left on the 7:30 am Catalina Express out of San Pedro, rented a kayak @ Two Harbors and paddled west, dove some nice coves and kelp forrests and then paddled out about a 1/2 mile to Eagle Reef. A buoy marks the highest spot of this submerged reef and the kelp that grows from it shows the extent of it. I saw a lot of calico out there. The paddle back to the harbor isn't bad (not like my recent epic voyage :blackeye getting back to Avalon w/Pez). There's a boat back to San Pedro @ about 7:30 pm; so you can get in alot of diving in that one day if you want. Or stay the night in the Banning House lodge there.
Roan endorsement


If you are looking for a dive buddy, you can't do better than Roan. It was great to dive w/ a local, esp. since almost all of my experience is in fresh water on the East Coast. He really knew the terrain around the Laguna area, was relatively knowledgeable about the wild-life and was even able to tune in to my rather bizarre sense of humor. Oh, and he dives pretty well too.

We had an amazing time and the guy can row like a maniac when it counts ;) (long story, which I intend to write up shortly).

BTW, nice photos on your page. I must figure out a way to get wider angles on my C-5050. 95% of the pictures that I shot suck, though there were a few lucky ones in the mix.
Pezman, good idea, I'm always up for new dive buddies. The next couple of weeks my schedule is pretty tied up (Monday going on a sold-out boat to Santa Barbara Island; weekend after that taking a dive physiology clinic at Two Harbors), but if it's okay with Roan I'll email him with dive plans after that to see if he wants to hook up.

Re the Oly 5050 and wide-angle, I should mention that 90% of the pictures on my web page are with a Nikonos V (film-based rangefinder camera) that I've been using for a little over a year. I just bought a 5050 and used it briefly on a trip to Italy this month (not really a dive trip, and I got a really bad cold and had to end up staying out of the water). I did buy an Inon wide-angle lens for the Oly, but didn't use it much on the trip. Here's a link to a shot of a jellyfish that I got with the wide-angle on the 5050:


As you can see it's pretty dark and the contrast is so-so at best. I was shooting with only the internal flash on the Oly, which doesn't work with the wide-angle lens. This week I'm hoping to get a couple of external strobes set up so that I can try shots like this again with better results.

Also a note to Roan re Eagle Reef, yeah, that's a great dive site. Shallow enough that it doesn't stress my fairly puny freediving ability (50 ft depth personal best, 20-25 ft more typical). I have to say that Ship Rock (a little farther out from Two Harbors) is probably my all-time favorite dive site. I've been meaning to try a kayak run to there from Two Harbors sometime, but haven't gotten the chance yet.
You see, Pezman was sitting in the front of the kayak; when his head would turn to see what the dead weight was doing in the back of the boat, then I would row like a maniac!rofl

Wow. Nobody responded right away so I didn't check this forum for awhile. Thanks for all the excellent inputs.

Ocean swimmer, thanks for the links.

Pezman, too bad about your fins. A buddy of mine lost one( only one fell overboard) of the same kind of fins you did about 2 weeks ago at Neah Bay, WA. We plan to dive the 2 harbors area for about 3 days next month with kayaks. Should be great.

Frank, Great underwater shots! I have some photo experience and am impressed. You have a good eye.

Jon and Frank, I like the Q and A between you two. It was very informative. I took a basic freediver course with Kirk Krack a year ago. I was really impressed with their course. Since then, I have mainly done kayak dives in and around Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan De Fuca. The Catalina trip should be quite a treat. Our visibility is usually lousy.

Roan, It sounds like I will be doing something very similar to what you described. I'm glad you successfully made it through your "epic voyage". Those things tend to happen sometimes. They make you a wiser water person.:)

Thanks again everyone.

Last edited:
...second the endorsement!

Originally posted by Roan
You see, Pezman was sitting in the front of the kayak; when his head would turn to see what the dead weight was doing in the back of the boat, then I would row like a maniac!rofl

---Pez, I second the endorsement about diving w/Roan: you are BOTH great dive-buddies. It is inspiring and humbling to dive with two guys who make it look easy, and welcome a newbie. It was worth a thousand words.
Thanks for a wonderful day!
Hey OS,

How's the diving in San Diego? Would like join up with you guys if ever I get down there.

---It's been extremely variable here: the visibility has been ranging from fair to non-existent. The temperature has been fluctuating from weekly, which has been affecting the kelp and plankton.
I'm praying it improves before summer is history --like all through September when we often have beautiful weather and fewer crowds (this weekend will be the 'last hurrah' for many visitors to SD...:hmm
---Of the 30+ spearos who signed up for the SDFD Blue Water Meet held 8/23, 7 caught WSB; the good news was the catches were mostly off La Jolla Cove(!)
I hear even Catalina has been so-so, not the usual clear waters.
---Roan reports good conditions in Laguna (Crystal Cove, Shaw's Cove)
---and icarus pacific (last I heard) said the viz was phenomenal in NoCal.
---Perhaps they can give us an up to date reply?
---I'll be happy to keep you posted; PM or e-mail me :) I plan to get out there tomorrow.
Hey Guys, just wondering if there is anyone here in the Nothern California area, around Salt Point. I am moving there around the first and would like some info or the area.
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