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Carp Whisperer
Jul 27, 2004
I've been diving fairly often all summer - usually with my daughter - and not terribly deep - it's only 20-25 feet where we go. It's literally been decades since I've put in more than very occassional time in the blue room and I was feeling a little discouraged. Seemed like the urge to breathe was almost immediate.

Suddenly this week I got the glide back - cruising long along the big limestone rocks in a breakwall we like to dive near. Swimming up under schools of suckers. Hangin with the big bass. Surfacing to check on my daughter well before I felt any need to breathe... aha...chops! Today I got my Sporasubs - first free dive fins I've ever owned. Beauty! I was overshooting my planned surface spots by 10 meters.

Saw a cormorant glide in in ground effect and settle 30 meters or so away. suddenly he showed up about four meters in front of my daughter. She spotted him and he dove into the big boulders. We followed his bubble trail and were treated to 15 or so minutes of the bird's splendid hydrodynamics. It looked like some sort of weird eel under there - with the air trapped in it's feathers giving it a shiny, metallic look.

Suddenly he arrowed to the surface about two meters in front of me. I surfaced too and the bird swam right up to my face - less than half a meter. Nose High the cormorant oggled me with his closest eye, staying very close until it was clear we had attained possibly the most privaleged status one can hope for with a cormorant - we were 'okay'. My daughter spent another ten minutes or so with him (he'd decided she was 'okay' too - after completing the same gesture) following him from very close along the surface and below.

It was late in the day too - and the lighting along the west facing breakwall was spectacular - with grey masses of schooling suckers and curious small mouth casting long shadows from the open water.
Very cool story, I'd love to have seen that bird.

I took a 5 year break from diving and had the same experiance with losing ability, took a couple of seasons before I got it back completely. At the time, I thought that this is what getting old is like, scary.

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Well, it's true

I am significantly older :) But I'm also much better able to relax. And theres this thing you get with where you really love holding your breath - the sensation of it - had to slow down and get with that.

Today we went again. The special guest of the day was a moderate sized carp - probably about 28 inches long. Looked down and saw this burly amber head against an otherwise blue-green background of shifting light rays. Closest we got to a whale around here. They've been scarce of late, but I think it's timing - this time of year they cruise. Usual tactic - go straight to the bottom and wait. Much more cautious than the bass - probably picking up on the targeting function cultivated during my mispent youth. thermal layer about two meters off the bottom was whitish haze - but the bottom was dark and clear blue-green. Very nice effect. Close to 10 meters out there I bet - almost feels like some real water.

The cormorant was way cool.:cool:
Sneaking up on Scubas

Since it's nearing the end of the season I'll bore on with another freediving report.

Today my daughter was otherwise occupied so I went alone. I decided to go to our usual spot - instead of a new one- and just play around with my new sporas. I saw a pair of cormorants as I was getting into my wetsuit - but also a diver's flag a couple of hundred meters out from my location. (grand traverse bay is a quite large bay off lake Michigan) I decided to drop in on the divers and began making my way out into open water with my flag in tow. Being labor day weekend the bay is a hell of large and small power boats and jet skis - so I was bringing my head up every few seconds to make sure my flag hadn't attracted any of them.

The Scuba's flag did not seem to be coming up as quickly as it should and it dawned on my they were swimming pretty much directly away from me out into open water at a good pace. I stuck with it and continued to gain. Slight cramp in my left foot which vanished when I relaxed it. Pretty soon I could hear regulators. I finally caught them about 4 or 500 meters off shore, matched their pace and tried to stock up on some air. (meanwhile - Cabin cruisers and cigarrette boats are slicing by all around - the sound of their props like dental drills at some undermined location in my skull).
Fatigued and not gaining much by slowing to their pace I powered down to the bottom and saw three well equipped divers truckin along the bottom.

The lead diver was out front and a bit above the other two - they all had very nice fins - mare's volos and the like - some of those split fins too - scubapros. (the fast clip they were maintaining was dictated by the lead diver - who had forgotten his weights and was having to book along to stay down..!) I formed up with these guys and waved but they totally did not see me - though I was practically colliding with them. Surfaced and grabbed more air while pacing them - this time I aimed ahead of them but the clear polycarb corners on their masks were evidently unutilized - because they still couldn't see me - I thought about grabbing the lead divers fin as it was right in front of my face but let it go and surfaced. By this time I was in serious recreational boating territory and decided to head back to the shelter of my friendly neighborhood breakwall. Pretty much powered in then rested and purused the breakwall.
Suprisingly my daughter suddenly appeared on the rocks with her friend. I climbed out and we got out the extra gear so the two of them could snork for awhile. She is about 5'11" and can usually wear my fins with a couple layers of socks - it was cool to see her try out the sporas. As the girls headed out along the far side of breakwall I panged a little on all the recreational boatage, but the sheriff showed and floated on station about 100 meters out from the breakwall - like an aquatic guardian angel..
Mid sep in my 3/2 suit!!

Two great dives yesterday and today. Yesterday was quiet and very clear. Some very long dives at close to 10 meters depth. Ran into a fellow on shore and we talked about how free-diving is so easy to do (he's done scuba and told me 'it's funny you should show up today, just yesterday I was looking off the breakwall here and thinking 'I gotta get in there'). No huge stash of gear - just pull up, throw the stuff on and your in. Might have another dive buddy next year. Unknown to me he was timing my warm up dives - which were basically just to get water into my suit - I'd have guessed fifteen to 20 seconds - turns out it was 45. My deeper dives out of site along the far breakwall were much much longer - and never really uncomfortable. Made me feel good.

Today the water at the surface, and down below about 5 meters was a bit murky - still quite navigable and about the same temp as yesterday. Today's special guest was a large salmon! Pretty unusual to encounter in open water, and not in the least interested in me. All hydrodynamic predation and a no-nonesense bolt into the blue as I close with him (still would've owned that fish with a fast gun) - there is no reason on earth why it shouldn't be legal to hunt these with a speargun freediving in open waters. However, as the only freediver in northern michigan <insert violins> I have a very small lobby with the department of natural resources.

Very happy with my gear so so far - Spora HDs, Cressi matrix - usd impulse2 and henderson surf suit*.

*see help request under equip :)
Re: Mid sep in my 3/2 suit!!

Originally posted by Fondueset
- there is no reason on earth why it shouldn't be legal to hunt these with a speargun freediving in open waters. However, as the only freediver in northern michigan <insert violins> I

You're correct. I do what I do within sportfishing regs and am very discreet. There are 3 active spearfisherman in my province (seriously) and 300,000 anglers....do you think I'll make a big impact on the environment by removing a few apex predators?
Erik Y.
Late season after work

Another fine day for Snorkey. After work came home, did some Taiji - checked in with the family units and embarked for the harbor.

I just park my truck in a nice little parking lot that noone uses next to the power plant - , grab my stuff outta the back, saunter across the 'open space project' and gear up. The OSP terminates at a nice iron breakwall, with a railing and an old iron ladder a hundred meters or so out into the bay. A big limestone breakwall connects with this artificial jetty and goes out 100 meters or so, then makes a right for another 100. I cruise along these rocks usually.

Today there is a Great Blue Heron standing on the rock breakwall right at the bend. It's funny to watch the people on the dock inside the marina going about their business completely oblivious to the 4 1/2 foot tall bird just a few meters away. He takes off and, despite the prehistoric 8 foot wingspan, they continue washing their boats or whatever. A couple anglers are standing on a small boat in my freediving territory - the heron freaks and evades; allmost buzzing them. They gradually move off as they see me getting ready, without catching any of my bass.

Suit on I grab fins, flag buoy, mask and neoprene socks and walk over to the ladder. The water is an invitingly lucid deep blue/green and smooth. I get the long fins on and work my way onto the ladder with some heron-like stepping. The water is oddly temperate for this time of year. Mask on and the space below the surface opens up. Diving down and out in an open field of sand at about fifteen feet- dark zebra muscled rocks behind me - to my right about 50 feet away - the lighter limestone rocks of the breakwall. Scores of smallmouth come out to great me - swimming quite a ways out from the shelter of the breakwall. Self-important crawfish wave pinchers and back away as I glide along the bottom with small movements, working the last of the air out of my suit, and surface near the limestone.

After breathing up a bit I again head for the bottom and note a layer of milky water as the depth increases. Next dive I am past it and approaching the bend in the breakwall; I pass the school of small suckers that tend to turn back at this point in their avoidance of me - they like the shallow face of the breakwall but seem reluctant to go much past the bend - they are generally not curious like the bass and take a bit more creeping up on.

Just past this point I often find fine clouds of freshly stirred silt on the bottom. I suspect the presence of carp but have seen only one in this area. Now it's about twenty or twenty-five feet deep - the imposing limestone boulders on one side, a deep blue debri field on the other - with scattered waterlogged planks, rope and stray boulders. I breathe up well but just ate 45 minutes or so ago and am not at optimum endurance wise. Going vertical a couple of kicks take me to the bottom where I get as low as possible for my approach; carefully adjusting my kick to avoid any noise from fins colliding or neoprene socks chaffing against the foot pockets; clinging to the edges of the rocks.

Again a small area of raised dust - I investigate it and look around for any further sign. Nearby is what looks like a gallon jug full of sand with a small rope attached. Not quite neutral I grab hold in hopes it will hold me down while I remain motionless to see if whatever stirred the bottom will return. Above me along the breakwall a large fish approaches - the culprit - a medium sized carp, glides steeply down toward a spot a short distance ahead. He's very relaxed - tail hanging limp as he settles on the bottom just in front of me. Breath time and I try to float the 22 or so feet to the surface without much motion. Breathe up again and make for the bottom. There may be two now as I see one approaching the mess my fins have made of the bottom. This one spooks on my approach and I see it edging out into the open water past the debri field. Getting right down against the bottom I make my way out with long, slow fin strokes - to my left, very close, are the two large Bass I often see in this area - sillouetted beautifully against the early evening sunlight. One is larger - probably 16 inches - with hansome vertical striping - the other probably 14 and less distinctly marked - possibly they are male and female. When they are around they just seem to school up with me as a matter of course - if I focus too much on them they get a little cautious - but here they've just accompanied me out into the open water; formed up at arms length along my left side.

I hear boats and at depth it is very difficult to determine the distance - so I turn back toward the rocks in order to surface near their protection. Satisfied with a visit with the carp and the big bass - whom I've not seen in a couple weeks - I make my way back toward the ladder. As soon as I'm able to see the Iron breakwall I dive and do a power run along the bottom just for fun - small bass and suckers split off in front of me - unable to stay ahead. Still not quite used to these fins I surface much closer to the Iron breakwall than I'd have guessed. A female jogger is stretching against the railing ahead - the late sun reflecting along the smooth, nicely muscled surface of her thigh as she bends over her leg. She sees me and I upend with a single mighty porpoise kick to the bottom - they get warey if you focus too much on them... That last quick breath easily takes me the remaining 80 or so feet to the ladder. The jogger edges off into the urban debri field...

I'm happy with the incremental return of my submarine stealth.

Just the thing after a day of network administration.
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End of September In the Great North

On a whim I made my way down to the open space project - thoughts of snorkage drifting with languid trepidation in the back, front and sides of my mind.

I walked along the edge there toward one of the ladders and stuck my foot in as three huge, silver-sided salmon passed underneath. The water seemed..well..balmy. Inwardly acknowleging that this was likely some sort of neurological anomaly I nonetheless returned to my car, gathered by gear and made, forthwith, for my point of entry.

Some fellow was on a cell-phone nearby. He sounded like a car salesman.
His haircut sucked. I thought about how I should never judge people just because they sound like a cheap suit and dress like LL Bean himself.

A young couple came along and looked at the water. They asked me if I'd been in yet - I told them it would be interesting to see if I survived.

The water was, well, not alltogether freezing. (My baggy henderson 3/2 neosport seems to have surrendered to incredulity these past few weeks - it looks at me from it's duffle bag and seems to say 'Dude, I'm made to look good on a windsurfer - your on your own with this sh%t') Visibility was imperfect - though still quite good. First couple of dives were brief - just getting my lungs in gear - and waiting for my face to stop hurting.

I like to do 3 or 4 on my way to the deeper area along the north edge of the breakwall. Very few fish around - other than little baby smallmouth fingerlings hanging close to the bottom.(I bet that drives the crayfish nuts!)

Got into deeper water and some of the large bass started to show up. I was getting my chops by then and had some nice long dives. On one I was hanging with maybe 8 bass - a couple of which were quite large. Very relaxed dive kneeling on the bottom at the edge of the big rocks maybe 20-25 feet down.

I was thinking about the great peripheral vision in my mask; checking out the corners of my eyes when along came a salmon about as long as one of my sporas. It ambled by purposefully just above me and the bass; curious but not about to alter it's restless, predatorial cruise. It was very cool to watch (the bass tilting slightly - to allow an eye for each of us) - almost close enough to touch - then off into the haze - a menacing sillouette. Surfaced realizing I wasn't even hurtin for air yet.

A few more nice dives as the chill started to set in - then back for shore where, for some reason, a bunch of coast guard guys were launching hundreds of brightly colored flares out over the water..

The guy in the bad shorts was still there with his haircut, talking on the cell-phone.

I've decided my spirit name is 'Interesting to Bass'
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Unknown fish! Probably End of the Season


Same spot - didn't bother to check the water temp. Another HUGE salmon spotted from shore.

This time I packed a little - not while I was diving - but before I got into the water. This seems to have gotten things going nicely and all of my dives were much longer and more comfortable.

About an hour from sunset. The lighting this time of day is very dramatic - particularly along the west-facing side of the breakwall.
An uneventful dive in terms of wildlife - just the usual Bass - but I was enjoying the lighting, and hanging on the bottom. I covered the entire length of the breakwall on the bottom; just floating and breathing up between dives.

As I cruised along on my way in a fish approached from directly ahead. It was swimming purposefully along the bottom edge of the rocks and barely altered course to avoid me - passing less than half a meter from my right arm. I was surprised to note that I'd never seen a fish like that before! It was 12-14" long, very silvery with dark blue/black along the back and tip of tail. Along the sides were a series of black stripes running the length of the body. The silver seemed to have an allmost lavender hue.

According to the Wisconsin Sea Grant Fish database this is a 'White Bass' - though it really doesn't look anything like smallmouth, largemouth or rock bass. It was much shinier than any pictures I've seen of 'White Bass' but didn't resemble anything else. Been an interesting season; diving along this breakwall. Something new almost every day.

Wonder when we'll start getting Asian Carp around here. Seems like the perfect remedy for jet skis. :)
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Re: Late season after work

Originally posted by Fondueset
A female jogger is stretching against the railing ahead - the late sun reflecting along the smooth, nicely muscled surface of her thigh as she bends over her leg. She sees me and I upend with a single mighty porpoise kick to the bottom - they get warey if you focus too much on them... . [/B]

Looks like you were enjoying the sites above and below the water:). Can't wait for chapter 2
Fondueset, have white bass been stocked in your area? I remember when I was a kid they were introduced in several lakes in West Virginia and I used to catch them quite a bit.
Nope. According to the DNR map no specimens have been seen here - this is Grand Traverse Bay which is off lake michigan (defines the 'little finger' of lower mich) though they have been seen in areas within a 100 miles or so.

Chapter two awaits next season and/or a new wet suit :)
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Great read! Lookin' forward to chapter two as well!!

Gotta make the trip to this area sometime too... you'd love Tobermory!!

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