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Southern California diving trip

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Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
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Jan 27, 2005
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I met Jeff Bonisa and Chip Albright at Dana Point harbor at 8 am yesterday. If I'm going to the islands, I have to get the boat out of storage the afternoon before because the dry storage yard is locked until 8 on weekdays this time of year. But for a trip along the coast, we generally sleep late and just go when we get access to the boat. By the time we loaded up, hooked up, and launched, it was close to 9 when we left the harbor. It was a beautiful glass calm run to our destination kelp bed, even if it was drizzling a bit.

When we got there, there was a boat anchored on the up current end of the bed with a freediver in the water, so we had to anchor a bit down the outside of the bed toward the downcurrent end so as not to be stepping on him. Somewhat unusual was the fact that each of us had virgin Wong magnum guns. Mine had been in the water a few times since I got it at Christmas, but had never been fired at a fish. For Jeff and Chip, it was the first time diving since they got the guns. We had fervent hopes of breaking them in properly.

While the water looked decent from the boat, it turned out to be mostly about 10 to 12 feet vis, and it was hard work with no sign of fish. I saw the other guy get in his boat, so I started working my way toward the up current end and the vis got better, maybe 15 to 18 feet in places.

I was sort of going through the motions until on one dive I was hanging at about 20 feet and saw a faint silver shine right on the limit of vis. I gently kicked forward and damn near had a heart attack. A very big white sea bass was slowing passing from left to right behind some kelp. I am a notoriously poor judge of size in the water, but most of my white sea bass turn out to be much bigger in the boat then I thought they were when I shot them, and I think this fish had to be at least 60 pounds. I slowly extended the gun while thinking what a nice way this was going to be to start the season and break in the gun. I didn't see how I could miss a fish that size at that range, but where there's a Bill there's a way. Just as I squeezed the trigger, the fish turned 90° left and bolted straight away from me while my shaft went wizzing down his right side. At the same time I saw at least two more flashes from fish that I had not seen.

I was pretty surprised that this fish was so nervous as to bolt since I thought I was doing everything right and being quiet and smooth, but maybe that other guy had been working them so long that they were nervous. Or maybe it just heard my heart accelerate to Mach 1, but anyway it got away.

The other diver finally left, but I got a bit tired and saw that Jeff was back in the boat and Chip was right near me, so I told Chip about the fish and went down to collect Jeff and the boat and move it back up to the head of the bed. Jeff had gotten tired and discouraged with the shitty vis down near the boat, but he seemed to perk up nicely when I told my story.

By the time we got up to the head of the bed, Chip said he had rounded a corner and looked to his right into a kelp room and seen three fish, one of them very big. Maybe this was the same group I saw? He tried to get the gun pointed in their direction, but they bolted.

By the time we anchored, ate some trail mix and drank some gatorade and rested a bit, the wind came up strong and the water got rough almost instantly. When we went back in, it was a lot tougher to dive while being bounced around on the surface and having waves break over your snorkel just as you finished breathing up. The vis started deteriorating too.

I had one more chance and managed to blow it too. I was descending through about 20 feet in poor vis and saw the back of a very large white sea bass swimming directly under me. Its pretty hard to get that shot on the relatively narrow back, especially with the fish weaving as it swims, but I was trying to line up when I thought I saw a big shine to my left out of the corner of my eye. I made a split second judgement that this might be an easier shot, but when I turned I saw nothing, and when I turned back the fish below me was just accelerating out of sight.

It got harder and harder to dive with waves breaking in the kelp bed, and the vis got worse. The only other sighting I had was a large silver flash just beyond the limit of vis as a fish spooked. It must have been a big white sea bass, or at least I hoped that was what it was.

Everyone seemed pretty tired (these young kids can't hack it) and the wind kept coming up, so we headed for home early. Since it wasn't too far to the harbor, I cruised at all of 6 knots to keep from beating us up too bad.

The gun are still virgins, but at least a couple of them have engaged in foreplay, and that is a start. Its so much more fun to come home skunked but all excited about seeing big fish that it has been coming home skunked and disgusted on previous trips this winter.

When I got back to the harbor, I rented a guest slip so I can go as early as I wish today and hopefully beat that other boat down there. But the wind was forecast to blow 15 to 25 most of the night, so we may have a problem.
 

Spinal Tap

New Member
Jul 5, 2004
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A heartbreaker for sure. But there's nothing like seeing big fish and having that encounter go through your head over and over again. The anticipation for the next dive is so delicious.

Let us know how the story "finally" ends.
 

Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
Staff member
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Jan 27, 2005
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I'm afraid its on hold. We took a look at dawn from the bluff and it looked pretty rough, so we bailed out for today. Maybe tomorrow or the next day. I can't rent that guest slip forever though, so I'll have to make a decision.
 

Spinal Tap

New Member
Jul 5, 2004
107
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It's suppose to calm down Wed., and Thur. looks good. My daughter got kicked out of daycare, so I'm back to daddy daycare.

I'm still aiming to get out for a super early or a sunset dive this week.
 

Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
Staff member
Forum Mentor
Jan 27, 2005
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Too bad about daycare. You could have come along and showed me how its done.
 

fuzz

Hawaiian transplant...
Sep 9, 2002
995
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Spinal Tap said:
It's suppose to calm down Wed., and Thur. looks good. My daughter got kicked out of daycare, so I'm back to daddy daycare.

I'm still aiming to get out for a super early or a sunset dive this week.


All right, I have to ask - she got kicked out of day care???
 

Spinal Tap

New Member
Jul 5, 2004
107
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fuzz said:
All right, I have to ask - she got kicked out of day care???

yep. first in the family to get kicked out of any school. And she did it before turning six months.
 

fuzz

Hawaiian transplant...
Sep 9, 2002
995
73
0
43
Spinal Tap said:
yep. first in the family to get kicked out of any school. And she did it before turning six months.

Precocious little one ;)

You must be so proud, is that why you're always running off yahoo?
 

Spinal Tap

New Member
Jul 5, 2004
107
11
0
She's actually really fun, but just stubborn as a mule.

I can only ignore her complaining for so long. When she wants something, she lets me know and that's when I dissappear of messenger.

Too bad. I had planned to dive to my little heart's content from now till 4/15, but it looks like I'll be a weekend warrior again.
 

Bill McIntyre

San Clemente, CA
Staff member
Forum Mentor
Jan 27, 2005
3,416
1,185
368
82
cdavis said:
Bill, great story, well told. Keep'em coming.

Connor

Thanks. I was not sure whether dive stories like this were appropriate on this board since I don't seem to have noticed many. I sure enjoy diving vicariously through others, so I hope most people feel that way.
 
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