Category Archives: Diving

Kayak and Free Diving Timber Cove with Ken Jan

Met Ken Jan at Timber Cove for some abalone diving and spearfishing off our kayaks. We launched just after 8am and paddled out of the cove to the one just north of the point. A little bit more swell in this less protected cove but as we moved in it was pretty calm. Not a lot of kelp to clip to so I just towed my boat around from the float line for a while. Finally found a stalk near enough to the surface to clip onto. Plenty of abalone over here. I pulled three pretty quickly wanting to try out my new speargun. I love my Riffe Euro but it’s usually too long for the viz and a little too long for checking out holes in the reef. My Riffe Competitor series I am thinking will be a good all arounder. Well I did a lot of poking in holes and there were no fish to be found. Of course in doing this I fine massive abs all over. I did finally shoot a couple greenlings that suffered from surface shrinkage. Probably won’t shoot any more greenlings. Was a great time. Beautiful day and got to really take the kayak on a longer adventure. Will look forward to more dives with Ken and probably learning to fish with a rod. All those folks were killing it out there, bringing in huge lings, cabs, and assorted rockfish.


Abs & Greenlings





























Free Diving off my Ocean Kayak

























Met Steven Liu and his two friends Tim and Jerry at Ocean Cove, morning of May 12. I’m looking forward to my Ocean Kayak Trident’s maiden voyage. After many hours setting up all my gear and figuring out where everything will go I’m eager to give it a try.

Tim needed to rent gear so we headed up to Gualala where there is a hardware store that does day rentals. After we got Tim all set up and got sandwiches at the market we headed north towards Point Arena. Steven joined me to navigate and not far north he indicated a spot to turn off. A small dirt lot at a place called Moat Creek. There’s a dirt path to the beach. We walked down to see the conditions and it looks pretty good.

Steven couldn’t find his kayak carts so we need carry our kayaks in pairs down the long path which is a lot more work than I was expecting. I’ll be buying my own wheels now!  Finally I get in the water while the three of them are finishing preparing.  A harbor seal bobs nearby checking out the newcomers. Soon Steven joins me and is paddling straight out with me following. We go pretty far out and finally decide to drop down and check it out.

I put on  my fins, mask, and snorkel, and take my iron attached to a float line to explore before clipping on to some kelp. I dive a few times and the viz looks pretty good, maybe 8-10 feet. Seeing abs and I pull a legal one right off. Drop that in the bag and tow my kayak a little deeper towards Steven. I pull an 8 inch ab next, it’s in the bag, move out more towards Steven. Now I dive and see lots of BIG abs. As usually regret pulling the first couple I see but seems like I do it every time. I find kelp close enough to the surface to clip to and start diving. One huge ab has a starfish on it. It is clamped down hard though and can’t get my iron under it. Don’t want to kill it so leave it. Soon I do pull a 9 inch one for my personal best. Drop that in my bag and pull out the pole spear.

Not seeing any fish just schooling so am going to poke around in the rocks. Not seeing much. Steven is again way out there. On one surface I look for him and see him pulling a big fish out of the water. I’m going to go join him. It’s on!  Unfortunately as soon as I go to unclip my kayak  I hear Tim yelling in the distance. He’s drifted 100 yards or more south and seems to be having a problem. I get on the kayak and head over to help him. Looks like he can’t get back on his kayak. I paddle around and come alongside his to hold it for him. He manages to get on. We start paddling back north but we’ve drifted pretty far now. Also his kayak seems to have taken on water as it’s riding low in the back. I escort Tim back to near where we launched and consider going out to join Steven but quickly decide to just stay with Tim all the way in.


We paddle back in and drag our kayaks up the rocky beach. I would have liked to have shot fish with Steven but consider my first time out on the kayak a major success. Got my abalone limit with a personal best. The kayak should be a great dive platform for both free diving and maybe some line fishing too.

Later when cleaning my Abs the largest one has my first pearl! A small teardrop shaped one a little smaller than a nickel. I get to try my new slicer on these and it makes some perfect abalone steaks we simmer in butter, white wine, and garlic.

Moat Creek Ab Shells

photo 1

Ab Pearl from Moat Creek

Free Diving Timber Cove

Met Jerry Hong at Timber Cove. He’s up from LA with his wife Lillian. We’re in the water around 8am.  Gorgeous day but not great visibility and a little big of surge and swell. I found my three abs with some difficulty. And as usual saw many many more bigger abs while hunting for fish. Jerry got his first three abs pulling some nice sized ones. Was great to get back in the water again and encouraging to see a lot of good sized abs at such a popular easy dive location. Looks like things are looking up for the abalone population finally.

Did not see a lot of fish out but managed to first get a calico with my pole spear. Kept at it ignoring the perch and greenling, flushed a big ling that got away, and finally found a good sized blue in a hole. Was a great day to get my limit and a couple rock fish under some challenging conditions.

















Abalone Diving at Timber Cove



October 28, 2012 -Diving at Tiber Cove with Jerry Hong.  We were suited up and in the water around 8:30 am. The sea was flat but unfortunately the visibility was not great. We kicked straight out of the cove to the kelp beds at about 30 feet. I was having trouble getting my left ear to equalize at depth. Finally I decided to head for shallower water to the right of the mouth of the cove. Not seeing many legal Abs, it took me a while to find my first which was only legal. After a while Jerry said he had spotted a huge one back at the kelp beds. Jerry was up from LA and had not bought a card. I explained to him I could not take one for him or receive one from him. I did think it was worth a try to find the big one. I was able to hit bottom out there and on about my fifth dive saw a huge one in the open on the face of a rock. I should have just marked it and come up but tried to pop it with no luck. Really pushing my breath hold as well. So I surfaced without marking it and had a hard time finding it again. Finally surrendered feeling I was pushing it and headed back closer to shore. Now I had great bottom time and quickly found a nice deep dish maybe 8″. My last ab I knew was at least 8 and when I went to lever it off a rock the whole rock came up too. It was about a 10 pound square slab. I just grabbed it, surfaced, and pried it off on my boogie board. Had not seen too many fish but decided to try for one before I called it a day. Using my polespear I combed the waters and finally saw what I was looking for, a nice sized blue rockfish. He was just out of range with my tips raking him slightly back leaving a few white lines and he zipped off. All in all it was a good day. My first Ab limit since the die off last year. One of the abs had a super thin shell that broke right through while cleaning. The other two were really pretty, the photos of course can’t do them justice.



Ocean Cove May 20, 2012

Met my friend Steven Liu up at Ocean Cove to get back in the water again. It was great visibility but the surge had picked up and it was a little rough outside the cove. I decided to stay inside the wash rock. There weren’t many abs to be seen after the die off last year and the area I was in was already pretty picked over. I decided to take advantage of the visibility to use my Riffe 75cm euro speargun. There wasn’t much kelp in the cove but I managed to shoot a couple Greenling. While poking around for abalone I ran into a Pacific Giant Octopus. Easily the biggest octopus I have ever seen anywhere. Was really something. I gently prodded him and he didn’t budge, right out in the open. Finally decided to head back in. While putting my gear away three scuba divers walked by me going down the boat ramp. Sadly the woman among them drowned within hours. We saw the rescue team working on her down at the boat launch but she didn’t make it.

Here are the greenling. The cutting board is 14″ wide. They’re about the size of trout. I fileted them and we sauted them in garlic butter with some sherry.

Free Diving in Maui

Kari and I had a great vacation in Maui this month. Managed to spend a lot of time free diving and tried out my GoPro HD HERO2 camera with a housing for underwater video. I mounted the camera on my left wrist. It was a challenge to aim it accurately. I would think I had the image in frame but was often shooting high, placing the action low in the frame. In widescreen much of the action is below frame so I had to keep it at 4:3.

Most of the footage is off the reef at our favorite hotel, the Fairmont Kea Lani, in Wailea, Maui. One day we took a kayak trip to snorkel off of Makena to a spot they call Turtle Town.

Abalone Diving at Fort Ross

Went Ab diving Saturday. Folks on the net had warned of poor visibility but I just felt like diving so ended up back at Fort Ross. I decided to take the steep trail down to the south cove, the one with the rope your use to back down the trail. Got in the water about 9am. Several harbor seals were sunning themselves on the rocks. As suspected the visibility was pretty poor, maybe 3 feet at best. Appeared to be a plankton bloom. My first dive I find a legal abalone upside down in the sand so picked it up, was over 7 inches, dropped it in my bag. Second dive two more abs upside down, both legal, one about 8 inches. Wow can’t believe my good luck, was thinking it would be hard work to find some legal ones at Fort Ross with poor visibility.

With my limit in the bag I decide to look for fish with my pole spear. Literally every rock hole I peer into; abs upside down on their shells! Starting to get a little concerning. I must have seen over 25 in that state. Was thinking maybe they were feeding on the bloom but probably the bloom is killing them. I hope that’s not the case, reports form Timber Cove north of Fort Ross also said many abs were seen upside down there too.
























I searched for any sign of fish for an hour finally with one darting out of the hole. I looked up to see a nice blue leaving and just as I took aim he turned away and I just missed him. After that decided to pack it in. Would have loved to have a nice rock fish filet to go with the abs but had to stop at Robert’s on my way home for some Halibut instead.

Spearfishing over bait

Was up north for ab diving again Saturday. The plan was to dive Ocean Cove but scoping it out there looked to be waves right in the spot we wanted to dive. So headed back down to Fort Ross. Went to the cove where I went the first time. It has something of a steep trail and at one point you have to lower yourself repelling style with a rope for about ten feet. Finally at the water and getting my gear on I notice I’m missing a glove. Halfway back up the trail and find the glove.

Back to the water, it’s flat as a swimming pool and the resident harbor seal is sunning himself on the lone wash rock at the mouth of the cove. Today I’m going to try and spearfish over bait which is legal and friends have done with great success. I have a ziploc with frozen ab guts. Put it in my mesh bag with a one pound weight and send it to the bottom in about 12 feet. Visibility is not great, maybe 8 or so. I just brought the polespear. After only a few minutes a couple rockfish are checking out the bag. A big blue sea star moves right in and I have to prod him off the bag and relocate him. Now a big rockfish is there, I try to dive to get into range but the fish scatter when I get close. After this happening two more times I decide to just fish around the bait underwater and then approach from underwater on the bottom as quietly as I can.

Cruising around the rocks and crevices I see plenty of abalone for later. Now I dive and slowly approach the bait from fifteen feet away. As the bag slowly materializes I see there is a big cabezon on it! I glide up silently and nail him with the trident. He goes ballistic, like a bird on the end of a stick, I’m holding on but he wriggles right off of my spear. So disappointed, really wanted my first Cab. Probably should have tried to stone him with a head shot.

After several more failed attempts I decide to forgo the fishing over bait. Put my spear on the boogie board and grab my abalone iron. I swim out to deeper waters near the wash rock. The seal is gone now but will usually come check me out at some point. Not long I’m finding some nice size abalone in the rocky crevices. I’ve finally marked my iron with 9″ and 10″ increments hoping to get something bigger. I pull one that I think looks huge but it’s just over 8. After a while I’ve pulled two more also around 8. I think I’ll need to go somewhere more remote if I’m ever going to see a 9.

Back to fishing, I patrol the rocks and crevices and the kelp patches chasing a big black around but never getting close enough. One big fish in a hole that scooted right as I shot. Finally decide to call it a day. The fishing over bait looks promising, think I may need a better tip to hold bigger fish when I have to use the polespear.

Diving at Fort Ross

I met Steven Liu at Fort Ross Saturday to free dive for abalone and do some spearfishing. I’ve dove with Steven several times, mostly freediving and once on scuba at Ocean Cove. He’s great to dive with and we usually end up taking our limit of abalone and  spearing some fish.

Steven and I preparing for a scuba dive at Ocean Cove

Steven is deaf so getting to know him has prompted me to learn some ASL fingerspelling which I can get by with, barely, but often we just resort to notes our iphones. I’ve downloaded a couple apps to help me learn it better as once we’re in the water I don’t have the iphone option. My signing is kind of like my Spanish, I can say a few things but then often can’t follow what’s said back. We seem to communicate well enough and it just seems we are usually on the same wavelength and have a great time diving together. Steven is a very capable diver and he’s taken some great video of abalone diving and spearfishing, often just filming himself!

Here is a great short video that pretty much shows you what taking an abalone looks like.

I left for Fort Ross 5:30am to meet Steven there at 8:30. Fog on the coast slowed me down a little so rolled up to the gate at 8:40. A familiar face greets me from the booth at the entrance and Jaquee looks at me and says ‘Where do I know you from’? I have to explain it’s from last year at Reef Campground when the friends I was camping with got so drunk they kicked us out. She laughs about it and I remind her I was the sober one. She jokes about loving us divers and not the ‘rock pickers’.

Shortly after parking Steven arrives. We quickly catch up by iphone and then are suited up and walking down to the south cove. We had an epic time together last year diving with Felix and took our abs and lots of Black Rockfish. We’re hoping for a repeat. Arriving at the cove the water is flat! I don’t see any kelp though so there may not be as many fish out there. We’re in the water by 10am. I bring my polespear and my Riffe speargun. The visibility isn’t as good as I hoped. Steven anchors his tube and I clip to it. We start out in around 15ft. My first time diving since a ruptured eardrum in November so taking it easy. I feel good though and soon have my first ab. After about 30 minutes I’ve got my 3 abs and take out the polespear. I drop down and just comb the cracks and crevices for any hiding fish. I’m using my Oceanic Geo wrist computer which measures the depth and duration of each dive. My initial dives for abs rarely last for more than a minute but when I’m hunting for fish I get into this zone where a 2 minute dive seems easy and I surface comfortably, like while snorkeling in Hawaii. I should probably just fish first as through the course of fishing I usually see huge abalone in the 20-25 foot range.

Soon I surprise a nice size Black as he comes out from a hole and in a split second he’s on the end of my polespear. I’m happy to get one big one so now the day is really looking up. I get him on my stringer. Steven has already speared an even larger Grassie. Back to hunting I soon see movement in a hole that looks like a big black at about 20 ft. when I get near a harbor seal pokes his head out with big puppy dog eyes. We stare at each other until I need some air. The visiblity is a little better in deeper water. I’m ignoring schools of perch, intent on the biggest black I can find. Finally I see a nice size one but with no kelp to cover me he stays just far enough away. After attempts with the polespear that land short I return to the boogie board to fetch my speargun. It has about a 10 foot range. Back to the spot and after a while I see one but he has my number and stays pointed away. I’m on him hoping he’ll turn but doesn’t. I finally shoot holding on him but it’s a miss.

By about noon I see Steven is back at the tube and I swim back. We decide to call it a day and swim in to shore. Another great day diving at Fort Ross. Saturday night Kari and I enjoy some delicious fried rockfish and abalone. It’s great to be back diving again.