The first Seabass

23 Dec

Another unpublished blog I stumbled across, this one happened May 2006 if I have the date down correctly, it was when the freediving bug first started to take hold of my life.  I don’t even have some of the gear I started out with and it’s been a blur of fish, but I’ll always remember the first real seabass I ever got.

Have you ever had one of “those days”?  One of those days when you wake up in a funk and you know you should probably just stay in bed and let the day pass by?  Sometimes I get like that, it’s like I know something isn’t right and I just need time to sort things out.  I always laugh and tell my buddies “there is a disturbance in the force”.  It takes me a few hours to sort it out, but I just need time by myself and think about life.  I had dove memorial day for a few hours but the visibility sucked and the big swells sent me back home.  
But today is a different day.
I had a good day at work as usual,  how can you complain about wearing shorts every day?  Tomorrow I’ll be diving in catalina island to collect on SCUBA, it’s a rare work day but it’s more fun than work.  Today was a kick back day, I fed my rapidly growing baby squids and watched “the kraken” dart forward and take a handful of baby fish and stuff them into is mouth.  I  took care of some filters and chatted with friends.  At five pm the world belongs to me and I’m free until eight in the morning…I grabbed my spearing gear and headed down to one of my favorite spots.  Yesterday the water was chocolate brown and I didn’t bother getting in at this spot.  I stood up on the cliff and peered down,  the water was brown in the middle of the cove but the kelp beds looked…. black. Wait, black?? Wtf???  I squinted and looked again, yeah they look black. I figured it must be just okay on the visibility so I throw my backpack on my back and begin the decent down.
I throw my gear on the rocky shore and wiggle into my wetsuit. I flip over my wrist and check the time, six pm. That means I have about an hour to find some fish!  There is absolutely no swell today, its like a swimming pool, so I put on my fins and load my speargun and begin the long kick out.”UNBELIEVABLE”. Thats all I can say. The reason why it looked black from the surface was the visibility was at least twenty five feet on the reef and up on the cliff  I was looking at the black rocks with the glare on the water. “UNBELIEVABLE”, I said it again.  I’ve never freedove in condtions like this, it’s like diving on the islands on a clear day.  I see fish everywhere, lots of zebra perch zipping around and opaleye eyeing me from the kelp forest.  Baby tiny kelp fish were zipping around trying to hide from the bigger predators.  I  see lobsters walking around and seastars mixed in throughout the reef. I’m still kicking on the surface but the kelp begins to brush against my mask and pulls on my snorkel. It’s time to dive below.

I fill my lungs with air and flood my snorkel so it doesnt make any noise and then dip silently below.  Under the kelp its dark and scary looking, the visibility here is about ten to fifteen feet, it’s always more murky in the kelp bed at this spot.  Mainly I see silouhettes thru the greenish water. Lots of little fish scatter about. I kick forward and hold my breath until my lungs begin to hurt and then I start to rise. I put my hands forward to open up a spot in the kelp and clear my snorkel.  Take a deep breath and do it again and again. As I kick silently thru the kelp forest I see a monster kelp bass. Usually they average less than a pound at this spot, but this one is closer to seven or eight.  In a second it sees me and bolts out of range. Wow that was beautiful.  Again the limitations of my breatholding summons me and the air breathing world becons me once again.

The sun shines on my face, the water is warm and I can hear seagulls in the distance.  Its a whole new world today, and a brand new day. I can feel it today, I’m in the groove.  Except for the crackling of shrimp it’s silent underwater yet I know that there are fish here.

I drop down again and begin kicking, to my left I see a dark shape sink away. My eyes narrow and I squint and watch it closely. Is that a black sea bass?

The reason why I am careful is black sea bass are protected and you can’t take them here in so cal.  If you take a moment to see them you’ll never mistake the two, the body shape is different as is the coloration.  But in a murky kelp bed it’s good to take that extra second to be sure.  “Wait”. I look closer and see the telltale bars on the body. THATS A FREAKING WHITE SEA BASS.  I begin to softly kick my fins to close the gap, unfortunately I have the smaller of my spearguns with me today, the 110 cm Rabitech Stealth. I nicknamed this one “sting” after the sword in the hobbit, lol. It is my favorite and is super accurate but lacks range. My big railgun (the rabitech 120 carbonfiber stealth) is named “bad karma”, I wish I had it today. Generally the longer the speargun the longer the distance you can cover and this fish is fifteen feet away and rapidly disappearing into the kelp forest. Another few feet and it will be out of range and worse yet, out of sight.

I slowly extend my arm and guess where the fish will be next. I guess correctly and the fish begins to turn. it turns slightly to the left and I line up my shot then I squeeze the trigger and the shaft shoots thru the water.  “Pfffft”. Black line trailing it, I wait to see if my reel begins the familar screaming of protest but I hear nothing. Not any movement and I dont see the fish.

I’m bewildered. I was sure I hit it, but it was pretty far out.  Dejected I begin to pull the line in and feel something heavy on the end. My pulse quickens and I quickly dive down and being following the line like a spider pulling in its web. I weave in and out of the kelp until I get closer to the spearshaft. Laying on the bottom is my fish. I grab it and rush back to the surface, breathing air has never felt that great!  I don’t even have to measure this fish, I can tell its well over the legal size and I guess its weight to be about 15 lbs.

It’s only been 5 years and it looks like I’ve aged 100 years since this picture

I had hoped it would be bigger because I wanted to shoot a 40lber, that was my goal!  Still its my first year chasing white sea bass and I got two in the last two weeks, I didn’t count the first one because it was a barely legal schoolie. I call up my buddy with the good news and at first he doesnt believe me. “You got one after work?? How long were you down?” I figure about twenty minutes. He’s bewildered but agrees to take some pictures with the new digital camera I just got. My old one broke and I tried to fix it and broke some of the computer chips in it. It was going to cost the same price as a new camera to get it fixed, and as I opened one part a spring flew out and the computer board wires disconnected.  So being the calm collected person I am, I threw it across the room and shattered it into a billion pieces. But thats another blog…

You would think after so much diving I’d be satisified right? Hey guess what im doing tomorrow nite? Yep I’m diving after work. That puts me to fifteen straight days of diving I think.  And how about the night after that? I’m going to my parents house silly, I do that every Thursday. Sheesh a guys got to have a life you know, its not all about spearing, lol.  I sling the fish in  my backpack and start up the cliff, I load up my car and then walk back to the edge to check out the ocean.  Wow what a beautiful day.  I think back to yesterday when I was in the funk. It’s amazing how one day can change your life. I guess thats why you can never give up, you never know what the world is going to bring you the next day. You have to hold out for that one day…

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