There were a lot of changes that occurred in the past year or so. The move to the new house, the birth of my first born, getting used to the commute etc. Pretty much all of that took up a great deal of my time but I couldn’t complain. You can’t complain when your boy gives you a great smile when you take him to Disney or spend some time with him. Yet every once in a while I get that yearning to get back into the water. I can’t really explain it to you if you aren’t addicted to the ocean. When conditions are good it’s a whole different world and an hour can easily stretch into a day.
I have a fantastic wife, she never complains about my freediving addiction. She even will watch my son all day once in a while just so I can get out in the water. I made arrangements ahead of time and so it was with eager anticipation that I watched the swell for days before we actually planned on going out. Everything looked bulletproof, no wind, no swell and from what I was hearing, pretty decent vis! To make it even a sweeter deal we were going on my buddies boat, first to collect some specimens and then after we dropped them off, some diving! We have special permits to allow us to collect scientifically but you cannot collect and sportfish on the same trip. With the super high tide I had my sights set on halibut and a limit of bugs, I could hardly sleep the night before, all I could think about was seeing those halibut buried up in sand and squeezing that trigger.
Imagine my disappointment when we rolled to the harbor and saw the fog. Oh well, with this warm weather it’s likely to burn off in a few hours, we’ll go ahead and collect first and that was our plan anyways. We again strapped on the dreaded scuba tanks and made the drop into the water. I won’t out this location but I will say, you probably would not shore dive there as it would be a hell of a swim. I knew that there would be a reef that would hold the nudibranchs (think slugs) that we were looking for and in an hour or so we had enough so we headed back in to drop them off. We docked the boat and then jumped into our car to make the delivery to the warehouse.
Here’s the second disappointment. When we got back it was still fugging foggy :(. My buddies radar wasn’t working, his gps was also acting up and the fog was probably 200′ vis or so, but I had seen a few rockfish down at the 50′ level at the reef we were getting the nudibranchs at. We eased our way back to that spot and got ready to dive. Our plan was to dive here and then head up the coast a bit and work for some bugs.
One of the reasons why I wanted to get out was that I had a new pair of carbon fiber freediving fins that I wanted to try out. Quite a few of my friends had already made the jump to these and I couldn’t wait to try them out. I sold my old pair of carbons and saved up to buy them. After some research I had ordered a pair of Moana watermans from the man JD himself, and Kyle laid the carbon fiber and got the fins ready. After much discussion with Daryl Wong, JD, Kyle and some of my buddies that own Moanas I ended up going with the new “hybrid softs”. I wasn’t too keen on getting anything soft at first because I had tried a pair of soft carbon fins before of another maker, and man they just flopped all over the place so I had sent them back and got mediums. Those particular fins on the surface were great but when I was powering bigger fish from the deeps it felt like I wasn’t moving at all and it scared the shit out of me. JD assured me that his fins were not going to lack that punch, on the surface they would require less work and when you need that push with a big fish or from the deeper water they actually stiffen to give you the power you need. Daryl also agreed with that statement and since they are both way better divers than myself I trusted their judgment. I got these fins probably almost two months ago, but being sick for a month and also not having dive time meant that I wouldn’t have time to try them out, I was actually going to do a pool test since I couldn’t head to the ocean. But I knew we were diving a deeper spot so I strapped them on.
The fins are a bit longer than my leaderfin fiberglass which have been my goto fins for both shore and boat diving. The fiberglass fins have been great, perfect for kicking all day in with the stiffness I like for powering big fish up. To my delight, the Moanas were super light, much lighter than the leaderfins and with the pathos pockets they felt very responsive. After warming up a bit I noticed that the fins required less effort going down and what I really liked was that under pressure I could rocket up, they didn’t flop around at all. WOW. I spent a hour or so testing them out and I can say that I’m very impressed and these are going to be my goto fins when I’m not on the rocks (mainly because I’m a baby and don’t want to scratch them up, I’m sure they will hold up). I even switched back to my fiberglass fins to double check and man what a difference. I can’t wait till white seabass season to come around!
I started working deeper and deeper and trying to improve my bottom time. With my new rockets strapped to my heels I made a drop down to about 50 feet and started to slowly cruise the bottom. This was where I had seen some rockfish when I was on scuba that looked a lot like Vermillion Rockfish! Vermillions are not rare in southern California, but they are usually found much deeper. I took a nice grass rockfish on one drop and then headed back to the surface. I slowly breathed up and when I was ready inverted and kicked the Moanas towards the bottom. Effortlessly I floated back down to the bottom and started again working my way down the reef and saw a large Vermillion ambling away. I extended my gun and squeezed off a shot. Thunk, the shot rang true and the fish stopped moving and turned sideways, it was a perfect shot. I was out of breath anyways so I grabbed it and started the slow ascent to the surface. When enough light started to shine on it as I got shallower I noticed the brilliant red color. WOW, I was blown away, the closer I got to the surface, the more brilliant the red became. The fish wasn’t huge at any rate, but at about 3 pounds or so it was going to make a delicious meal.
Unfortunately, the fog never lifted that day. We spent the rest of our time securing some kelp bass and rockfish, enough to make a nice fish dinner. We stored the fish on ice and carefully moved the boat back in, all the time watching the fog for any hidden obstacles.
I ended up doing a whole steamed fish for my wife and I, wow those rockfish were so sweet and tender! If you haven’t steamed rockfish it’s very easy. I just stuff the fish with garlic and ginger, add green onions and cilantro to the top and steam until the flesh begins to fall off. Usually I’ll add a bit of teriyaki sauce to it and serve it next to some steamed veggies or rice.
All in all it we salvaged a great day. We couldn’t go too far because of the fog but still had a lot of fun and I also got to try my new fins!
I don’t get any kickbacks from recommending these fins, I just think they are fantastic. Moana Watermans are available at moanawaterman.com, sturgillspearfishing.com, spearamerica.com and other freediving/spearfishing shops.
Oaks Chinese Style Whole Steamed Fish
teriyaki sauce (I premake this and bottle it. I take soy sauce and sugar and mix it in a saucepan under heat, keep adding the sugar until it’s as sweet as you like it. I add a tiny bit of sesame oil, jalipenos, garlic and ginger to it and then bottle it. Let it cool before you put it in the fridge, all the sugars and garlic/ginger keep it from going bad, it will last six months but more than likely you’ll eat it up before then).
small fish that has been gutted/gilled/scaled. I also cut slits in the fish about every two inches.
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tb chopped garlic
Start boiling your water, when it’s boiling add your steaming tray. I stuff the fish with green onion, cilantro, ginger and garlic. Put on the tray and pour a liberal amount of teriyaki sauce on there and then add more green onion/cilantro/ginger/garlic on top. Cover and steam until the eyes turn white and the flesh begins to fall off the bones. Serve on a bed or rice or veggies.