The Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October falls on September 30th this season, an early opening. The limit’s still seven legal bugs, and that means you better have your measuring device with you. Don’t forget your lobster report card either, and review the rules for filling it out. And, if the season is good for you, you can purchase an additional report card later after you’ve finished filling in and mailing in your first one. Another thing to check, marine closures keep popping up anew each season, so make sure you’re hunting in legal territory.
That said, here are my predictions for where I would look for those spiny things early this season. As I mentioned last year, I like starting shallow during the beginning of the year if inshore visibility allows me that option. If there’s a swell running though, and visibility on the bottom sucks, keep your middle ground options open, too.
This year, this old man will not be out there competing with you this season, but if I was here’s where I’d go. I’ve almost always had good luck in and around the general areas outside of Topanga Canyon. Those are the areas outlined in my Santa Monica Bay Diving and Fishing Log starting on page 28. I like to make three or four exploratory drops at different depths here to check out the action, and if I don’t see lobsters after four or five minutes during each drop, I surface and move on. The jumbled rocky areas in 35 to 60 feet of water outside the middle to north ends of the main beach are my favorite locations. Your fathometer won’t show many large reefs sticking up, but the hardpan in the area shows a nice bottom echo if you’re over the right areas. If there are bugs there in any quantity this strategy will reveal whether or not burning more air is worthwhile. If that doesn’t pay off, move a little north to Moonshadows Reef (page 32) and try there. Use the same strategy to check the area before committing to burning your whole tank.
After that head back to the south and take a peek at the wider area south of Sunset Canyon (page 42) or at Santa Monica Canyon (page 35). My book doesn’t go into minute details here, but there are several scattered rocky spots south of both of the areas shown on the map. These sometimes hold bugs, and are productive early in the season.
If you want to move deeper for better visibility try exploratory dives at some of the following locations to see what’s there. These spots are worth a shot: Rowland’s (page 18), both Marina piles (pages 12 and 14), and all of the artificial reefs (starting on page 7) may be good producers at times.
Some years the season starts slow, so if you don’t limit out opening day, don’t be discouraged. It’s a long season that doesn’t end until March. The bay is a very productive area, and one of the reasons is the ban on commercial traps there. Keep checking once or twice a month and eventually things will pick up
Later, during November or early December move deeper and add Deacon’s and the outside bubbles to your list. Sooner or later perseverance will pay off. Believe me, because I’ve been there and done that over the years. I will admit, however, that I never faced the competition from the numbers of divers you see today. So, with that in mind, don’t be afraid to meter around to find some new spots of your own. Santa Monica Bay is a large area, and a very productive one when you hit it just right. Of course if you have a lot of time and you’re really energetic, you can check out the spots before the season starts, and then you’ll know exactly where to go on opening day.
The Santa Monica Bay Diving and Fishing Log is available for purchase on the “Books” tab on this website, but if you don’t want to buy the book, try checking my earlier blog posts for other spots in the area. Good luck diving this season, and may your lobster report card fill early and often, just as mine did in the past.