La Jolla Spearfishing


A recent trip to Big Sur rekindled my desire to go spearfishing.  The ocean is warm and given my slightly elevated cholesterol, some extra Omega-3 fatty acids seem like a good idea.

After some research, we decided to investigate the reefs outside the La Jolla Children’s Pool.  Apparently, this is a good beginner’s spot and it would be the perfect place to dial in our technique.  The last time any of us spearfished was in Thailand, in 2007.  We arrived in La Jolla to find that every parking space within a mile of the Cove was taken, so we drove south towards Bird Rock, in search of an alternative location.  We parked near Windansea and then walked north along the beach, until we were outside of the marine sanctuary boundary.

I didn’t bother to bring my underwater camera, since I knew that spearing fish would keep me occupied.  But not to worry, I have used Photoshop to create a wonderfully vivid and life-like reproduction of the underwater world we witnessed:

Underwater view @ 8 feet

The visibility was terrible, maybe 10-12 feet at best.  To make matters worse, there was a lot of surge and I began to feel seasick immediately.  We snorkeled out past the shallow eel grass beds, into deeper water just beyond the lineup.  I’d estimate the water’s depth at 15-20 feet, but the bottom remained hidden due to the poor vis.  I’d catch brief glimpses of kelp and eel grass moving this way and that, and I could feel the nausea increasing with each passing minute.  I saw a few garibaldi and a small kelp bass, but nothing worth shooting.  Steve and Lakshan decided to call it quits, and they turned back towards shore.

Lopez and I stayed out a bit longer, but we eventually gave up and started swimming in.  About 20 yards from shore, I spotted a 3 foot-long leopard shark.  I followed it for a while, when suddenly a big school of sardines came blazing by, moving from right to left.  I quickly pulled my pole spear into position and took aim at a big fat sardine.  A direct hit!  Even though all three prongs had impaled the sardine, it still managed to twitch it’s way off the spear and I watched with sadness as it sunk to the ocean floor.  I floated above, watching as it twitched and bled.  Fighting off bouts of nausea, I started prodding the sardine with my spear tip, in an attempt to recapture my prize.  I knew Lopez would eat it, after all.

Jason: 1, Marine life: 0

A piece of brownish kelp, like a wide ribbon, drifted up to the sardine.  It moved over and around the fish.  It moved in a very fluid, animated fashion.  I thought to myself, “That is a very fluid and animated piece of kelp!”  Then I noticed that the kelp was sniffing the sardine, and it proceeded to take a bite.  A California morey eel, it finally occurred to me.  Yes, the visibility was really that bad.

Jason: 1, Marine life: 1

I turned back towards shore, when I noticed a huge crab poking out from underneath a rock.  I dove down and attempted to extricate him, and he attempted to inflict great harm upon my fingers.  A brief tussle ensued, and frustration turned to panic as I suddenly realized my lungs were about to implode from lack of air.  I returned to the surface, which gave the wily crustacean the opportunity to escape.  The crab looked like a purple and red Dungeness, and I believe it was a Graceful Crab (Cancer gracilis).  Jason 1, Marine Life 2.

Just as I had given up on the crab, I noticed a good-sized kelp bass hanging out in a little trough on the bottom.  It moved back and forth with the surge and didn’t seem to notice that I was directly above.  I took a deep breathe and cocked my spear, and dove to take a closer look.  It was close to the minimum size limit, but probably under.  In my excited and oxygen-starved state, I convinced myself that it was definitely of legal size, and I took the shot.  My spear glanced off it’s back, and it disappeared into the kelp, apparently unharmed. It’s entirely possibly that it suffered a grave wound, in which case we can chalk it up as another win for the La Jolla Morays.

Jason: 1. Marine life: 2

Just as I was recovering from the adrenaline rush of having shot at two fish, I spied a couple of Barred Surf Perch nearby.  I need to reiterate that, in a span of roughly 60 seconds, I had found a leopard shark, attempted to catch a giant crab, I shot a sardine, I watched a moray eat the sardine, and I shot at a bass.  I was feeling starved for air and really giddy.  I quickly cocked my spear and took a shot, nailing the perch right through the body.  Hot damn!  We’re eating fish tonight!  I couldn’t believe it.

Sand Dab

Barred Surf Perch

Fish Fry @ Lopez's

Fish Fry @ Lopez’s

Hula Hooping for success

Steve celebrates

We were happily dining on the above fish when Lopez discovered what has been described as “the world’s grossest creature” inside the fish’s mouth.  Cymothoa exigua, the tongue-eating parasite.  Oh, this truly was a great day!  This nasty bug attaches itself to it’s victim’s tongue, proceeds to consume the muscle entirely and then lives inside the fish’s mouth as a parasitic replacement.  Yummy!  Having consumed far too many PBR’s by this point in the evening, I decided to pop the thing in my mouth.  I squished it’s body and ate some of it’s eggs, but I spit the little bugger out. Anyone who complains that I am a picky eater, please take note.

Cymothoa exigua

Cymothoa exigua

Zane in the kitchen

Zane in the kitchen






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