Last week a few friends and I drove down to Bahia De Tortugas to go spearfishing. Naturally I brought my photo gear, and glad I did. We had an amazing time diving with yellowtail and grouper. Bahia De Tortugas is a small bay on the Pacific side of Baja California that has a thriving fishing village there. The locals fish seasonally and right now are primarily looking for sea cucumber (highly desired by Japanese markets) and abalone. Abalone are the main fishing resource for the people of Bahia de Tortugas.
I was told a few years back that San Benitos Island is what the Channel Islands of California were like 100 years ago. I remember a bell going off in my head and have had San Benitos on the top of my list since. San Benitos Island has deep trenches and lush kelp forests around it, perfect for yellowtail, white sea bass, grouper, black sea bass, and to be honest, sharks. I have no research or personal sitings of sharks at San Benitos, but all the ingredients sure are there. Not to mention the island is 160 miles from Guadalupe Island were about 100 great whites visit on a biannual migration and there's a colony of fur seals at Benitos.
We had an epic time going to San Benitos Island, which is 42 miles from the fishing village we stayed at. With a hand written map, a boat captain that has never gone to the island before, and a 5am departure in a 15 foot panga in the pitch black, we set off for an amazing trip. We first spotted up on a pinnacle at the northern point of the island and immediately saw yellowtail. My first three dives I had a wall of yellowtail schooling me! We speared a few of those, then headed to the kelp to see if we could find some white sea bass. No luck there but the scene in that kelp was breathtaking. I do not think my pictures do it justice, but words definitely can not describe the feeling you have when diving in thick kelp that goes down seventy feet with life everywhere and solid visibility.
We circled the island and soaked up as much as we could, guessing at good spots to dive, but as the day went on the visibility deteriorated and we ended up back were we started and Juan found himself with a 40 pound yellowtail to end the day.
The second day we found the mother load of grouper and quickly realized we were apart of something not many people will ever see . There was about 100 grouper congregating together, in spawning behavior. I was able to take some video of them at about 70 feet underwater and we were able to spear a few too. It was incredible to swim with some many big grouper, and we all felt blessed to have been among them.
I didn't know it on the ride down there but once we filleted and vacuum sealed all the fish, Nicole started preparing dinner, and wow... she is a phenomenal chef. We had yellowtail sashimi, calico ceviche, grouper collar, and yellowtail poke. We stuffed ourselves and loved every minute of it. Nothing like fish that was caught a few hours before!