Perhaps it’s because divers cannot access Bluefish Cove without a boat, or maybe a few divers in Whaler’s Cove have claimed to have seen clearer water leaking through the channels in Cannery Point Wall, but rumors are that the water is more clear, the marine life is more abundant, and the diving is more exciting. It’s true. Even if it were not protected, Bluefish Cove would offer some of the best diving in California. With the protection of its "Reserve" status, the fish have grown to maturity and, having no fear of hunters, are quite at ease with a diver hovering in their midst.
Bluefish has no protection from the full force of the open ocean. A tributary of the Carmel Submarine Canyon terminates at the northeast end of the cove, funneling deep water swells and their clear, fertile water into the cove. The swift, surge-driven currents and the pounding of high energy, open-ocean swells have carved what is left of Cannery Point into a labyrinth of pinnacles and canyons dropping precipitously from the shallows to depths well over the 130 ft. sport diving limit. Nutrient rich water sustains a community that smothers the substrate. Plants and animals compete aggressively for the space on the rocks, creating a situation where species of plants and animals grow over each other in a frenzied slow motion war for space. The density of reef life is four times that of the other dive areas in the park.
The exposure to the open sea provides opportunities to see pelagic life, and it is common to observe sea lions, pelagic jellies, molas, and the occasional whale or shark. There are times when the currents bring in huge swarms of jellies, filling the outer cove with a spectacular variety of pulsating life forms, and providing food for the hordes of Bluefish from whom the cove gets its name.
Surveying the cove from the trail that runs along the edge of the high cliffs ringing the south end, it might come as a surprise to hear that the water below these walls is shallow. The inner cove varies in depth from ten feet at the base of the cliffs, to forty feet in the middle. The outer wall of the cove, delineated by the northern edge of the kelp bed, drops off to great depths very rapidly. During the spring and summer, the giant kelp, Macrocystis, grows thick enough to completely cover the surface, but unlike the situation in Whaler’s Cove during the same season, there is still sufficient current to provide a water exchange, and the water remains clear .
Unlike Whaler’s Cove, Bluefish is small. It’s possible to swim the entire cove in one dive, although to explore it thoroughly, one would need many dives. The substrate is entirely granodiorite rock, forming many dramatic pinnacles and canyons, with a few sand pockets. The largest sandy area is a sand channel that runs north-south alongside Guillemot Island, at the west side of the cove, from the small beach that serves as a harbor seal rookery out to depths beyond safe diving limits. This sand channel is the deepest part of the cove, and forms a natural boundary for the dive zone, as there is little to see here or to the immediate west, which is out of the diving permitted zone. Most of the great diving is in the rocky reefs around the kelp bed, an area that is within the sport diving depth limits and should be considered an advanced dive. This cove is not a good dive on days when the northwest swell is over eight feet. There are several other points of interest that will be covered in more detail in the next three articles. I have divided the discussion into three sections: Cannery Point Pinnacles, Guillemot Islandand the Inner Cove, and The Bluefish Wall.
By Patrick Lovejoy ©1998
map illustration by Reiko Michisaki