Sevengill Sharks in San Diego   Leave a comment

Sevengills in San Diego

24th April 2009

We have just left San Diego but we will definitely be back! San Diego is one of the sharkiest cities in North America period.

To recap, we arrived just over a week ago to storm like conditions and had to sit around frustrated while the waves pounded the shore line. After a couple of days the weather abated and we were able to get out with our good friend Walter Heim who found us some beautiful blue sharks to shoot. See our previous blog Blue Dogs off San Diego.

Walter’s friend Dave Hinkel (Owner of Blue Abyss Photo) was also on the boat and he was kind enough to give us some pics of us in the water with the blues.

After boat diving with Walter we heard that there had been a broadnose sevengill shark sighted in La Jolla Cove. We have always wanted to dive the cove so we arrived early and kicked out to the kelp forest cameras at the ready. We didn’t really expect find a sevengill shark but we had also heard that the cove is a good spot to find horn sharks so we were excited either way.

The forest is a fair distance from shore and as we wound our way back to the beach, looking under ledges for horn sharks, a curious sevengill suddenly materialized out of the kelp and did a quick circle around us. If you don’t know your sharks you could be forgiven for not understanding how unlikely this encounter was. Looking for horn sharks and finding a 7ft sevengill is like looking for nickels on the beach and digging up a diamond ring. Local divers that dive the bay every week may see a sevengill once a year or so if they’re very lucky. I don’t even know how to describe our luck in seeing a sevengill on our very first shore dive!

The shark let me get a couple of snap shots. Nothing particularly great and I couldn’t get in front of him no matter how fast I swam but at least we were able to record the moment.

I think Claire was in shock through the entire minute long encounter. She told me later that she was torn between shooting the shark and modeling for me to give my shots a sense of scale. As usual she did a great job.

After that we were hooked. We returned to the beach and switched out our tanks and dove straight back in but the illusive broadnose sevengill had given us our moment of contact and we spent the next three dives at the cove shooting horn sharks, banded guitarfish and shovelnose guitarfish.

The horn sharks made great photo subjects. We were able to shoot them hiding in crevices and swimming over the brilliant green sea grass beds that waved back and forth in the surge.

The banded guitarfish were the same species as the ones that we shot in the coral reefs in the Sea of Cortez. It is quite surprising that they are able to tolerate such temperature differences. Shooting them in kelp made a nice backdrop instead of coral but I now have so many banded guitarfish shots that I really have to start deleting some off my hard drives.

The other guitarfish that we encountered, the shovelnose, is usually a very skittish subject. I have tried to shoot this species at the beach and they invariably explode out of the sand in a puff of silt and swim for the depths before I can get anywhere near them. We were a long way off shore when  I found this one in the kelp forest and I think it was a little surprised to see me. Even so, I only got one shot off before it returned to its senses and headed for the hills.

Between dives we drove over to the Marine Room which is a snorkeling spot named after the restaurant of the same name. This is the best place on the planet to find leopard sharks but it was a little early in the year for the leopards to congregate in big numbers and I could not see more than some shadows in the distance – just one more reason to come back to San Diego.

We also tried a night dive at La Jolla shores in search of angel sharks but after an epic surface swim and a long, freezing cold night dive we returned to the shore empty handed. That isn’t such a big deal as we are heading up to Tajegis Beach near Santa Barbara soon. Tajegis is a good spot for angels but a bad spot for surge so if we are lucky enough to arrive there when the weather is cooperating we will get one more kick at the can.

We had planned to slowly work our way up the coast to San Francisco but the forecast for shore diving is not good so we have decided reverse everything and get to San Fran as fast as we can and then slowly work our way back down to San Diego before cutting across to the Gulf of Mexico to start our east coast leg.

Another development that we just couldn’t pass up; we have decided to squeeze in a trip to Catalina on the advice of Ron Clough who conducts the California Shark and Ray Count. I have never seen a Pacific Torpedo Ray so Ron (who’s advice has always panned out in the past) gave us the skinny on where to reliably find pacific torpedos:

“Torpedos are at Catalina Island, Casino Point.  Go deep, 70-90 ft. out toward the corner buoy on the left hand side, as you stand on the stair case facing the ocean. I’d give you a 99% chance.  Also, look forward to great vis there and some great shots. Hope I get a chance to dive with you.” With advice that detailed how could we resist! So, we are cutting the Grand Canyon off of our itinerary (it’s just a big hole in the ground anyway) and penciling in two days at Catalina.

Our east coast shark diving itinerary for May is starting to fall into place so if you’re anywhere between Texas and Florida come out and say hello.

For the sharks,

Andy murch

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