In the fall and early winter you can sometimes get to dive sites normally too rough during other times of the year. Because they are rarely visited, they are excellent locations both for photography and game hunting. Bee Rock off the backside of Santa Rosa Island is such a location.
In the late winter through the summer, Bee Rock usually is washed over by large swells, both from the prevailing northwest weather and the summer south swells from storms in the tropical Pacific. November and December are ideal times to dive this lonely reef.
Bee Rock is actually a pair of low rocks, the larger 5 feet high and the one to the southeast 10 feet tall. The sides drop off steeply underwater to 60 feet or more. But these rocks are tips of a moderately-large underwater field of rocky reef. The bottom is highly varied with submerged pinnacles, mini-walls and big boulders. Crevices abound. The is a lot of marine life and a variety of environs to explore.
Although this is still the transition zone between the cold waters of Central California and the temperate waters to the south, the marine life at this site definitely leans to the north. Big anemones, carpets pink and lavender corynacis are common. The rock face is coated with sponges, bryozoa, and algae of just about every color imaginable. Nudibranchs greet the macro photographer. Swirls of fish pass through the kelp that seems to vary in thickness year by year, season by season. Giant sunflower stars crawl along the creviced walls that are inhabited by rockfish of many varieties.
This is good seafood hunting spot, although not spectacular. Spearfishers will do fair for lingcod, sheephead, and calico bass. Lobster hunting is fair but only in particular locations. While there is not a lot of bugs here, your chance of coming across a big one is high. Try just south of the wash rocks. Rock scallop hunting is what is king here. They are abundant and big. Don’t bother with anything smaller than the size of the palm of your hand. Leave them to breed. There are plenty of big ones. Remember, you must have a fishing license and the limit is 10 per person per day.
Average depth is about 60 feet, but it is easy to get much deeper. In the shallows the surge makes diving difficult. Visibility is only fair as the water here is usually green with abundant plankton from frequent upwellings of nutrient rich waters. Currents are typical here varying from mild to strong. Use proper current diving techniques. The biggest problem here is surge. It can be strong at times, even at 60 feet.
Dive Spot At Glance
Location: Backside of the west end of Santa Rosa Island
Access: Boat only. Professional charter boat highly recommended as this area can be tough sailing.
Skill level: Intermediate or better.
Depths: 20 to 80 feet, but most diving around 50 to 60.
Photography: Very good for macro. Fair for wide angle.
Hunting: Good for rock scallops. Fair for lobster, some large. Fair spearfishing for reef fish.
Hazards: Surge, heavy seas, sometimes strong currents.