Chase Reef

In 1901 Lucie and Henry Chase moved to Pacific Grove, and Lucie became active in the Woman’s Civic Improvement Club. She was well known for many good deeds, most importantly, giving the Pacific Grove Museum to the city on her 90th birthday. The city later named a park between Ocean View Boulevard and Jewell Avenue in her honor. Old time divers refer to the expansive reef and dive site offshore of this park as Chase Reef.

Chase Reef is composed of two reef structures. The Inner Reef begins between 200 and 300 yards offshore and to the left from the Coral Street Beach. The reef runs parallel to shore and consists of a series of rocky ledges and pinnacles that drops from 30 feet to a sand bottom in 50-60 feet of water. Advanced divers may reach the Inner Reef by a long swim from the Coral Street Beach, but most diving here is done from a boat.

The Outer Reef is located in deeper water (40-110 feet) and a little further offshore and north of Point Pinos, and the only the access is by boat. The structure of the Outer Reef is more highly textured than the inner with huge pinnacles, deep canyons and large arches. Some of the arches are big enough to swim through. The deeper rock walls are decorated with white plume anemones and rose anemones. The combination of sheer walls and large, colorful anemones make this an excellent spot for exploration and wide-angle photography.

The reefs are easy to locate because of their thick growth of giant kelp that clearly outlines the reef, except during the winter months. The top of the reef supports a heavy growth of palm kelp providing a canopy for royal carpets of strawberry anemones a bit lower on the rocks. These tiny anemones cover every inch of many rocks in hues of red, orange, and lavender. Look for hordes of shrimps, nudibranchs, and tiny fish in the cracks of the reef. In deep water near the west end of the Outer Reef is a nice bed of rock scallops. When the shells are open the bright orange or grey/green mantles with rows of eyes are easily seen. This area is a Marine Conservation Area–so look but don’t touch.

My notes from this site some 20 years ago raved about the abundance of large fish and how great the hunting was. Alas, this is no more as over fishing has steadily reduced the game in the area. There are still plenty of lingcod, cabezon and assorted species of rockfish to look at and photograph, but this is place to leave your speargun home and bring along a camera.

Chase Reef is a great place to photograph marine mammals. The buoy at the tip of Point Pinos is a favorite hauling out spot for California sea lions. Their noisy barking can be heard for a mile around the buoy and these delightful creatures will often cruise by and check out divers on the reef. Harbor seals are also common here and are rarely shy. They will often follow a group of divers for an entire dive. Harbor seals are very curious and will check out each diver of a group before moving on.

A group of sea otters also call this reef home, and can usually be observed on the surface either wrapped up in kelp, sound asleep, or feeding on shellfish. Otters are tool-users and will find a clam or other hard-to-get-at shellfish, and bring it to the surface along with a rock. The familiar tap, tap, tap sound often heard along the Monterey Bay is the sound of otters opening their lunch by smashing it up against a rock that is balanced on their chest.

Gray whales move through the area on their annual migration from January through May, and may be observed on the journey to and from the dive site. April is a particularly good month for viewing these large mammals as mother and calves migrate northward.

Chase Reef is not divable every day due to its position near the outer edge of Monterey Bay. On calm days this is a great site explore or to add to your photo collection.

Dive Spot At A Glance
Depth: 30-110 feet
Visibility: 20-50 feet
Skill: Intermediate to advanced
Location: Offshore from the northern tip of the Monterey Peninsula, between Point Pinos and Coral Street Beach.
Access: Diving assess may be found at the beach at the foot of Coral Street; however, most of the diving is done here by boat. Private boats may be launched at the Monterey Breakwater, and commercial charter boats frequent this area.
Photography: Excellent macro for invertebrates and small fish, and wide-angle photography for marine mammals.
Hunting: This site is within the boundaries of the Pacific Grove Marine Gardens State Marine Conservation Area; only finfish may be taken. Although there are many fish to look at, there are few large enough to hunt.
Hazards: Watch for surge, currents and boat traffic.
For Dive Charter Boats Serving This Area: www.montereydiveboats.com

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