San Clemente is my hands-down favorite of the eight Channel Islands. I love its laid-back ambiance and calm, clear water coves, of which Fishhook Harbor is an excellent example.
On the island’s east end, just around the bend from Pyramid Head Cove, Fishhook almost always offers flat water, good visibility and a plethora of marine life.
San Clemente, the southernmost Channel Island, is 41 miles off the Southern California coast, a five to six hour dive boat trip from San Pedro/Long Beach. The ride is well worth it. Clemente tends to be sunnier, its waters slightly warmer and clearer, than its northern sisters.
Dive boats anchoring in Fishhook Harbor often tie a stern line to a large rock on shore, which eliminates swing. Jump in and descend, you’ll find the bottom at about 40 feet. It’s a mixture of sand and pebbles, with small rock piles, most of which harbor lobsters. Unfortunately, most of them are shorts.
If you head for shore you’ll find an extensive shallow rocky ledge covered with palm kelp. There are lots of lobsters, along with horn sharks and giant kelpfish.
Fishhook is named for the rock formation that juts seaward then hooks back toward shore. Pinnipeds haul out here and you’re likely to see California sea lions or even a harbor seal underwater.
The “hook” is a great place for lobsters. Follow the rocky formation to the drop-off and marvel, because every crevice seems to bristle with antennae.
Every now and then you’ll find a moray eel sharing a lobster den, often attended by at least one and sometimes many, cleaner shrimp. If you notice the eel remaining in one place while continually opening and closing its mouth, stop a moment and watch. This is a signal to the shrimp that the eel is ready for servicing.
Fishhook’s wall, about 100 yards from shore, drops below 100 feet. It is full of crevices, which, again, are home to multitudes of bugs. It’s amazing there could be so many shorts in one area. Look for other creatures in these crevices because small fish, such as the bluebanded goby, like the protection they provide.
Check the current when you reach the wall and if there is one, head into it. That way you’ll get a free ride back to shallows and your boat at the end of the dive.