Very few have had the opportunity to dive Foul Area off the northwest end of San Miguel Island. Those who have, come back with tales of extraordinary sized lingcod, halibut and lobster. This is California underwater wilderness at its best.
The Foul Area off Point Bennett is a large shallow reef area fraught with dangerous shallow reefs and racked by heavy seas most of the year. While this sounds like a horrible combination for diving, it keeps most visitors away for much of the year, including commercial and sport fishers. This is a relatively untouched reef area—better yet, it is very large.
The good news is that on those days that it is calm, and they do come by now and again, an experienced charter boat captain can navigate in and out of the dangerous reefs and put you on mother loads of game.
The variety and types of reefs in this extensive area are numerous. There are drop-offs, holes, pinnacles, and rock piles. The shallow rock piles and holes seem to be especially productive for exceptionally large lobster.
With this in mind, some of the other big game seem almost like an after thought. Large lingcod hunting is very good, and on the deeper sections fair sized rockfish can be found.
Most of your diving will be on shallow reefs, 40 feet or less. Surge is a common problem. This also makes for marginal visibility. Although odds are you will be diving in 20-foot visibility or less, some of the deeper, more protected pockets will have good visibility. In short, you can expect a variety of conditions depending on the specific locations, some of them only few hundred yards apart.
This is generally not a good place for the photographer or sightseer. The surge makes it difficult to control a camera and unpredictable visibility makes for poor photos. You will find pockets of clear, calm waters and colorful marine life, but San Miguel Island is an island with many sides and protected coves. There are many other excellent dive sites around the island that are much better for underwater photography.
The Foul Area is one of those kind of trips you can’t really plan. Rather, book a slot on a trip slated to try for San Miguel Island and if conditions permit, and the captain is willing and experienced, you may get the opportunity to dive an area rarely visited and partake of its riches.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: Extensive reef area covering several square miles off Point Bennett, western end of San Miguel Island.
Access: Highly experienced boat captain a must.
Skill Level: Advanced because of turbid conditions.
Depths: Varies with location but generally less than 40 feet.
Visibility: Variable but generally fair to poor because of surge.
Snorkeling: Not practical and dangerous because of frequent heavy seas.
Photography: Poor because of surge and frequent poor visibility. Much better photo opportunities at other parts of the island.
Hunting: Excellent for lobster, many large. Good spearfishing for lingcod.