In the ocean realm, it is areas of transition that are most exciting. Currents collide, surf is tossed, animals meet, food and the fed make acquaintance. Fraser Point on Santa Cruz Island is just one such area of the Channel Islands. The entire island of Santa Cruz is a transition zone. Cold waters meet with temperate water species. The mix is dynamic and colorful. At Fraser Point, this mixing reaches its zenith.
Fraser Point is a rocky finger of land on the extreme west end of the island. There are sections of the shore that face south, west and north; consequently, diving here is nearly always possible. There are several dive sites to this location, each with its own distinct topography and flavor, even marine life—typical to a transition arena.
North of the point, in the area known as Fraser Cove, deep rocky ridges and canyons are cut on the bottom parallel to shore. This area tends to favor colder water species with rose anemones, giant sun stars and cold water variety rockfish. The bottom flattens out to sand at 50 to 60 feet. The rocky reefs are excellent for hunting lingcod and along the sand-reef boundary for halibut. Photography is good for nudibranchs and fish photography, but surge and only fair visibility can hamper image making.
On the opposite side of the point is Forney’s Cove. South facing this is the best bet for calm anchorage. An extensive reef system to the west of the cove is good for hunting rock scallops and photography of anemones, gorgonian sea fans and sunbeams with schooling fish in kelp. Ashore is a sand beach. If it is calm enough, this is an excellent halibut hunting area and in shallow, a little known pismo clam bed.
The real excitement is directly off Fraser Point itself in the small area just northwest of Forney’s Cove. Conditions must be exceptionally calm to dive here as just offshore is an area of intense current and ocean swell mixing known as the “Potato Patch.” Strong currents swirl off the point and this area is not suitable for diving at any time. In the small cove, however, a gently sloping rocky bottom holds a wonderful kelp forest with clear waters and abundant marine life. This is an excellent photo area with wide-angle vistas of kelp stalks reaching for the sun. Fish life is more abundant toward the rocks and currents near the point. Depths in this tiny cove run 20 to 50 feet. Mixing is best at this location with temperate and cold water species in one location.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: Extreme west end of Santa Cruz Island.
Access: Boat only.
Skill Level: Depends on specific location. In general, all levels in coves; intermediate or better in outer waters.
Depths: 20 to 60 feet
Visibility: Good, 30 to 40 feet average.
Photography: Good wide angle in kelp forests. Macro good when waters are calm for small fish and nudibranchs.
Hunting: Excellent halibut hunting on both sides of point. Pismo clams in sandy shallows of Forney’s Cove. Good lobster hunting in shallow holes at Fraser Cove and on reefs at Forney’s Cove.
Hazards: Swirling currents and rough seas directly off point.