Talcott Shoal is arguably one of the best lobster hunting spots in all the Channel Islands.
But wait, you say, isn’t lobster season over? Not quite, especially for Talcott Shoal. Not only is this location great early in the season but for veteran hunters one of the best locations for a late season bug grab, especially for those big ones.
“Lobster Fever,” as it is sometimes called generally reaches its peak early in the season during October, at the season opener. Divers fan out across the islands and coast in search of the tasty crustacean. You know (or at least you should know) that the season does not end when the holidays kick in. Open season on lobster lasts well into 2016, through March 16 as a matter of fact. And Talcott Shoal is the perfect place to pick up that almost guaranteed season-closer lobster or two, or more.
Talcott Shoal is a large reef area just off the northwest corner of Santa Rosa Island. It is not just one dive site but rather a large continuous area of rock ridges running roughly parallel to each other and to the island’s shoreline.
Depths range from as shallow as 20 feet to over 100 but average dives here run in the 50 to 70 foot range. The shallower sections are open to wicked surge, while the deeper sites are more pinnacles than parallel reefs.
The beauty of this dive site is the reef structure and how it lends itself to the lobster hunt. “Bugs” love to hide in holes, broken reef structure, and wedged up into a ledges and overhangs as such is the case with much of Talcott.
One of the most important tricks in bug hunting is to cover a lot of ground and ignoring those lobster that are just too much of a struggle to reach. The reef structure at Talcott allows you to easily navigate and cover a great deal of bottom.
Here is the simplicity of how it works: Drop down onto a ridge and, depending on the current, follow it out for half your dive poking your head under the ledges. A light is helpful but not necessary (and might get in the way). The ledges vary in height from just a few inches to upward of 15 feet or more. The taller sections have overhangs, small caves and broken-off sections with deep gaps — perfect habitat for lobster. At the appropriate point in your tank capacity, navigate over the next ridge, usually less than 100 feet away, and continue your bug hunt on the way back to the boat, hopefully dragging your catch with you. It is actually one of the easiest dive sites to negotiate in all the Channel Islands.
Lobster is not the only seafood hunting opportunity at Talcott. Rock scallops can be found dotting the ridges as well, some quite large. And for the spearfishers, you’ll find lingcod, big sheephead, an occasional fair-sized rockfish as well as halibut camouflaged in the sand areas between the ridges.
Photographers and sightseers will also find this location a delight especially on the deeper reefs and pinnacles. The rocks are covered with colorful patches of corynactis and other anemones. Sponges of varying sizes, shapes and colors splatter the rocks. Feeding on and among and in between the sponges are an excellent variety of nudibranchs.
Open to the prevailing seas moving in from the northwest, diving here is a hit-or-miss proposition. Surge is often quite strong on the bottom. (Some of the shallow areas are, however, best for the bug hunting.) For a realistic picture on current conditions, and to put you on the best locations for your desired results, turn to one of the professionally operated dive charter boats operating out of Ventura or Santa Barbara.
There is still time for a last minute bug grab, perhaps even a big one. Regardless of how well your hunting endeavors go here, you will have an enjoyable and pretty dive.
Skill Level: All levels but dependent on current conditions.
Location: A large reef area off the northwest end of Santa Rosa Island.
Access: Boat only. Several charter boats leave from Ventura and Santa Barbara. Weather dependent.
Depth Range: 20 to 100 feet
Conditions: Fair. Surge can make diving difficult.
Visibility: Fair to good, averaging 20 to 30 feet.
Photography: Good macro on deeper reefs for many small critters. Wide-angle only fair.
Hunting: Excellent lobster location but also good for spearfishing and scallop hunting.