While few dive sites can offer everything to everyone, most sites stand out as exceptional for a particular purpose. Some are better for photographing big animals, some are better for nudibranchs. One site stands out as being consistently good for lobster hunting: Talcott Shoals.
Talcott Shoals are located on the north side of Santa Rosa Island, near the west end. This is a big area that spans many square miles, and each boat that visits here has their own spots marked on GPS, with their own names. The bottom at Talcott consists of gently sloping shale, with undercuts in the exposed shale ledges that run roughly north-south throughout the area. Occasional piles of boulders are scattered in the shallows.
Rocks are covered with encrusting sponges, sea stars, nudibranchs, and lots of urchins. Not too many years ago, this area supported one of the thickest kelp beds in the Channel Islands, but now it is mostly an urchin barren. For photographers and fish watchers this is a good place to be. Numerous Spanish shawls, hermessinda, and clown nudibranchs graze on the rocks, while the sponges make a colorful background for photographers. Little gobys hide under ledges, and kelpfish hide among the coralline algae. Look for bigger fish, such as gopher and grass rockfish, and sheephead hunting in the open. This may not be the best place for spearfishing, but the lobster make up for the few diner-sized fish. Lobsters at Talcott are numerous and bigger than average. There seem to be very few “shorts” here, and there are a lot in the three-to four-pound range, with some considerably bigger.
Talcott offers near ideal terrain for lobster hunting. The ledges are not very deep, and frequently wide enough to accommodate a diver’s arm. Typically, the bugs have no “back door,” making them particularly easy to grab. This is a great place to learn bug grabbing, since the terrain is so forgiving. The bugs my hide, but they can’t get away.
Other critters share the shale ledges with the bugs. The most conspicuous of these is the large population of urchins. Be careful where you grab! Look for swell and horn sharks hiding among the lobsters as well. While these are unlikely to injure anyone, they are certainly fascinating to watch and make great photographic subjects. Keep an eye out for other big creatures that prowl the Shoals. Harbor seals and sea lions hunt here along with sevengill sharks. These are among the largest of the California sharks, and are quite harmless. They are normally found in murky water of bays, so it is a real treat to find them in clear water.
Please remember that there is no great supermarket in the sea. Charter boats move around quite a bit, not only to offer variety, but to find that ever elusive glory hole. Bugs move around quite a bit and can be anywhere on a given day. Some ledges may be empty, while nearby ledges are chock full. Some days they are at Talcott, and some days they are not. But when they’re there, you will find no easier place to grab ‘em.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: On the North-West side of Santa Rosa Island.
Access: Boat only, this spot is dived by SoCal’s charter boats.
Skill Level: Intermediate or better.
Depths: 20 to 90 feet.
Visibility: Fair, 20-40 feet.
Photography: A great place to shoot invertebrates.
Hunting: Great hunting for lobsters; a few small fish, mainly rockfish and sheephead.
Hazards: Watch for currents.