The Great Pinnacle at Point Lobos

My buddies, John and Brian, joined me on my birthday dive this year, and Neptune offered the best present yet—a spectacular dive site with great conditions. There was no wind and a trivial swell when we pulled into the Point Lobos parking lot. We found a wisp of kelp on an outer pinnacle and dropped anchor. There was a thick plankton bloom near the surface, but as we dropped below 50 feet the vis opened up to nearly 70 feet. Then the fish came out to play.

The Great Pinnacle at Bluefish Cove is rarely dived since you need a boat to get there, and it is somewhat difficult to find. When the Monterey kelp beds are thick in midsummer, this site only has a wisp of kelp on it. The rest of the year you will need GPS and a depth finder to anchor on the site.

This pinnacle is actually two pinnacles separated by a narrow, steep-sided canyon. The top begins at 40 feet and on the north side drops to way deeper than you want to go. Between the pinnacles there is a sand-bottomed canyon at about 90 feet that winds down to a sand fall. We made it to about 150 feet and the pinnacle continued to drop steeply as far as we could see in the relatively clear water. Because of the access to extreme depths this is an advanced dive.

The shallow areas of the pinnacle are covered with palm and giant kelp, and these give way to beds of strawberry anemones, solitary stony corals, and encrusting sponges. These are very colorful and make nice backdrops for macro photography. There were also many chestnut cowries, small fish and shrimps on the wall. This pinnacle had surprisingly little hydrocoral on it. Surprising since hydrocoral thrives on offshore pinnacles, and since much of Bluefish Cove has so much hydrocoral. However, the little coral that is here provides shelter for a lot of crabs.

Among the corals and sponges were both more species and more individual nudibranchs than I have seen in many years. These were mostly dorids, but there were hundreds of individuals and over a dozens species. I watched as a Hilton’s aeolid slowly crawled up to a sculpin, and in an apparent act of affection, placed a tentacle on each side of the fish’s face.

The sides of the canyon are nearly vertical and this is arguably the best wall dive in Northern California. Gliding along such a magnificent wall is as close as most of us will get to flying.

Besides the grandeur of the geology, this site is so special because of the abundance and size of fish life. Schools of larger-than-average blue rockfish circled the pinnacle; these are, of course, the namesake of the cove. A few large vermilion rockfish hung out around 90 feet, and there were numerous large gopher, black-and-yellow, and copper rockfish. An enormous, male sheephead, which regulars have named Victor, often greets divers as they descend down the anchor line. If you have ever pondered the effectiveness of marine preserves to protect and grow large marine critters, you need look no further than this pinnacle.

This pinnacle is somewhat exposed so it’s not divable every day, but when it is, it’s for advanced divers only. On those special days when the sea allows, The Great Pinnacle may very well be the best advanced dive in Monterey County.

Dive Spot At A Glance

Location: In Point Lobos State Reserve, just south of Carmel.
Access and Entry: Divers may only enter the water at the boat ramp in Whalers Cove. It’s a long swim around the corner to the Great Pinnacle, and a boat or kayak is required. Site may be located by a wisp of kelp about 1000 feet NNW of the east point of Bluefish Cove. Those with GPS may find it at N 36° 31.513′ W 121° 56.616′ (coordinates courtesy of Chuck Tribolet).
Diving is limited to 15 teams of two divers per day. Reservations for diving are encouraged and may be obtained online up to two months in advance at: “https://pt-lobos.parks.state.ca.us/DiveReservations.htm”. Divers are given a complete set of regulations when they register at the ranger station. The park opens at 8 a.m., closes at sunset, and diving is restricted to Whalers and Bluefish Coves.
Depth: 40 feet to way deeper than you will want to go.
Skill: This is an advanced dive.
Hunting: None. The entire area is a reserve and no natural object may be removed, collected, or disturbed in any way, both above and below the water.
Photography: Excellent wide angle and macro photography, great fish photography.
Hazards: Watch for boat traffic and big swells and surge near the cove’s mouth; extreme depths are easily attainable at this site.

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