Every year, I anxiously await the opening of lobster season. For months ahead, I look at the date circled on my calendar with “Opening Night” written in with a big red pen. It is my own version of “Midnight Madness.” Instead of going to basketball practice at the stroke of midnight, I am usually underwater thrusting my hands into some dark crevice that I probably shouldn’t be, fighting off surge, chasing fast critters around the bottom, getting sick on a dive boat, and pulling sea urchin spines out of my fingers after the dive.
Every year around the first of October, I find myself staying up past my bedtime and entering the water in less than desirable conditions. My dive lights are loaded with brand new batteries, my tanks filled, and all my equipment is set. I head out the door, drive to the dive spot, and wait for opening night to hit. Every year, I wonder, “Should I take two game bags or three for all the lobsters I am going to get?”
Most people with this type of confidence on their chances to limit out on lobsters are heading out to San Nicolas Island or Cortes Bank. My strategy is different. I often make a quick drive to my “secret spot,” load up on lobsters, and then drive home in a single day. As in real estate, the most important thing when lobster diving is “location, location, location.” Zuniga Point is such a spot.
Zuniga Point is one of those dive spots that everyone sees but very few people ever dive. It is located at the mouth of San Diego Bay and is the large jetty on the left side while you head south out of the bay. There are red navigational markets located on top of the jetty to help guide ships coming into the harbor and to identify this unique dive site. It is located just across from the Navy base at Ballast Point.
The dive site is located on the east side of the jetty. It is a shallow dive and the rocks make up an interesting reef structure. The dive is in 10 to 30 feet of water and small animals dart in and out of the rocks to hide. I have seen a variety of rockfish, sculpin, lingcod, señorita, and treefish among the rocks on several different dives. On several dives, I ran across about 10 sunflower stars all in one crevice. The rocks make a perfect habitat for lobsters to hide in and I have had great success hunting at this spot. Most of the lobsters are in the deeper water towards the south end of the jetty, although I have had a lot of luck towards the shallower north end as well. Keep an eye out in the sand as well. There are numerous small wrecks and rubble. This also is a great location to see some lobsters walking around. I have also seen some large halibut here lying amongst the sandy bottom.
I find it is best to start off at the southern end of the jetty, take a compass heading, and go north. I plan my air so I hit my turnaround point and then head south to get to my boat or kayak at the end of the dive.
You need to be careful and not go around the end of the point. It is a restricted area and illegal to dive between Ballast Point and Zuniga Point. I have seen divers get tickets for diving inside the bay before. Also, considering the size of the ships that come through the channel, you do not want to wander off course while diving along the jetty.
The dive spot is accessible and mainly dived by boat. You simply head out of San Diego Bay, see the jetty, and anchor your boat on the east side. However, this is one of my favorite kayak dives in San Diego and I usually dive it that way. I park by the North Island Naval Air Station back gate and drag my kayak and gear about one-quarter mile across Coronado beach. Then I paddle to the jetty and dive.
Check out Zuniga Point. Make sure you remember your fishing license!
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: At the mouth of San Diego Bay on the tip of North Island.
Access: Boat or kayak only. Public launch ramps also in San Diego Bay. Kayak divers should park near the Naval Air Station-North Island back gate and drag their kayaks across the sand to the shore. Then paddle to the jetty. Make sure you mark your kayak with a dive flag.
Depths: 10-30 feet.
Skill Level: Intermediate to advanced depending on conditions
Visibility: Poor to good, averaging 10-15 feet.
Photography: Very good for macro. Lots of rockfish, halibut, and sand bass depending on the season. Good amount of colorful small creatures, too.
Hunting: Great lobster spot. Good halibut and ling cod as well.
Hazards: Currents, surge, rocks, boat traffic, and fishing lines.