Divers mostly think of the Monterey Bay as a place for shore diving, and the Carmel Bay for boat diving. While those with boats often head to Carmel Bay when the seas are flat, there is plenty of good shore diving in Carmel on all but the roughest of days. One Carmel dive that is relatively easy and should not be overlooked is Copper Roof House. This dive site sits at the far end of Carmel Beach, and is marked by a funky little house with a great view of the ocean. This house is topped with a unique copper roof, whose green, oxidized color gives the entry its name.
Divers should follow the staircase to the beach, and enter on the far left side of the beach near the rocks and the Copper Roof House. Straight off the stairs and to the right the bottom is mostly sand with a bit of rock. However, directly off the entry point and to the left is an extensive kelp bed. The bottom under the kelp consists of large rocks and boulders in 20 to 40 feet of water, separated by sand channels.
In the shallow water just beyond the tidal range, you should check out the nooks-and-crannies between the rocks. Way in the back many small black abalone are often found. The cracks here are both so deep and so narrow that otters can only look but not partake of these tasty mollusks. Look but don’t touch since all invertebrates are protected here.
Many of the shallow rocks are covered with layers of coralline algae, within which small critters find shelter and food. Look among the algae for an assortment of nudibranchs, shrimps, and tiny fish. The dorids here grow particularly large and may be the size of your fist or even bigger. The big ones are primarily lemon nudibranchs, white dorids or Monterey dorids. Some of the more highly colored and photogenic nudibranchs may also be found here—the pink Hopkin’s Rose and the horned nudibranch. Also, look for small fish here—sculpins, gobies, kelpfish, and juvenile rockfish.
As one swims past the kelp bed, the bottom drops away steeply to 80 to 90 feet, and consists of huge rocks and mini pinnacles separated by narrow sand channels. There are numerous fish in this area: gopher, copper, blue and kelp rockfish, painted greenlings, sculpins, surfperch, cabezon and lingcod. This is also a great place to watch or photograph fish. The sandy area between the rocks is a good place to find bat rays as well. These are often observed feeding on shellfish, and the large depressions found along sandy bottoms are usually due to these three-foot rays digging out their dinner of clams. This area is a long swim from the beach, so most divers either bring a kayak or sign on to one of Monterey’s charter boats to reach these deeper waters.
So if you are looking for a new dive site with loads of invertebrates and fish, head to Carmel and check out the Copper Roof House. The diving here is comfortable and the site has a lot of marine life to look at. After diving there is a wide variety of nearby restaurants and shops.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: At the south end of Carmel Beach in Carmel.
Entry and Access: Park on Scenic Road near the intersection of Martin Ave. There is well-maintained staircase to the beach. Enter near the rocks to the left. Divers may also launch boats from the Monterey Breakwater or from the pier at Stillwater Cove (reservations required, call 408-625-8507). There are no facilities.
Skill Level: Beginner on calm days otherwise intermediate to advanced.
Depths: 20 to 90 feet
Visibility: Generally good, 20 to 40 feet
Hazards: On calm days this spot is easy to enter and exit, but conditions can be rough here. Watch for currents and boat traffic on the outer reef. You can expect to find thick kelp in later summer and fall.
Photography: Good macro photography for small fish, nudibranchs and other invertebrates. Good wide-angle photography in deeper water.
Hunting: Copper Roof House is part of the Carmel Bay State Marine Conservation Area; only finfish may be taken.