Anacapa Island is actually a string of three small islands. Between East Anacapa and Middle Anacapa the ocean swirls white around jagged rocks. The passage between Middle Anacapa and West Anacapa is different. There are three breaks, the western most, a cobble beach awash at high tide. The eastern break is rough and rocky. In the middle is a rock arch. From the frontside (north) of the island, if you look at just the correct angle, almost due south, you can see through the tunnel to the other side of the island. This is the “Gunsight.” If you can see through the Gunsight, and you are about 300 yards offshore, odds are you are in close proximity to the drop-off known as Gunsight Reef.
Dropping down to the bottom will bring you to the top of the ledge in about 50 to 60 feet of water. You may, at first, be disappointed. There is no kelp and the rocks hold little life other than few brittle stars and an occasional rock scallop (taking of rock scallops is currently prohibited here). Moving north, away from the island, the bottom begins its precipitous drop. The fall is not vertical, although there are some vertical ledges as much as three feet high. Boulders tumble down the slope and are covered in a thick mat of brittle stars. The underwater scene is surreal and otherworldly. It’s hard to believe that these brittle stars are millions upon millions of individual animals that reach their arms skyward in the currents to capture tiny bits of food. The color of the carpet is a calico green, yellow, and orange, but it’s impossible to pick out a pattern. In stark contrast are the occasional stands of gorgonia. Although small, the purple gorgonian is probably the most striking with its deep, rich color. Red gorgonian provides pink streaks. Bring a light on this dive as the drop-off will take you into deep, dark green waters. A light will bring out the dramatic splashes of color.
Depending on location, the rocks end in about 110 feet of water. Sand stretches out into the depths sloping away from the island. Along the slope of the reef a common resident is the lingcod. They are fairly large here and their gray blue-green color stands out well against the brittle star mat. Lingcod are a bizarre looking fish with large heads and a big sharp-toothed mouth. They fit this alien planet look of this bottom. Unfortunately, other that an occasional small rockfish, there are not many fish other large fish on this dive. Look close, however, and you will see greenlings and ghost gobies on the reef.
Special thanks to the dive boat Spectre for help in creating this article.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: 300 to 400 yard out from the rock arch that bridges Middle and West Anacapa on the north side of the island. GPS N 34°00.56′, W 119°24.455′. (Use GPS coordinates for reference only. Do not use as your sole source of navigation)
Access: Boat only. Area immediately to the east is a pelican nesting preserve and can only be entered during the months of November and December.
Skill Level: Intermediate or better.
Depths: 50 to 120 feet.
Photography: Fair, some interesting subject material such as colorful gorgonia and odd fish.
Hunting: This is one of the new preserves. This section, however, allows for the take of lobster but there are few here. Check with the dive charter boat captain before entering the water.
Hazards: Deep water, sometimes strong currents.