Lingcod Reef is an extended reef system that begins at Sunset Point and stretches southeast to Pescadero Point. This is a picturesque part of Monterey County where the dive sites are framed by wave-carved granite cliffs and cypress-covered hills. Famous landmarks along Pebble Beach’s famous 17-mile Drive, such as the Lone Cypress and the Castle House, mark boat anchorages.
Overall, the topography of Lingcod Reef is a gently sloping rock and sand bottom that begins in about 20 feet and gradually drops to 60 feet. Tracks of sand wind through patch reef, massive granite boulders, and mini pinnacles. Healthy beds of Macrocystis cover the surface and mark the rocky areas. The topography here lends itself to both exploring and makes a perfect backdrop for wide-angle photography.
These rocks are covered with just about every hue of the rainbow—red Tealia anemones, red and lavender corynactis, yellow orange and cobalt blue sponges. There is color everywhere. Amongst the cover of invertebrates hide a menagerie of crawly things. Every rock is home to some wonderful little critter to behold and to photograph. Look for nudibranchs wandering about in plain view.
Sprinkled throughout the reef are massive rocks/pinnacles that rise up from the 60-foot bottom to within 10-20 feet of the surface. These seem to collect more than their fair share of photogenic invertebrates and several are nicely adorned with pink and purple hydrocoral. The coral is not as thick or abundant as found on the outer pinnacles, but photographers will enjoy the brightly colored subjects in the calmer, shallow water. Look for blue-ring top snails and starfish among the branches of the coral.
You should also take some time to check out what is hiding in the cracks of the rock. Numerous shrimp and crabs take shelter there along with large rockfish and smaller skulpins and gobys. A dive light is particularly helpful to investigate the deeper cracks and to bring out the color of the critters who live there.
The reef’s namesake, the lingcod, are also found here. They are not as numerous or as large as when the reef got its name, but there are still enough around to enjoy. Lingcod, particularly males, are always found on the reef, but more and larger fish are seen through early spring when the big females move onshore to nest. The females depart for deep water after the eggs are laid and leave the males the task of protecting the next generation.
Lingcod Reef is a big stretch of ocean and contains multiple individual anchorages and dive sites. Sunset Point marks the northern point of Lingcod Reef, a good place for fish watching and is a bit more protected than the rest of the reef in the presence of a moderate swell. Just north of Lone Cypress is one of the most impressive near-shore pinnacles in Monterey, and has a great deal of hydrocoral. Offshore of Castle House are a number of underwater arches, some big enough to drive a small car through, while others may be used to frame divers for underwater portraits. No matter where you drop you hook, Lingcod Reef will offer up a fine dive.
Dive Spot At A Glance
Location: Along the 17-mile drive in Pebble Beach, between Sunset Point and Pescadero Point.
Access and Entry: Boat dive only, and this location is frequented by Monterey’s charter boats. Divers may launch their own boats at the Monterey Breakwater or at the Pebble Beach Club House Pier. Reservations are required for pier launching and access. Call (408) 625-8507 for more information.
Skill level: Beginner to advanced.
Depths: 20 to 60 feet
Visibility: 20 to 40 feet
Hunting: Fair spearfishing for lingcod, cabezon and rockfish; good lingcod hunting in winter. The Carmel Bay Ecological Reserve encompasses the area east of a line drawn between Pescadero Point and Granite Point in Point Lobos State Reserve. Spearfishing is OK in the Carmel Reserve, but no invertebrates, including rock scallops and abalone, may not be taken. Much of Lingcod Reef is outside of the Reserve, but divers near Pescadero Point should be careful that they do not wander into the reserve while invertebrate hunting.
Photography: Good macro photography for fish, hydrocoral and encrusting invertebrates, with wide-angle photography in kelp beds.