The huge moray was friendly to the point of scary. It came right out of its hole directly at me only to turn and head toward Kim. This was Psycho, a long time resident of Pirate’s Cove just on the inside of Long Point, Catalina Island. While Psycho is gone, his (or maybe her) cousins remain. This is one of the best spots to see moray eels at Catalina Island. But the dive site of Long Point has much more to offer than just friendly moray eels (as if that was not enough to fill at least one exciting dive).
The layout of this dive site is ideal for all levels of divers. There are shallow sand flats for classes, calm reefs for beginners and for the advanced and experienced divers, a deeper reef and a current swept outer section with abundant marine life action.
Pirate’s Cove is a small, protected section inside the point just big enough for one large boat or two mediums. Anchorage is easy on a sloping sand bottom, almost always out of the wind and waves and current is minimal if not non-existent. This is a good spot for beginning boat operators to set up for a day of diving. The only problem is getting here early enough to get your spot!
On the inside of the cove is a nice moderately sloping sand flat. This is a perfect training area for certification classes. But it not just all it offers. Take the time to head out into waters 40 to 60 feet to see mantis shrimp, sheep crabs and an occasional halibut.
It is the medium to large stacked boulders within the cove that create the holes for the moray eels. Also among the rocks are sometimes small lobster, gobies and urchins. And like most reef spots at Catalina Island, the bright orange garibaldi circle about.
The main attraction is the reef extending off the point. A large ridge of rock rambles down into the depths in a series of pinnacles and jumbled boulders. There are multiple mini-walls, small caves and crevices. A kelp forest covers much of this reef but it is rarely thick and in some years quite thin.
On the inside of the ridge is a good spot for the intermediate diver. The ridge extends down to as much as 90 feet before shrinking into the sand and muck. Visibility is very good yet currents are minimal. Hovering over the ridge are large schools of blacksmith. Also abundant are opaleye and halfmoon fish. Mix in the garibaldi, calico bass and sheephead and you have a beautiful scene of underwater bliss. Across the reef and in the cracks are a yellow and black-stripped treefish, rockfish and thousands of tiny but brightly colored blue-banded gobies.
Head up over the top of the crest of the ridge and the current situation changes dramatically. Look at the kelp to estimate the intensity before dropping to the other side. If it is lying flat and flapping in the breeze proceed with caution. The current almost always runs from west to east and, although it varies in intensity, is always present. Dive upcurrent. Over the ridge the reef becomes steeper with more mini-walls. During the late spring and summer it is not unusual to see giant black sea bass. Big schools of mackerel are common. And you might even see barracuda and yellowtail. Anytime you drop on a reef with a strong current the odds for high-voltage feeding action increases.
Long Point and Pirate’s Cove have much to offer including caves to explore (both above and below the water) and perhaps a bit of snorkeling and swimming in the calm waters this summer is sure to hold ahead.
Location: Mainland side of Catalina Island, approximately half way between Avalon and the Isthmus. GPS: N33°24.346′, W118°22.000′ (Do not use GPS as your sole source of navigation.)
Access: Boat only.
Depths: Average dive 20 to 60 feet but 90+ is possible.
Visibility: Fair in cove, excellent (40 to 60+) on ridge and seaward.
Photography: Macro fair. Wide angle excellent in kelp. Good place for beginners on inside of ridge.
Snorkeling: Excellent inside cove.
Hunting: Yellowtail outside the ridge. Small calico bass over reef and halibut on the sand flats.
Hazards: Currents and boat traffic.
Suggested Dive Charter Boats Frequently Serving This Area:
Sundiver/Sundiver Express – (800) 555-9446
Truth/Conception/Vision – (805) 962-1127
Scuba Cat – (310) 510-0330
Sand Dollar – (800) 444-3483
or see the California Scuba Calendar section of this website for trips to Catalina Island