I’ve been to Salt Creek numerous times over the last 15 years. My reaction has always been the same. BORING! Bad visibility, low reef structure and no kelp. But that perception was about to change. In the beginning of this past lobster season, I passed it by a few times. I was amazed at the kelp. Small patches, but for not seeing measurable kelp off the coast for many years, if not for a decade or two, this was a welcome surprise.
At the end of this lobster season, I once again pointed my boat north out of Dana Point and found this now to be a huge kelp forest. A kelp forest of a time past. It shimmered on the water as an oil slick would, and extended for many football fields. I dropped anchor inside the kelp and descended.
Upon my descent, I was treated to a kelp forest that would rival the best Catalina could offer. The main difference here was I had a feeling this was a ‘new growth’ forest, as opposed to an ‘old growth’ forest, in forestry terms. It had beautiful towering kelp, which formed the wonderful canopy that could force seasoned divers to re-learn the ‘kelp crawl’ of many years ago. I wondered if I could still do that.
The bottom was fairly barren with low reef structures. I came across a low reef that had over 30 lobster! I swam in awe of this forest. I made a quick U-turn, and saw all the fish that were following me: female sheephead in excess of 14 inches, large male sheephead, big sand and calico bass. Getting low on air, I took a compass course back to the anchor. Just before I ascended, I spied a large bat ray, and even more special, a large fat green abalone. I haven’t seen an abalone off the coast in years. He wouldn’t even take my offering of a fresh young blade of kelp.
This area is located just north of Dana Point. A quick boat ride or a long swim. It’s a large area that extends from Monarch Beach to Dana Point. The center of which is the Ritz Carlton Hotel. I was diving directly off of the Ritz Carlton, on the inside edge of the kelp, 35-45 feet deep. This would be a good time to check out this local kelp.