written by Noel Richard
Have you ever wanted to explore the underwater depths of our great coast? Has your mind every wandered, while bobbing on the surface waiting for a fish to bite – wondering what lies below your boat? Chances are it is a lot more breathtaking than the calm ocean surface would lead you to believe.
British Columbia has been noted as being home to “The best temperate diving in the world, second only to the Red Sea” – Jacques Cousteau. Although this was quoted years ago, there is no doubt in my mind that Jacques would still approve of a dive trip to the remote and rugged Dundas Island today. While water temperatures can fluctuate between 7-12 C throughout the year, I observed a steady average of 8–9 degree water during the summer months. The pristine location partnered with generally high visibility made for memorable free diving this summer – my latest personal pursuit.
Today I’d like to share with you my experiences chasing lingcod – from below the surface. Lingcod lend themselves very well to spear fishing. One of the things that excites me about it is having the ability to stalk and select a particular fish with no possibility of by-catch. It is a fun and challenging pursuit, one that pushes me to thoroughly explore the terrain that these ambush predators inhabit. This exploration has given me a new level of respect and passion for the world below the waves. Being an observer in an environment that humans are not evolved to inhabit leaves me with an inexplicable admiration for all of the tiny pieces that come together to form the much larger ecosystem. Even during the most relaxed of moments, while breathing deep and preparing to descend with full lungs and a quiet mind, it is impossible to ignore the overwhelming amount and variety of life!
It was a perfectly calm afternoon in late July, the sun was shining its warmth down from a sky free of clouds, and the water was calm – a very rare occurrence this summer. My dive buddy, Dannie, and I were embarking on our second swim of the trip. On this occasion we were fortunate enough to accompany the talented Jeremy Koreski on one of his photo taking operations for FISH BC. As a completely new participant in the world of spearfishing, I had yet to catch a lingcod with anything other than the classic rod and reel.
That afternoon on a rocky pinnacle, everything was about to change. Immediately upon entering the water, schools of black rockfish could be seen all around. These black bombers were circling the outer perimeter of the kelp forest, waiting for the current to funnel passing feed fish to them. As we explored the rocky reef, many of the usual suspects could be found in the nooks and crevices – like the delicious rock scallop, welded into cracks on the exposed rock. Locations like this grow the heaviest scallops in the world due to their thick shells and long life span of up to 20+ years. The prolific sea urchin can also be found scouring the rock for kelp shoots.
While admiring the slow moving urchin, a beautiful blue lingcod caught my eye. It lay perched on the top of a vertical rock wall that dropped straight downward for 15 feet before intersecting a gradual rock slope. I gathered my breath at the surface and went after it from behind. I believed I could sneak up on this ling, but its’ keen senses picked up the commotion of fins propelling toward him. It swam from its perch heading deeper, snaking its way down the vertical rock wall. Gaining on it, I took aim, hopeful that it would reach the approaching intersection and present a shot. Spear-gun bolts don’t last long when propelled into boulders. As the lingcod reached the base of the vertical wall it rotated slightly and disappeared into a 10 inch slot that formed at the meeting of the two walls.
Flashing a light into this pathway left me impressed, these fish have the ability to disappear deep into their rocky labyrinths. Thankfully the ocean is home to many fish. This dive awarded us with several opportunities to swim with and take aim at a number of lingcod. I went home with my first lingcod taken with a spear gun – a meal that I am truly grateful for, and a dive that will stay with us forever in memory. Through all conditions, there is no place I would rather be. We could spend our lives exploring this great coast and not come close to discovering a fraction of what it has to offer. In the coming season at Haa-Nee-Naa I plan to start photographing some of the inspiring beauty that our oceans display.
Visit www.JeremyKoreskiGallery.com to see more of Jeremy’s epic work.