Friday, November 21, 2008

Hollywood Diving - Outfall and Second Reef

Unable to find another last minute diver, my buddy, Ty, and I decided to do a little anchor diving. It was the first decent wave weekend day in quite awhile, and we wanted to make the most of it. We left the dock around 9am and made our way to our first dive site. Unfortunately, there were several dive boats trolling across the wreck, so we opted for a shallower dive elsewhere.

We anchored up near the Hollywood Outfall, which is located just North of Hollywood Boulevard right off the beach. Just in case you're not familiar, an 'outfall' is a nice way of saying sewer pollution disbursement pipe. There used to be dozens of these up and down the Florida coast pumping millions of gallons of near-raw sewage waste into the ocean every day. Most of the municipalities have since shut them down, but there are several that are still active including the City of Hallandale Beach and one up near Pompano and Boca, but I don't specifically know who operates it.

If you've never been diving on one of these sites, it is certainly an eye-opener. Having accidentally come across the Hallandale Outfall Pipe some years ago, I would never dive one of these active sites on purposes. Picture a large round pipe with a plume of thick smoke pouring out into the water, except that instead of smoke, it's dark, stinky sewage. The reef life around it is usually dead, but the fish life is usually pretty abundant with some of the largest Bermuda Chubs I've ever seen in my life swimming in schools through the plume of effluent. YUCK! Needless to say, I immediately started swimming upstream.

Installing one of these now would NEVER make it past the EPA, let alone the reef protection groups, etc. Unfortunately, neither of us had an underwater camera or I'd be happy to post photos. The pipe is a HUGE steel pipe, some of which are larger than 3 feet across. However, it is weighed down to the sea bed by way of a matte of interlocked concrete blocks. They make almost a road bed along the bottom. The sad part is that they laid these blocks across whatever happened to be in the way - including coral heads and rock formations.

In the years since, some of the steel rods that hold the blocks together have rusted through, usually where there is a lot of stress on them such as a lump created by laying over a coral formation. This creates small perforations in the matte that create a crevice, which allows fish to swim in and out at will. In some of these sections, there are caverns that are several feet wide, a foot or more high and dozens of feet long - perfect habitat for a variety of reef fish who gather in these areas now.

The Hollywood Outfall Pipe, now inactive, has simply become part of the habitat. On this particular day, most of the fish life was gathered on the North side of the structure, perhaps to be on the lee side of the North-flowing current. I saw a nice dog snapper slip into one of these crevices, so I lined myself up and waited. Within a few minutes, it emerged again and found itself on the end of my spearshaft. I repeated the process twice more. Three snapper on the stringer; not a bad dive. I also saw a very large yellow jack and a just-over-legal king mackerel, but both were out of range. Ty picked up two lobsters hiding amongst the matte.

I had promised Ty to show him a spot that two of my other buddies and I had found a few months earlier. On that trip, we landed 11 lobster and several fish on one dive. After a little trial and error, we located the area and dropped in together. Ty dives with a scooter, so he tends to cover a lot more ground than I do, even with my Omer Millennium Longfins. I prefer to take it slow, cover less ground, but take more time to see everything I can. On this trip, it paid off.

I was on the bottom for all of about 45 seconds after following the anchor rode down to the bottom. Grouper will frequently move toward an anchor when it hits the bottom; perhaps to check out the commotion or the poof of inevitable sand. We had anchored in a sandy spot right next to the reef line. Rather than follow the reef line, however, I saw a small outcropping over the top of the edge. I swam toward it and spooked a grouper. He shot off across the reef light a lightning bolt. I kicked hard to try to catch him, but knew that if he kept up the pace, I'd never get close.

His first burst of energy subsided and he paused just long enough for me to take a long-range gill shot, which hit its mark. A perfect shot, he had little opportunity to escape as the flopper on the Hawaiian Shaft I was using on my Riffe C3XS had opened on the other side. He thrashed toward a coral head, which I thought meant a bent shaft for certain. Instead, he turned a somersault and I was able to grab him before any damage was done. Ty showed up behind me just as I was locking the red grouper onto my stringer. I did a little happy dance to which Ty rolled his eyes and kept cruising.

I continued scouring the reef looking for more fish. My wife had sent me on a mission as our freezer was nearly empty. Too many bad weather days left me no previous opportunity to replenish our seafood supply. I was a little disoriented because the clouds kept going in and out obscuring the sunlight. However, the first lobster I found were sitting in a small cave that I had found on that previous dive trip. You can see video of the cave - full of lobster - here on my YouTube page:

As soon as I saw the sponge, I instantly had my bearings and knew where to find more fish and lobster. I picked up a total of 6 lobster, the 24-inch grouper, and 2 nice Spanish Mackerel before getting a little chilly and deciding to head back to the boat. God had shown us abundance today, and I thank him as I made the 100-yard swim back to the boat, compass in hand. The scenery had been amazing, the seas calm, the water a little cloudy, but perfect for spearfishing. If the water is too clear, the fish see you well before you either see them or before you could get in shooting range. Most importantly, both divers returned safely to the boat without incident.

All in all, another great day diving in paradise.

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