Have you ever been diving for abalone? Scuba diving for abalone is quite a fun dive and a tiring one. The energy expenditure is quite high but very much worth the effort. Prying them off the rocks is quite a challenge, they can really hang on, lol.
Back in the early 1980’s in South Africa, there were not very many people who went after abalone, which by the way are called Perlemoen there, so there was quite an abundance of them available to harvest.
A cool fact about abalone is that they do produce pearls which you can use to make jewelry and with and sell for a nice little profit for yourself. And they taste amazing. A double bonus!
A Sunny Day …
So I got up one day and decided that it would be a good day to go and dive for some abalone and do some fishing. The basic plan was to go out and get enough abalone and fish to feed about 8 – 10 people as we were going to have a grand cookout on the beach that evening.
I gathered up my fishing rod, dive bag, and my tank and hopped on my bicycle and rode over to my friend’s house about 3 miles away. It was a beautiful warm day, with an azure blue sky and a very slight offshore breeze. The bike ride was awesome as there was nothing between me and my friend’s house but the open coastal road.
It ran all along the shoreline about 200 feet from the beach and shoreline itself. Inland the land was flat for about 1500 feet the mountain started and it rose up to about 400 feet above sea level and was covered in wildflowers and lush green plants and brush. The ocean was a bright emerald green with about an 8 foot swell that day.
I got to my friend’s house without incident and told him my plan for the day and he was all for it.
The Cove …
We contacted our other friends and let them know there was to be a cookout on the beach that evening, got all our gear together and headed for a secluded cove that was a hot spot for abalone that we had discovered a few months back.
The cove is a small bay nestled into the shoreline. The two left and right tips arched out like crab pinchers that reached out into the sea making a nice, small, protected bay in the shoreline. The beach was pristine white and was about 700 feet or so long then the rocky shoreline started again to either side. The swell there was only about 3 – 4 feet.
We set up on the righthand side of the beach just where the rocks started. We only had the one scuba tank so the plan was that I dive and my friend would stand safety watch for me on the shore. I would gather up some abalone, some giant snails, and some bait. Then after the dive, we would spend the rest of the day fishing.
The Dive …
I got geared up and my friend safety checked me. The gear we were using was really old and pretty dangerous to use if you did not know what you were doing. It was one those old twin hose rigs you see in the old James Bond movies, lol. But it was what I had and it worked. So after I was checked out, I got into the water.
The water was warm and calm. Visibility was great, about 60 feet and the dive was only at 30 feet. The ocean floor was alive with sea life and the critters who live on the bottom were pretty loud that day. There was abalone, giant snails, sea urchins, shrimp, lobsters, crabs, just an abundance of life and of course a lot of fish, mostly small reef fish though, not for eating but beautiful to look at.
I started collecting abalone first. I had my thick steel pry bar that you use to pry the abalone off of the rocks which takes a little muscle to do. But it is good exercise for you, lol. I was going for about 10 abalones that day. Twenty minutes into the dive and I had gathered up all my abalones and had them in my carry bag. With still plenty of air left I set off to find bait.
The Encounter …
The bait that I was after is called Red Bait. It is an animal that attaches itself to the rocks and kind of looks like a green bell pepper with two siphon tubes sticking out of the top. When you touch them they retract their tubes and become very hard. So I set to with my dive and started to cut open a pod to get to the meat inside which is red.
As the pieces of the bait started drifting around me the fish came swarming in for the free feast. It is a great experience to have with all those fish around you. Anyways I had just started on my second pod when I got bumped from behind. I turned around to see that a Pajama shark had bumped me. He was about 5 feet or so long and just looked awesome.
I snagged a piece of bait and held it out for him. He circled me for a few times getting closer each time then when he saw the other smaller fish eating off of the bait he darted in and snatched it from my hand. It was a great moment for me I will tell you. I turned back to cutting more red bait when he came in again and nibbled on my fin. So I gave him another piece of red bait.
Pajama sharks have a fairly small mouth and teeth, though they can still give you a nasty bite if you are not careful. This guy was just curious as hell. He would swim in and see what I was doing, cutting the bait open and stuff. He even tried chomping on a few pods himself, lol. Every time he wanted some more bait he would either nibble my fin or bump me, lol, it was great.
I even managed to grab him by the nose and flip him over onto his back. He went completely catatonic and just hung there in the water while I held his snout and stroked his belly. Flipped him back over and he was fine again. I got to spend about 10 minutes with him before he finally swam off into the distance and those were 10 awesome minutes for me. He was a great dive buddy. Speaking of which, If you would like to read up on dive buddies then just follow this link to my article on Dive Buddies.
Back to the shore …
With all my abalone and all the bait we would need, I headed back to the shore. The whole dive took about 40 minutes and it was an awesome forty minutes at that. My friend helped me out of my gear and we sorted out my bounty. We spent the next couple of hours chucking and cleaning the abalones and preparing them to be cooked. You need to bash them against the rocks for a bit to soften them up some. That way they come out very tender and tasty.
That Afternoon …
After we had cleaned up we went off to the rocky shoreline with our surf rods and did some fishing for the rest of the afternoon. It was a good day and we caught enough fish to go with the abalones for the big cookout that evening.
After cleaning the fish we made a huge bone fire and our friends all began to arrive. It was a really great day and it ended well with good friends and good food.
Well I hope this was entertaining to read and if you would like to leave me a comment, please do so below and I will be happy to respond to you.