Over the Valentine’s Day weekend, Matt and I went on a highly romantic camping/ SCUBA trip along the Hood Canal. I had been advised by several of my diver friends that this was a place we needed to visit before leaving Seattle, so we decided to take the initiative and check out this area while the weather and visibility were still nice.
We decided to spend the night at Potlatch State Park. After setting up our campsite, we geared up for a night dive off the beach, which was located about a quarter mile away. We were concerned about our car being locked in overnight if the rangers decided to close the gates while we were underwater, so we decided to hoof it. This involved dashing across US-101 in our dive gear and weights. We also hit the beach at low tide, so we had to carefully maneuver through slippery cobble and oyster beds in the dark. The site itself wasn’t particularly interesting. It was basically a gently sloping plain of silt featuring some junk scattered here and there, with seagrass beds in the shallows. We observed numerous flatfish, blackbelly eelpouts (Lycodes pacificus), snake pricklebacks (Lumpenus saggita), roughback sculpin (Chitonotus pugetensis), and Northern spearnose poacher (Agonopsis vulsa). Common invertebrates included sea pens and graceful and Dungeness crabs, and many of the female crabs were carrying eggs.
The next morning, we began our day of diving at Octopus Hole. This site is located right off of US-101. We parked on turnout on the eastern side of the highway large enough to accommodate 3 to 4 vehicles. The entrance is at the base of a steep hill, and we had to amble over boulders in our dive gear in order to reach it. It was definitely worth the effort, however. After a short surface swim about 50 feet offshore at about 145 degrees, we descended in about 15 feet of water and hung out there in order to give my ears time to clear. The visibility was superb, and there were large aggregations of plumose anemones and shoals of striped seaperch (Embiotoca lateralis) and copper rockfish (Sebastes caurinus) hanging out around the top of a 30 foot wall. The base of the wall was located at about 60 feet, and hundreds of blackeye gobies (Rhinogobiops nicholsii) swarmed the rocky bottom. We headed south along the wall near the bottom, and ascended to the top of the wall as we swam back. Current was not a huge problem, although we did encounter a bit on the surface as we made our way back to the entry point.
Our next stop was Sund Rock, which is located just south of Octopus Hole along US-101. Although there is free public access, it involves a trip down a steep, wooded hill in full dive gear and and extensive surface swim. Bearing this in mind, we decided to visit Hood Sport ‘n Dive, a local dive shop that offers convenient access to the site via their private beach for $16 per person. Upon seeing the free option, we both agreed that it was money well spent.
It is a fairly complex dive site with lots of structure and things to see. A local diver that we encountered recommended that we head out to the North Wall to begin, and then end the dive in the “Fishbowl”. Heeding his advice, we swam out to the appropriate buoy and descended along the line. The visibility was quite poor in the first 10 feet, but rapidly cleared up to about 35 feet as soon as we made it past the surface layer. The top of the wall was located at about 30 feet, and drops to about 80 feet at its deepest. It featured numerous nooks and crannies that contained some of the largest wolf eels that I have ever encountered. There were large aggregations of rockfish belonging to several species, including copper, quillback (Sebastes maliger), vermillion (S. miniatus), and black (S. melanops). We cruised along the bottom of the wall for the first part of the dive, and swam back along the top, where we encountered several angry lingcods guarding multiple clutches of eggs. We did our safety stop in the Fishbowl area and hung out with some large schools of striped seaperch before ending the dive.
Overall, it was definitely an interesting excursion with some excellent dive sites. Although the visibility was excellent, it would be interesting to see if there were any more fish present during the summer months.