It’s lonely down there.
Sinking into cold, green space, the icy water fills your wetsuit. Imaginary sharks circle, just out of view, which isn’t very far. At “The Fingers,” a popular freedive spearfishing spot in Newport, visibility is around ten feet on a good day and around zero feet on a normal day. Poking around these rocky projections underwater with a spear can be quite the undertaking; it requires plenty of preparation and an adventurous spirit.
The main thing is to not poop in your wetsuit when faced with all those imaginary sharks and the ever-present cold. If you can do that, you’re halfway there. A few strong, courageous souls routinely face these challenges, and are sometimes rewarded with generous hauls of rockfish, surfperch, and the occasional lingcod. They can be seen clambering over the rocks on the south side of the mouth of the Yaquina, grinning from ear to ear and headed toward fish tacos and warm showers.
They’re a pretty friendly bunch, and will generally share tips and tricks readily. They might suggest probing the ends of the Fingers, out toward the main channel, for schools of rockfish, point you toward the shallower areas if you’re seeking surfperch, or they may advise you to quit and go home.
Oregon is not known for its spearfishing. The cold water and poor visibility here make for a real challenge. The rewards are there, however, for those with the bravado to immerse themselves in fierce, cold nature.
Necessary equipment includes a good wetsuit, a mask and snorkel, fins, a weight belt, and a spear. Some use trigger-operated spear guns, but pole spears suffice for most. Diving alone is never recommended. The high slack tide is the best time to dive because the water is relatively still. Small boats do approach the fingers sometimes, so caution is advised. Some divers mark their presence in the water with dive buoys.
The Fingers protrude from the south side of the mouth of the Yaquina, just off of Southwest Jetty Way. The view of the bridge from the water is beautiful, and Rogue Ales & Spirits is just down the road for a post-dive pint, or for those with cold feet.
By Scott Bittner