Shell Game: Hunt for Red Abalone

The sport is sustained not just by the succulent reward — a slightly sweet, buttery meat pounded out for tenderness and often breaded for the pan — but also by the family traditions it spawns and the adventure it holds in store.

The rugged coastline of Sonoma and Mendocino counties, removed only an hour or so from the urban Bay Area, accounts for all but 2 percent of the annual catch of red abalone, the only species of its kind open to sport harvest in California, and only in waters north of San Francisco. (The state banned commercial harvest of abalone two decades ago to curb overfishing, and it is illegal to sell wild-caught abalone.)

The divers who now arrive on these shores come equipped with little else than a wet suit, a modified pry bar and weight belts lashed around their waists. They must use only their own breath — no
scuba gear allowed — to find and unfasten the snail-like creatures from their dark, rocky roosts. Only those that would span a good-sized salad plate can be taken, with strict daily and seasonal “bag” limits for each diver.

From Sonoma Magazine.  The complete story can be found HERE.