There are some quite obvious tips for a successful lobster hunt. One includes night diving. Lobster are nocturnal and venture forth from rocky lairs under the cover of darkness. They are much easier to capture when out in the open.
Some tips are not as well known. Example: Lobsters swim “backwards” or tail-first. Always bag your lobster tail-first so they swim right in.
Then there are those tips that are obscure enough to qualify as “secrets.” That is what we are dealing with here; the stuff “bug” hunters do not give up easily. Some of it, however, can even be construed as opinion or even a bit of “urban legend.”
1) USE YOUR LIGHT AS A WEAPON
In your night diving for lobster, you want the biggest, most post powerful, bad-ass light you can get your hands on. We’re talking something that would blind E.T. here.
Two reasons: Night diving is much like tunnel vision with your light limiting your scope of vision. The wider the beam of light the more bottom you’ll see and the more likely you’ll be to see bugs out roaming about.
The second reason is a bit more devious. If your light is blinding bright, the moment your light hits that critter, it will freeze, like a deer caught in the headlights of a car. In shock, it will only freeze for a moment, but it may be just enough to give you that extra jump on ’em.
2) GO FOR THE PIN
If the lobster is out in the open, don’t grab ’em, pin ’em. In one fell swoop, come down on the lobster and pin them to the bottom with your hand. If you simply go for a grab, the lobster will be gone by the time you think to clinch your fingers around their spiny little bodies.
3) WEAR GOOD GLOVES
Quite obviously, Pacific Coast lobster lack the large pinching claws of their east coast relatives. They do, however, have a lot of very sharp spines (hence the common name “spiny lobster”). Most of these spines can easily penetrate cheap dive gloves and puncture flesh. I have seen many a lobster lost because of pain. I have also seen divers having a good night throw in the towel simply because their hands hurt. And a final little tip along the same lines: lobsters can and do bite!
4) AVOID YOUR COMPETITION
Competition for lobster is intense and your biggest competitor is commercial trappers. While lobster trap buoys on the surface is a good way to find a reef, it generally means that site is already fished out, or at least well on its way to being so.
There are a handful of ways to avoid competing directly with the commercial trappers. First, take advantage of the early jump afforded to divers. The sport diver season for taking lobster starts four days before the commercial trapping season. Take advantage of those four days. For 2000, lobster season opens at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, September 30.
Second, dive where they can’t trap. Trapping is illegal along the frontside of Catalina Island. That is why, although heavily dived every year by divers, Catalina is a consistent producer of lobster.
They also can’t bring their boats in shallow. Lobster boats rarely pull into 10 feet of water for fear of wrecking their boats. If you can handle the sometimes surgy conditions, shallow water lobster diving can really pay off.
5) GIVE ‘EM A GOOD SHAKE
During the daytime, and all too often at night, lobsters hide backed into crevices, heads just poking out. Just how you get them out of the crevice is perhaps the most difficult challenge you face in lobster hunting.
Lobsters are, all at once, curious, stupid, yet highly reactive. This means that they will often venture forth from their holes curious who and what you are. But the moment they sense danger, they flee backwards into their crevice. It’s important that you do not hesitate to study the situation too long. Move in quickly, hopefully getting a hold of the head. The base of the antennae is also good (sometimes called the “horns”) as these will not break off (unlike the antennae).
Now comes the hard part that, if you don’t play your cards right, you might lose. The lobster will do what is known as “locking-up,” by pressing its legs down and body up it will wedge itself rock-solid into the crevice.
Inside the little bug brain is a small grain of sand that tells that lobster whether its upside down or right side up. Give the bug a good shake and its equilibrium is so thrown off that odds are they’ll let go and slide right on out.