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Old 09-04-2007, 05:01 PM   #1
scubapro5's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Downey,Ca
Posts: 5,137
Default LOBSTER HUNTING:How To Catch Lobsters!~

Article credit:CAL COAST DIVERS . COM

We are quickly approaching lobster season, as the date comes closer I would like to offer all of the would be lobster hunters some advice and tips before you take to the water!


All scuba gear should be serviced every year, regardless of how little you use it! Make sure your cylinders are in current hydro and visual at least two weeks before the start of season. This year lobster season starts September 27, 2003 at 12:01 AM. By getting your gear serviced you will avoid any free flow or gear malfunction problems before your dive. There is nothing worse than walking out into the water or diving from a boat and realizing your octo is free flowing beyond repair.

Diving for lobster can be done during the day or night. While lobster typically are out in the open at night they can also be pulled from their holes with proper technique by more experienced hunters. If you are going to hunt for lobster regardless of time make sure you have:

1) A salt water fishing license with an Open Water enhancement sticker

2) kevlar gloves

3) A primary dive light (at least 12 watts) and a back up (at least 4 watts)

4) A dive beacon or chemical stick (if you plan on diving a lot buy the beacon you'll save money in the long run)

5) A lobster gauge (you must carry a gauge on you when diving for bugs!)

6) A lobster game bag.

When purchasing a lobster game bag make sure the top portion of the game bag is not netted! Netted lobster bags can be more difficult to handle for larger size lobster! They also offer lobster you have already caught an opportunity to escape while you fumble with the bag. Also the best lobster bags can be operated with one hand (these have springs which will allow you to sweep your bag to push lobsters back down in your bag and then open your bag with one hand to keep both the bug in your hand and those in your bag from escaping.

7) CLIPS CLIPS AND MORE CLIPS! Make sure your dive light is secured to your BC! It is impossible to grab two lobster at one time if you have a dive light in one of them! Also make sure your octo and computer are strapped to your person!

8) A compass! It is very easy to lose your sense of direction at night, especially after a short game of cat and mouse with a 6 pound lobster!

9) Back up batteries... I think this one is self explanatory!


For many divers this will be the first time back in the water for a long time (some since last lobster season!!!!). As a result make sure you attend a refresher course to ensure you are up to par with your skills. Unfortunately scuba diving is not like riding a bicycle, you can not just get back into it and be in the form you were in since your last dive. Since many people dive at night, any problems you may have as a direct or indirect result of a long period of inactivity can be greatly increased! Also the more time you spend scuba diving, the greater amount of bottom time you will have!

Once you are comfortable in your gear and confident in your skills acquaint yourself with your diving spot. It is always best to dive a location first during the day. This helps you become familiar with the dive entry and exits points while you can actually see where you are going. During the dive try and check any reef formations you suspect my be hiding the proverbial mother-load of lobster! This may help you hone your search on your night dive, reducing energy and time in your pursuit of lobster.

Before you attempt to hunt lobster at night be comfortable with diving at night. Cal Coast Scuba Instruction and other instruction businesses often host free diving events for certified divers. You can find our events by following our DISCOVER LOCAL DIVING link. Again the more experience you have with diving, the more bottom time you will have.


Lobster may be found in rocky areas with nearby kelp, as well as break-walls and jetties. While the basic habitat lobster enjoy are well known, the actual capture of a bug can be a bit more tricky at first.


Little is known about the larvae distribution and mating of the California Spiny Lobster (Panulirus interuptus). What is currently believed is that the larger females produce the majority of the population off of our coast. As a result it is always a good idea to sex your lobster before you keep it and make your own judgment call: "If this lobster is legal should I take it?" To sex a lobster simply look at the back legs. Male lobster have the same morphology for their feet. The end tip of the male lobster leg resembles a talon or curved thorn. Females in contrast tend to have a more rounded stubbed foot. This is used for tending the eggs which mature during the off season. Females also have swimmerets on the underside of their tales. These swimmerets tend to be very large to conceal the brood of eggs they protect.

Females are a critical aspect to the dynamic of the lobster population, but don't forget that the we need a population to begin with to ensure the survival of the specie. Every year there are tales of recreational lobster hunters who pull hundreds of lobster out of the water every season. Be aware that the legal limit of possession for the California Spiny Lobster is 7! Make sure all of your lobster are of legal size, and never take more than you can eat. This season we should have a great population to choose from, let's make sure we have the same luxury for years to come.


A successful approach is one which terminates in the capture and measure of a lobster. When hunting lobster make sure you move quickly and methodically. If you can not see the lobster, you aren't going to catch any lobster. Make sure as you are covering area you stay at least two feet off the bottom but no more than three feet off the ground. By staying close to the bottom but not on the bottom you avoid alerting lobster to your presence. Larger bugs in the wide open at many diving locations throughout Southern California begin to swim off as soon as they see the light. They become doubly twitchy when you move closer to them with lights directly on them. If you swim too close to the bottom, many lobster which hide in the undergrowth beneath the kelp canopy can spot you before you spot them. By hovering three feet off of the bottom you get a chance to spot them at the same time or before they spot you.

Now that you have spotted a lobster try and swim around the lobster so the tail is pointed towards you. Since lobster swim backwards, ie they swim in a tail first manner (not unlike you trying to run backwards!), if you are behind them when they make their break there is a good chance they will swim to you or in your direction. If you can't grab the lobster when it swims into you there is a chance you can follow the lobster until it lands.


So now you are behind the lobster and it is getting nervous, what next!? Take you light off of the lobster if you still have a bit of a swim to get within striking distance of the bug. To avoid completely loosing your lobster only use the outside of your primary dive light's beam to keep tabs on the lobster.


A common mistake made by novices is waiting to long to grab the lobster. Mentally they tell themselves "JUST A LITTLE CLOSER!!!!". Now if you find yourself thinking this you are probably already too close. As soon as you are within just out of arms distance begin a quick sprint towards the lobster and firmly press the lobster against the ground. The best place to grab the lobster is at the joint between the carapace (head portion of the lobster) and the tail (you know that part you are after!). By grabbing here and holding the bug firmly you can prevent your average size lobster from swimming away by reducing the lobster's ability to swim with its tail.


The best measuring devices are attached to your dive light. Contrary to popular belief these gauges DO NOT cause a big line to appear in your beam of light. Any light worth a grain of salt will have a reflecting lens inside the light which should more than compensate for most of the light beam disbursement due to the gauge. If you are using this measuring device simply hold the lobster against the ground with your hand wrapped around the backside of the lobster at the junction between the carapace and tail. A firm grip here with a gentle amount of downward pressure on the bug will pin the lobster's tail in the open position. Now you can measure the lobster. Place the gauge between the ridge between the lobster's eyes and measure down the back toward the end of the carapace. The carapace should measure at least 3.25 inches! If you have ANY wiggle room what so ever your lobster is not legal and should be released immediately! IT'S THE LAW AND THE RIGHT THING TO DO! If you are using a lobster gauge I recommend you grab a wrist lanyard or a retractor for your gauge. If you keep your gauge in your BC pocket chances are you are going to lose the gauge AND/OR your lobster when you fumble with your zipper/velcro with one hand and try and hold on to your lobster with the other. Once you have your gauge in hand, set your light on the ground so the beam is on the lobster but not in your eye. Now follow the same measuring procedure outline above. Another method in measuring your lobster is to hold your bug at the base of its antennae where the horns are no longer able to detach themselves. From this position you can press the bug against the ground with the tail OPEN and continue to measure as above.


Before you put your lobster in your bag ALWAYS get into the habit of sweeping your bag. To do this just brush your arm down the side of your bag, this will hopefully get any lobster already in your bag down to the bottom of the bag. To place your lobster in your game bag run the lobster down your side with one hand while the other prepares to open the bag. If you sweep the lobster tail first with enough pressure the tail folds a bit. This will cause the lobster to swim straight down should he get away before you have him in the bag. With the bag open, and the lobster's eyes facing you place your entire hand with the lobster in it inside your bag and close the bag over your hand with the other hand. Once the bag is closed on your hand and you have pushed the bug all the way down to the bottom, you can finally let go of the bug! Slowly pull your hand out of the bag while holding it closed. Now that your hand is removed, relax and calm your breathing. You just grabbed a lobster!


Never clean the lobster until you are home! Removing the tail from a lobster before getting home is a serious offense not taken too lightly by the Department of Fish and Game. And don't think they don't have people out there diving in an effort to catch poachers!

Once at home you can place a filleting knife up into the carapace and cut along the lobster's back from one side of the belly to the other. Once you have hit the joints at the base of the tail you can twist the tail off. To remove the vein of the lobster break off the narrow portion of your lobster's antennae. If you insert the antennae into one end midway up the tail, twist, and gently remove the tail you should get the entire vein. To make the tail appear more appealing clip off the swimmerettes with a pair of dikes or chicken bone scissors. Make sure you never rinse the lobster in fresh water or store the lobster in fresh water; doing so will cause the meat to fill with fresh water and ruin the meat. If you don't plan on eating your lobster for awhile you can wrap it in saryan wrap and store it in the freezer for up to 3 months (although this is usually a distinct impossibility in just about any household).


The California Spiny Lobster lacks claws! But don't fret the tail has plenty of meat to make up for this! My favorite way to enjoy lobster is on the grill. To cook the lobster place the lobster tail up so the swimmerette portion of the lobster is facing up. You will know when the lobster is done once the tail begins to curl up on itself. When it is close to being done split the tail in half, and turn the heat off your bar-b-que. Your lobster will continue to cook as a large line of hungry guests line up for the meal. Serve the lobster with butter, lime, or plain... either way it is always delicious!

Best of luck on your season and remember to dive safe, be safe, and ALWAYS hunt responsibly!

A contribution from Matt Wahlrab
Dive Deep and Fish Hard!

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