Lobster season is a time to meet your neighbors! Those with fresh caught local lobster make friends in driveways and kitchens.
When midnight strikes, the flippers go on and masks hit the dark water. The season opens 12 a.m. on the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October. This year, that falls on Oct. 3, 2015. Dedicated lobster divers show up on the Friday night before the opener with big stories from years past.
The Del Mar dive community is small, and Del Mar is difficult to dive in bad conditions. When visibility allows, one great dive lies directly out from Powerhouse Park. If Del Mar’s visibility is bad, San Diego’s shoreline has other great places to dive. Look for rock, eel grass – and most importantly, crevices. Deep “V”s often hold large “bugs” (lobsters).
Some lobster seasons are better than others. Two seasons ago was tough. According to the California Department Fish and Wildlife (DFW), an average of 5.5 lobsters per lobster card were taken. Some local divers were upset at North County dredging projects that left visibility poor. The DFW reported 7.5 lobsters taken per lobster card last year – nothing compared to the 13 lobsters taken per card in the 2012 to 2013 season.
This year is predicted to bring warm water temperatures and currents from the South with El Niño.
Equipment required to free-dive for lobster is basic: fins, wetsuit, mask, snorkel, weight belt, gloves, dive bag and measuring device. Bring a light for night dives. High quality dive lights cast sharp, bright light and have a long battery life. Making 10+ feet dives is not difficult with hand-me-down boogie board fins.
Underwater life is mostly asleep at night, providing the adventurer encounters with many creatures that aren’t out during daytime, including sculpins, eels, horn sharks, and octopuses. Big bugs, having lived through a few lobster seasons, are wary of anyone’s spotlight and scoot backward into the closest hole. According to the DFW, it takes a lobster seven to 11 years to reach a legal size of 3.25 inches across the carapace (measured from behind the eyes to the end of the shell before the beginning of the tail).
The best way to pluck a bug off the rocks is to push the lobster down onto the rock and hold on tightly! Wait for the wave surge to pass before making your thrust. If the lobster doesn’t want to come out, try shining a light into its eyes from one direction while sliding a hand behind from the other. One touch of the antennae and it’s all over. The use of “tickle sticks” or hooked devices isn’t allowed in California.
Diving for lobster is highly regulated by the DFW. Game wardens are often seen roaming the bluffs, equipped with night vision technology. The basic rules are that a lobster diver must have purchased a fishing license and have properly completed a lobster report card prior to diving. He or she must have a measuring tool that measures exactly 3.25 inches in possession while harvesting lobster. Lobsters must be kept whole until ready for consumption. Make sure not to pull out shorts (even by a millimeter). Pursuant to DFW regulations, the recreational lobsterman may only have seven lobsters in the bag, fridge or anywhere else in their possession at any time.
Many lobster divers enjoy being generous with their catch, sharing with friends and neighbors when they reach their limit. Meet someone new this lobster season! Go to the beach on opening night, or bump into a neighbor and end up with a lobster in hand.