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ACTIVITIES // LOBSTER FREEDIVING

 

LITTLE FISHERMEN’S COVE
Two Harbors | Catalina Island | California | USA

// DIFFICULTY LEVEL: 4
// EXPERT: KIMO MORRIS, PH.D. PROFESSOR OF OCEANOGRAPHY

 

Lobster dinners have a history of costing $80 or more a plate but why spend the money when you can have a lobster feast for free?

According to the 2011 Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Guide, spiny red lobsters are a sustainable source for seafood and hunting for them can be an educational and adventurous activity.  Spiny red lobsters are abundant in off shore waters, from Baja Mexico to Central California and many locals seize the opportunity to hunt for them under recreational fishing laws.

 

// DOWNLOAD:  SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD GUIDE FOR WEST COAST, USA  

Photo by Jonathan Klenk

ABOUT OUR EXPERT

KIMO MORRIS, Ph.D.
Marine Biologist
Professor of Biology

We’ve teamed up with Dr. Kimo Morris to teach us about lobsters and sustainable lobster diving.  Kimo explains how the little choices we make while on the hunt can help to maintain healthy populations and ensure that lobsters are available every time we get the urge to jump into the ocean at night and fish for them.

Not only is Kimo an expert in invertebrate ecology, as well as an environmental consultant, but he is also an avid lobster diver. On average Kimo logs about 200 dives a year, spending up to 10 hours a day in the water. When lobster season comes around, he is sure to take advantage of a free meal. Kimo will go over the rules and regulations to lobster diving, the gear that is needed, safety tips, hunting tips as well as some interesting facts about spiny red lobsters. By the end you should have all the information you need to get out there tonight and start diving for your next lobster feast!

TRAVEL GUIDE

LOCATION INFORMATION

ADDRESS:
Little Fishermen’s Cove | Two Harbors | Catalina Island | California | USA

LATITUDE & LONGITUDE:
33°26’31.02″N / 118°29’29.68″W

WEBSITE:
TWO HARBORS ENTERPRISES

BEST TIME TO GO:
Lobster Season from OCTOBER TO MARCH

PRICE RANGE:
$$-$$$$

HOW TO GET HERE

Most people travel by ferry to get to Catalina Island. There are only two terminals leaving from the mainland to TWO HARBORS:

SAN PEDRO
// VISIT:  CATALINA EXPRESS FERRY

MARINA DEL REY
// VISIT: MARINE DEL REY FLYER

WHERE TO STAY

Photo by Stephiebg

The Two Harbors Campground offers two varieties of camping: regular tent camping and unique tent cabins. The campground sits on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Catalina’s Isthmus, just a quarter-mile outside the village of Two Harbors. The campground features 42 individual sites and three group-camping areas. For your convenience, rangers rent equipment and sell firewood, charcoal and propane.

TENT CABINS

Sleep up to six people and include cots, camp stove, lantern, picnic table, BBQ, fire ring and sunshade. Tent cabins are available April to October only

REGULAR TENT CAMPING
Available year around

 

// VISIT: TWO HARBORS CAMPGROUND

// CALL: 1-310-510-TENT (8368)

Photo By Stephiebg

LOBSTER ANATOMY

CALIFORNIA SPINY LOBSTER POSTER

LOBSTER FISHING INTRODUCTION

Before you even get in the water to go fishing, you need to be familiar with some of the basic rules the California Department of Fish and Game has set around lobster fishing. Not only must you purchase a fishing  licence but you must know when the lobster season begins and ends as well as regulations on catch limits and sizes.  It is also strongly recommended that divers have some free diving experience and be comfortable swimming in the ocean at night before attempting to do a lobster dive.

 

// VISIT: CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

LOBSTER SEASON

Recreational lobster season runs from the Saturday preceding the first Wednesday in October through the first Wednesday after the 15th of March.

// NEXT TWO SEASONS:

Saturday, October 1, 2011 through Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2011 through Wednesday, March 20, 2013

FISHING LICENSE

In order to fish for anything, you must buy a fishing license from the California Department of Fish and Game. It is required for a resident 16 years of age or older to take fish, mollusks, crustaceans, invertebrates, amphibians or reptile in inland or ocean waters. Additional validations and report cards are required for lobster fishing namely an ocean enhancement stamp and lobster card. There are also One and Three day passes for visitors.

// PURCHASE LICENSE:

A.) Through the CA DFG website ONLINE HERE

B.) At any sports or fishing stores.

// PLUS AN OCEAN ENHANCEMENT STAMP
Required for all persons taking fish in ocean waters south of Point Arguello (Santa Barbara County). An Ocean Enhancement Validation is not required when fishing under the authority of a One or Two-Day Sport Fishing License.

// PLUS A SPINY LOBSTER REPORT CARD
Required for all persons taking spiny lobster including persons who are not required to have a sport fishing license, such as persons who are under 16 years of age, persons who are fishing from a public pier and persons who are fishing on free fishing days.

The Spiny Lobster Report Card allows Department biologists to find out how many people are fishing for lobster, how long it takes to catch them, how many are being harvested, the type of gear being used, and where the animals are being caught. With this information, biologists can determine whether the lobster resource is healthy and if current fishing regulations are working correctly. Without fishing regulations, California’s marine resources would soon disappear.

REGULATIONS

California’s Department of Fish and Game is on a mission to manage all of California’s wildlife and the habitats they depend on, so that residents and visitors to the State can enjoy and use these resources for years to come. For this reason, they have developed the lobster fishing season around the female’s natural reproduction cycle.  The closed season protects lobsters that are carrying eggs or molting and ensure that every lobster has the opportunity to reproduce.

Sticking to the lobster season is important but there are some other lobster fishing regulations to know:

// GEAR RESTRICTIONS
Divers may only use their bare or gloved hands to take lobster. No tools or devices are allowed to assist in catching a lobster. Gear restrictions help to prevent injury or death before the animal can be legally harvested.

// REGULATION SIZE
Lobsters must measure a minimum of 3.25 inches. It takes approximately 5-7 years to reach this size, again giving every lobster the opportunity to reproduce before it can be legally taken from the ocean.

// CATCH LIMIT
Only 7 lobster per person per day make be taken. This includes any lobster stored at home or elsewhere; at no time may more than seven lobsters be in anyone’s possession. The bag limit prevents too many lobsters from being harvested.

// UNOFFICIAL RULES
There are some unofficial rules veteran divers like to follow. For instance, if you have a chance, put the females back in the ocean. More females ensures that lobsters reproduce. Also, lobsters over 5lbs are the most prolific breeders so returning these back to the ocean not only benefits the lobster population but also future fishermen.

FREEDIVING GEAR CHECKLIST

Your average lobster free-diver is geared up with the following equipment:

  • FISHING LICENCE
  • OCEAN STAMP
  • LOBSTER CARD
  • LOBSTER BAG
  • LOBSTER GAUGE
  • WETSUIT  4-6MM THICK
  • HOOD
  • BOOTIES
  • GLOVES
  • SNORKEL
  • MASK
  • FINS
  • DIVE KNIFE
  • DIVE LIGHT
  • GLOWSTICK

FREEDIVING

Freediving is any aquatic activity that shares the practice of breath-hold underwater diving. Examples include breathhold spear fishing, freedive photography, apnea competitions and, to a degree, snorkeling.

HISTORY

Archaeological evidence suggests that people have been freediving since the 5th century BCE. The first known were the haenyeo in Korea who collected shells and sponges to sell to others. The Ama Divers from Japan began to collect pearls 2,000 years ago.  Although today we have strict regulations on what can and can’t be taken from the ocean, freedivers under local law, continue to practice hunting techniques in hopes of catching a free meal.

LOBSTER FREEDIVING

Freediving for lobster is no simple task, these tasty “bugs” only come out at night but hunting for them in the cold, dark ocean only adds to the excitement and challenge.  The rewards can make it more than worth it however, not only do you feel the satisfaction of catching your meal but divers also become more aware of the ocean ecosystem.  All in all, freediving for lobster is a low cost, thrilling and educational activity that requires no certifications (because scuba gear is not necessary) and can be enjoyed all season long by just about anybody.

Some folks prefer to scuba dive because it offers more time to search for lobsters but anyone can learn how to free dive in coastal waters because of the limited gear requirements. That said, there are some safety things to consider

SAFETY

The most important rule to freediving is to never go alone, especially at night. Always have a dive buddy with you and be sure to keep track of where your dive buddy is. If you ever loose your dive buddy just come to the surface and find each other. Again, it is strongly recommended that divers have experience freediving before attempting to do it at night.

CHECK SURF TIDE & REPORTS

The best conditions for free diving is when the surf is less than 2 feet. It’s also good to go when the tide is up as lobsters tend to swim out into deeper waters during low tide. As soon as the sun goes down and shadows start sweeping across the ocean floor, lobsters will emerge from their hiding places so typically divers like to go out about an hour before sunset.

THE HUNT

California spiny red lobsters, Panulirus interruptus, are fairly common from the Mexican border up to Point Conception.

Your eyes are how you detect lobsters. There are huge nerves between your eyes and your brains. 80% of the traffic on those nerves is from your brain to your eyes, not from your eyes to your brain. What this means is that your brain is constantly telling your eyes to look for certain patterns. You should be completely psyched up for lobster hunting with clear pictures in your mind of what you are looking for. Just about every stray strand of drifting eel grass should instantly look like a lobster antennae to you.

Most lobsters are taken with the swat. Pin them down to the rocks. Then get your fingers around them and put them in the bag. Only grab a lobster when a swat won’t do. You miss far more grabs than swats. They say to grab a lobster towards the tail so that if it starts moving backwards you will still get it by the body. If you can grab at the lobster from the top, you should be swatting it anyway, not grabbing. A grab is generally for when all you can get a hold of are the antennas. A good hunter can use a sideways swipe, fingers up, thumb down, when lobsters are looking out from a shelf.

I know of two basic ways to find lobster in the day. The first is to look for the hidden ones by checking holes. The second method is to just cover ground to look for antennas. The second method is how the big ones tend to be found. The way to get the most bugs is to cover the most ground.

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