How to find the best lobster spots? Let the spines tell the story.
Over the years we accumulate hundreds of fishing and diving spots and one of the interesting things I’ve found is there are three types of spots: Fishing, lobstering, and those where you can do both.
The shape and design of each hole or ledge will lend itself to one or the other and knowing which ones of these to check at the right time of year is the key to success.
With lobster season upon us, my go-to spots from Jacksonville to the Keys are the ones that primarily have lobsters in them. The best ledges are not necessarily the huge, 8-foot shows on the depthfinder, but rather the ones whose makeup best accommodates the defensive needs of the spiny lobster.
Florida spiny lobsters are designed to not come out of their hiding spots. The shape of their body assures the best chance at surviving an encounter with a nurse shark, turtle or grouper trying to suck them out of their honey hole. Every spike on their body faces forward. From their carapace to the tips of their antennae, each tiny sharp spike is an anchor to prevent them from being pulled forward out of a hole. To further their defense, lobster push down and grip the bottom with their powerful legs, which pushes their backs firmly against the top of the ledge engaging those spikes, perfectly wedging themselves in place. The ultimate defensive spot for them to hide, then, is a ledge or rock that has both the bottom and the top of the hole made of hard bottom (rock or coral).
At this point most of you are remembering that ledge at the edge of the turtle grass in 5 feet of water with not a rock in sight and 20 lobsters lined up. Or maybe a lonely coral head sprouting from the sand with a nice sandy bottom all the way around it. Lobsters can be in any manner of hole, but if you can catch them in the most difficult and well-defended spot, you can catch them anywhere.
The most important lobstering equipment is a good pair of gloves. Your day is over if you do all the work to find a good hole and then can’t comfortably grip a lobster without flinching. A glove that doesn’t snag the rock, offers protection on the palm, and still has some dexterity is ideal.
Depending on the hole, you can quickly grab most lobsters by the base of the antennae, carapace or tail and once you have them, never let go! To make it easier on you, we can also use tickle sticks, nets and nooses to snag the smarter ones from the best hiding spots.
As good as I thought I was as a kid being able to grab two or three lobsters on a single freedive, nothing compares to the efficiency and skill of my mom with a tickle stick and net.
Once we found a good hole, Mom would tank up, dive to the spot and meticulously tickle out each lobster one and two at a time by reaching in past them, tapping them lightly on the tail and encouraging them forward out of the hole. As they come out, she had the net in her opposite hand side down to the bottom and top pushed in snug against the ledge creating a trap ready to fall as soon as the lobster was free of the hole and in the open. Once in the net, she grabbed him underneath the tail, removed him from the net and placed him in the bag and repeated the process a dozen or more times until each lobster, unmolested and in perfect condition, was caught without ever losing a single leg or antennae.
That same tickle stick and net technique is the single most productive and efficient way to catch lobsters. When you find that one incredible rock with a limit in it or crack with that super stubborn monster in it, all the practice is going to pay off. FS
Spiny Lobster Season
Regular spiny lobster season runs August 6 through March 31.
The carapace must measure greater than 3 inches in the water. Egg-bearing females must be released.
6 per person per day.
SPINY LOBSTER PERMIT:
Required if saltwater license required.
See myfwc.com for more.
First Published Florida Sportsman Magazine September 2016